Slow fashion

30 November 2020

by Helen

On 1st December 2006 we were married in the Town Hall in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. As a native Bavarian, Rudi wore traditional costume, which included Lederhosen, a Charivari and a loden jacket. I also went for the traditional look and bought a Dirndl for the occasion.

The photo shows us wearing the same outfits 14 years later. We don them on special occasions and, of course, we brought them with us when we moved to Scotland. The clothes look grand, are of excellent quality and will serve us well for many years to come.

This is the epitome of slow fashion, in contrast to the increasingly expedient and unsustainable extraction, production, delivery, sale and disposal of clothing which has become known today as fast fashion.

In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than in any other European country and frighteningly, global apparel consumption is projected to rise from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons in 2030 – equivalent to more than 500 billion additional T-shirts. Yikes!

So what exactly is wrong with the modern clothing industry? Here are some of the problems:

  • When we buy clothes made with synthetic fibres, such as polyester, acrylic and nylon, every time they’re washed they shed microplastics. These end up in the oceans and therefore in our food chain, which means that ultimately we are ingesting this plastic.
  • Even natural fibres are not ideal – one kilogram of cotton, equivalent to the weight of a shirt and pair of jeans, can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce.
  • Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally, and 20 per cent of all global wastewater comes from the fashion industry.
  • When clothes are discarded, 87% goes to landfill or incineration, 12% is downcycled into lower value uses that are often extremely difficult to recirculate, and only 1% gets recycled into new clothing.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production are higher than the amount produced by all international flights and maritime shipping combined and, at the current rate, the textile industry is poised to account for over 26% of the global carbon budget by 2050.
  • The fashion industry involves horrendously exploitative working conditions, mainly (but not only) in developing countries and mainly the forced labour of women and young girls.

More problems can be found in the sources at the end of this post, but one thing remains clear: Cheap clothes are cheap for a reason – it’s because someone (or something) else is paying for them.

What steps can you take now?

  • Be mindful of your clothing purchases – where does the product come from? how much wear will you get from it? what will happen to it after you’re finished with it?
  • Buy clothes secondhand. For special occasions think about renting clothes, unless you wish to make your purchase a long-term investment.
  • Think about whether you need to buy new clothes at all – can you repair or repurpose what you already have? Appreciate and value your garments.


6 thoughts on “Slow fashion”

  1. Totally agree and the cheap clothes, cheap labour is the same thing I say as an animal activist; cheap meat, cheap labour and mass production…you both look as lovely in 2020 as you did in 2006.

    1. Thanks Bev. Yes, I agree clothing is not the only industry in which we’ve completely lost the plot when it comes to appreciating value and showing compassion for the planet and for each other. But being aware of the problem is the first step in being able to do something about it. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Absolutely. And some clothes are still being bought for a single occasion and then ditched. I had never realised how much water and energy cotton takes. Hemp look like a good alternative. I still wear my naval great coat (issued in 1969) still fits me (just) and keeps me warm in church in the winter.
    One of the things that does upset us is that it is almost impossible to get shoes repaired these days. We still have a darning mushroom but I am not sure when I last darned socks!

    1. Wow, Duncan, great to hear you’re still wearing a coat from 1969! Yes, I agree, hemp does seem like a very sustainable alternative. You make a good point about shoes and I still don’t know what to do about them. I’m still struggling to find hardy waterproof hiking shoes that aren’t made of animal leather.

  3. Lovely photos of the two of you! I hate shopping for clothes, so tend to wear them until they start falling to pieces. Some of my favourite shirts I bought in the early 1990s.

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