Slow & Sustainable Fashion: Why Social Entrepreneurs Should Care?

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.” – Vivienne Westwood

The latest look in the fashion world has nothing to do with colour, cutting or fabric. Rather, it’s how a piece of clothing was created and how were the workers treated during the process. This is slow and sustainable fashion. And we think this movement is made to last.

If you’re new to the socially conscious fashion scene, here’s a quick summary from The Curious Button:

Slow Fashion: This generally refers to the style, design and quality of the garment, as well as the intention behind how it was made (a.k.a. – not a fast fashion brand). It involves buying clothing made of durable fabrics and staying away from fluctuating trends so you can still wear the pieces you love years down the road.

Sustainable Fashion: This refers to the effects of the production of clothing on the environment. This includes the use of pesticides in growing cotton, other natural, sustainable fabrics, the dyes used for various colours, water and waste treatment, energy reduction, using recycled materials, and sometimes even packaging. The list of opportunities to be a more sustainable fashion brand goes on and on.

 

“Fast fashion is like fast food. After the sugar rush, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.” – Livia Firth, Creative Director of Eco Age and Founder of the Green Carpet Challenge

It’s no secret that fashion is creating an ongoing environmental crisis. The negative impact of waste clothing has shortened the shelf life of fashion trends, which then causes fast fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, and Topshop, to mass produce. As a result, over 85 per cent of unwanted clothing ends up in a landfill. 

Reduce, reuse and recycle is one motto that socially conscious consumers can continue to practice but it does not solve the vicious cycle of stockpiling our landfills. We should extend the philosophy of conscious consumerism to fashion brands.

 

Why Social Entrepreneurs Should Care

“As consumers, we specifically look beyond the product and into the story that set off the initiative in the first place. When we make a purchase, we want to understand the production process, workers’ working conditions, and if what we are about to buy will affect the environment negatively.” (From our blog post: The Best Examples of Social Media for Social Entrepreneurs)

It’s important to us, as consumers, to know where the product came from and how it was produced. We want to minimize our ecological footprint when we make a purchase. In turn, fashion brands are providing sustainable fashion that is both stylish and affordable. Social entrepreneurs who are in the fashion industry will do well to keep up by offering transparency in their backstory and production process. This includes thinking long-term and ensuring that production workers are not only paid and treated fairly, but are able to improve their quality of life.

Social entrepreneur Saif Rashid from Bangladesh created APON, an employee wellbeing initiative that extends to employee benefits beyond the workplace. The initiative allows workers to purchase household supplies internally at a discounted rate, and it allows workers to access healthcare and medical insurance for free. The benefits go directly to the workers and there is no cost to the buyer as funding derives from commission from the sales of those discounted household items. Rashid is hoping that more brands will come on board when they see that enriching the lives of workers will greatly reduce staff turnover and save on overhead costs in the long run.

 

Case Study: Artisella

Toronto fashion company, Artisella, offers stylish fashion pieces that are contemporary, timeless and ethical. Their curation of brands strictly includes designers and labels that value fair workers’ wages, safe production facilities, show transparency, and leaves a low carbon footprint in the environment. Ethics, sustainability and style are three key promises to the products they offer to consumers. Artisella believes that, “by collaborating with fashion makers, designers and groups that understand the impact our fashion choices have on the environment, relationships and people, Artisella makes it easy to embrace a new alternative.”

Outside of selling consciously made fashion pieces and accessories, Artisella aspires to be movers and shakers in the fashion industry by connecting with like-minded individuals and businesses through meet-ups, pop-ups, and local community events. This is why we love Artisella – not to mention, they are one of our clients.

Of course, the purchase decision making rests solely on the hands of the end consumer. But, as social entrepreneurs, we have an unspoken responsibility to provide quality products created in ethical working conditions and educating the masses, in our respective industries and to our consumers, the importance of quality over quantity. Slow and sustainable fashion is here to stay as it becomes more affordable to be ethical.

 

Shirley Lui