One big topic in the eco-community right now is slow fashion. If you haven’t heard, the term refers to a more ethical approach to the textile industry in which clothes are made with more sustainable resources with an intention to reuse. It also focuses on deviating from a lot of big brands who sell clothes for cheap, because usually they’re made with toxic materials by underpaid, underprivileged workers. This sounds like a very positive thing, and in many ways it is. But the message is also sometimes coming from a place of privilege.
There are two sides to every argument, and in this post I’ll be primarily highlighting one of them. The fact is that many people who are buying in to fast fashion aren’t doing it because they don’t care about social issues or they hate the earth— they’re doing it because they’re living in poverty. And honestly, I’m of the opinion that if you’re not living in poverty, you are not in the position to speak on what those that are should do. If you have to work in unfair conditions for unfair amounts of money and still don’t make enough to pay your bills or feed your family, usually the last thing on your mind is the material your clothes are made of. They are focused on survival. And they are not the problem. Yes, consumers have power, but the emphasis the slow fashion movement has on that power blows it out of proportion at times.
If you want people to buy sustainably sourced clothing, you need to make it affordable. Yes, those bamboo and hemp T-shirts are amazing, but they cost way too much for the majority of low-income families to afford. Until these materials are widespread enough that their cost goes down, the efforts should be focused on fashion companies, not fashion wearers.
I personally am privileged enough to choose where my clothes come from. I’m able to spend my time thinking about the environment. and I’m so grateful for that. We, especially bloggers and other influential people in the eco-community, need to work hard to recognize the privilege that we speak from, and we need to be specific so as not to turn others away from living more sustainably. Slow fashion is an important movement, but it’s one that may need to be redirected to better accommodate it’s audience.
This is an opinion piece, meaning that my views on the matter are subject to change. Have a different opinion? Let’s discuss!