It started with the food. I started buying local produce and discovering how much more tasty they were. I then shifted my shopping to smaller shops and farmers’ markets where I got to meet shop owners and farmers and build relationships with those who produce and sell the food I buy. Having favoured traditional foods since a very young child, the whole slow food movement made a lot of sense to me.
It was a small step from slow food to slow fashion. I never really cared about clothes in my teens and early 20s. As I started to learn more about how to dress and started to develop my own style, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the chain stores that sold basically the exact same clothes, all over the world, in increasingly fewer colours. When I shopped in stores like Jacob or The Gap, I felt that my choices were limited by whatever the industry decided was the trend for that year. I remember wanting an orange top and walking into Jacob and finding that every single piece of clothing in the entire store was either white, black, grey, or purple. Suddenly I had four purple tops because that was basically the only lively colour around last year. It was like shopping in the large supermarket where we have the illusion of choice.
So why not look for the work of local designers that more closely fit in with my own sense of style and aesthetics? Why not go into vintage shops where I actually could get an orange top if I wanted one? And that’s what I started doing. Fresh Collective has quickly become my favourite store. I started visiting the shop in the days when it was still called Fresh Baked Goods, the shop of Laura Jean, the Knitting Queen. I was a poor student then, couldn’t afford much but bought the odd sweater on sale. Now the shop has expanded into a cooperative of over a dozen local designers, selling jewelry, clothes, shoes, bags… Sure, the pieces are more expensive than at the gap. But they were also handmade by a local designer, are of higher quality, and will last me much longer. I have also decided I would rather have fewer, nicer things, than a lot of clothes I don’t wear. And there’s definitely something special about being able to talk to the person who designed the dress you are looking at and being able to ask specific questions about it. It is also the kind of place that makes you want to make clothes and jewelry yourself as well.
Turns out the concept of slow fashion has been around for a while. The whole notion of slow, of course, is not just about being able to afford more expensive handcrafted products. It is also about learning how to mend and make clothes yourself. This used to be an essential skill. I remember, as a child, that every household had a sewing machine and that my mother, who was no paradigm of homemaking and who worked or went to school full time, could at least do some basic sewing to mend our clothes and make some basic items. A lot of these skills seem have been lost in our ever faster world. So part of the slow movement is to reconnect to these basic skills.
Last year I learned to make butter. Perhaps this year I’ll learn to sew?