Kindred have developed a slow fashion survey and request your participation. They say it will take 15-30 minutes to complete. I haven’t done it yet, merely scrolled through the screens. I think it will take me much longer to complete. Again, it seems that slow fashion adherents are missing the significance of product vs process facets of “fast” and “slow”. Based on the kinds of questions asked in the survey, results will tell the researchers exactly what they expect to hear (confirmation bias) -the stuff of popular discussion- but what could become of it if those aren’t the underlying conflicts? Conflicts are the symptoms of a greater problem, not the solution to it.
The survey opens with a focus on sustainable inputs. Or rather, materials deemed by popular acclaim to have a smaller footprint –bamboo anyone? No mention is made of the acquisition (carbon) costs of the mentioned sustainable fibers. Others have posited cogent arguments that Peace Silk kills more creatures than traditional processing. And cotton? Not going there today. Weighing the gamut of sustainability and impact, inputs are a minor variable in this complex equation but they get the most attention being the most obvious.
Section four deals with how sustainable one is based on what they do with excess inventory. What? How about no excess inventory to deal with? But that’s deemed bad in the sphere of public opinion because the no-inventory approach is used by “fast” fashion producers. Researchers need to analyze the process of “fast” fashion rather than avoiding it. Staking a counter culture position isn’t open minded; reading and analyzing material beyond that which defines the parameters of one’s beliefs, is.
Obviously my frustration lies in that the matter of a sustainable production model was not mentioned at all in the survey. Thomas elaborates on that which I have struggled to define succinctly (empahsis is mine):
If you are producing in the US, the biggest cost of the garment is labor. “Fast-fashion’ means cutting closer to demand, and reducing inventory, therefore reducing capital requirements and the risk of markdowns. To my mind that should be part and parcel of any ’slow fashion’ movement and I think to the extent there is any real slow fashion in this country, it is the model of bringing in huge quantities of low-cost goods sold with high initial mark-up and then savage price-cutting is destructive to everybody and most of all the environment as we destroy and deplete natural resources for useless consumer goods. Whether there will be a legitimate slow fashion movement (rather than a marketing buzz) I don’t know since 1) the domestic supply chain hardly exists anymore and 2) the cost of producing real slow-fashion is high. Serious consumer uptake will require a shift in cultural priorities. I hope it happens.
Namely, even buying fabric woven of sun kissed dew and blessed by fairies and sewn by well-treated elves is all for nothing if you make too much of it (push manufacturing) because you’re wasting resources.
We have three sustainability problems. Namely that sustainability is a trend and it’s trendy. Problem three is that the process of production, the design of the system is never discussed by slow fashion proponents. Realizing any long term gains towards salvaging what’s left of our planet, our economy and our industry relies less on branding with a pretty green logo (trendy) and more focus on the internal engine –lean manufacturing– that is invisible to consumers (and researchers) but is the trend that matters more. The difficulty of lean manufacturing lies in its branding -or rather, the lack thereof. Lean manufacturers need to find ways to claim the sustainability position that they have earned through hard dedication. If you’re not lean, you’re not green.
The point of today’s rant being that if people are truly motivated to affect change, they need to direct the conversation and discourse. To lead, they’re going to have to do some heavy lifting to learn a whole new set of variables. If the problem were resolved by organic fabrics, figuring out how to manage excess inventory and exhort consumers to buy less trendy fashion items, much of the damage would have been reduced by now. In closing, take the survey if you think it will move us toward positive change.