But first, what is Fast Fashion?
Between 2000 and 2014, the manufacturing of clothes doubled, the number of collections produced by brands rose from 2 to 11-15 per year, the amount consumers purchased increased by 60%, prices fell drastically, fashion went from being nowhere on the list to the second most polluting industry (losing first place only to the oil industry). Since the 1990s, clothing prices in the U.S has risen only by 10% whereas food pricing has increased by 80%. H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Topshop and more tempted the fashion food-chain with micro-seasons at no added cost. With consumers accustomed to the cheap pricing, retailers began to pass on the cost down the manufacturing lifecycle. This meant cutting corners with the garment manufacturing factories in the developing world. Fierce competition means garment factory owners in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia agree to rock-bottom pricing and unrealistic timelines to sustain their businesses, fueling the cheaper, faster, greedier fashion industry. What does this mean?
We are at the receiving end of the privileges. We can wear and afford a new dress every, single day. We can get rid of clothes just as easily, most often because they don’t last. Unwittingly perhaps, we silently overload the pressure on the fashion industry to keep up with the demons (in us) that the industry itself (unwittingly) created. You told me I could get $10 jeans at any point, Zara. And you told me I would get a new style every week. Now I’d like to throw it away and buy another 10, just in case. I’d like to keep this up please. No problem, but here’s what’s about to happen. The Rana Plaza Disaster 2013 in Bangladesh. What? People actually die for my $2 t-shirt? No. Way. And the pollution? Get. Out.
Okay, so what is slow fashion?
We took the above equation and added the two missing variables to it: People & Planet. Someone pays the price for that $2 shirt, even if we don’t. A mother who lives miles away from her children, a husband who lost his wife and children in the Rana Plaza Disaster, the Citarum River in Indonesia (lead, mercury and arsenic are dumped into the river by textile dyeing factories, affecting 5 million lives). The people that make your clothes matter. The planet you live in, matters. There is no laborious derivation to the concept of slow fashion. It simply means, slow down.
Today’s fashion is an assembly-lined order executing ‘runway to retail’ at neck-breaking speed. Consumerism is at it’s poisonous peak. Trends are masks that lure you into dark alleyways and convert you into a mechanic thrift-shopper. But there are two price tags. The cheap one that you see and the heartbreaking expensive one that you do not. Slow fashion attempts to show you both, so that you may finally make an educated, transparent choice when you shop. We need to see the bigger picture. Natural fabrics (wool, cotton, silk) go back to where it came from – the earth. And still, even an eco-friendly t-shirt will use 5000 litres of water to produce. Synthetic fabrics need about 70 million gallons of oil to produce, each year. It’s not ‘just a t-shirt’ anymore, is it?
By slowing down consumerism, opting for the good quality, everlasting t-shirt as opposed to the disposable one, we will already have made a difference to how the $3 trillion industry (that is currently more than the GDP of the UK) works. By slowing down fashion, we may actually begin to notice culture, relationships, diversity and human needs. Fashion is an intrinsic part of who we are. If so, we should know more about it. We should know it’s story. We should know who made our clothes, where our fabric came from, who thought of the design, who actually manufactured it, how many people your purchase helped employ, which country inspired the idea behind the design, how far it travelled to reach you. It is the most easily actionable move that you can make, as a statement and movement. It is most easily, the most everlasting trend the industry will ever know. You will be grateful to yourself for having begun it.
Of course, we are not blind to the allusion of price. Slower, better quality clothing seems more expensive. But did you know that the average U.S. citizen spent 13% of their income on clothing in 1945, 7% in 1970 and just 3% in 2012. In this same period of time, their purchases have increased by 60%. Is the question affordability or affording more than I realistically can?
Slow fashion is a community. It means knowing before we act; Being conscientious and aware. Fashion reveals our personality. I’m certain our personalities are not skin deep. If we knew what we were promoting, we would be in love with our clothes. We could promote lost cultures, empowered generations, talented designers and an industry that has given us stereotype-breaking styles over decades. So if you looked really carefully, the one to blame isn’t really H&M, Zara, Topshop or Primark. It’s us. Luckily, we can change that.
What are we doing about it?
IKKIVI began quite simply as a platform to promote and support emerging designers who paid homage both to their roots and the global world. Over our time here, we have gradually begun to question the design process. We seek the stories behind the products, the journeys of the designers, we ask who made the clothes and where the fabric came from. We are a work in progress and that is progress enough. We cannot reinvent the wheel overnight. But we simply cannot sleep through it all. The fashion industry employes 60 million people directly and indirectly, in India alone. For most of them, ‘ethical’ is luxury. Sustenance, family, livelihood is everything. A recent study indicated that majority of Indian farmers committing suicides are the ones growing cotton, falling prey to unrealistic demand promises and price competition. The other side of the same coin, is that India and the Far East, though still developing, are the seats of natural fabric, design and heritage for over 2000 years. We need not be synonymous with ‘cheap’.
It’s a lot to take in. We have begun by ensuring that we complete a design journey as true companions of the every element of the process. We would like you to know what you are paying for and who are you paying. In the end, it will always be worth your time to simply ask #whomademyclothes.
April 24-30th 2017 is Fashion Revolution Week in reverence to the 1,129 garment workers who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza Disaster in 2013.
Join the #FashionRevolution. Visit IKKIVI.COM.