November 20, 2022
Slow fashion is a term that is being increasingly used to describe ethical clothing and accessory companies, but with the prevalence of greenwashing rising at a similar rate here’s our take on slow fashion and ethical production.
Slow fashion is exactly what it sounds like. At its most basic level, it encompasses clothing and accessories that are crafted more slowly and with more consideration. Slow fashion pieces are designed to last, to be reused, to be looked after. Slow fashion companies do not put out new collections on a quarterly, monthly or weekly basis; they produce in small batches, they make products to order, and they only release new pieces when they feel they have something genuinely interesting to add to their collection and offer to their custodians. Custodians is an important word here, slow fashion products aren’t designed to be ‘consumed’, so it isn’t appropriate to talk about ‘consumers’. Slow fashion is an ethos as much as it is a production method, it’s the choice to use materials consciously, it’s the choice to ensure the people involved in producing these pieces are safe and paid fairly, it’s the choice to ensure there is as little negative environmental impact as possible from the process involved in creation.
At the time of writing this, I’m wearing a jumper I have worn regularly for the last 14 years. Yes, it’s a little tired in some places now, but I love this jumper and I hope to be wearing it for several more years.
When we invest in clothing and accessories, are more mindful of what has gone into the creation and manufacture of those pieces and are more understanding of the impact that production can have on our environment and fellow humans, we can use our choices for good.
Fast fashion creates a lot of problems. From the garment workers being paid wages below the poverty line to the chemicals and microplastics from synthetic fibres creating biological dead zones in rivers near to factories.
One of the big problems with this type of production is that it’s also geared for cheap clothing. Clothing and accessories that are designed to be disposable - they last a ‘season’ before they’re out of style and, as they didn’t cost a lot, are then generally discarded. How many times have you, or someone you know said they can’t wear the same outfit again? In our current society, clothes and accessories are designed to be finite, used up and replaced.
We need to slow down. We need to stop and think about the negative impacts of speed. What is the impact on our community and also what our demand for speed and choice means for the environment and the world. The top you’re wearing didn’t just appear in the shop or the website you bought it from. Do you know how it was made? Do you know how much the people who laboured for it were paid? Do you know where the material came from or what it is actually made of? Was the farmer that grew the cotton paid a fair wage? Was the spinner? Was the weaver? Was the screen printer?
As you’re here at Elvis & Kresse, we would imagine you do. But if you’re not 100% sure then we would love you to ask. If everyone decided to ask these questions and shopped elsewhere if they weren’t comfortable with the answers then the fast fashion companies would have to change, they would have to slow down. Imagine the impact we could have if we were just more curious, and more demanding!
There’s a growing movement of slow fashion brands (not to boast, but we were born slow) who are bucking the trend of cheap, disposable clothes and mass production. Slow fashion manufacturers are just that, slow. They’re deliberate with the materials they use, whether that is organically grown cotton or rescued fire-hoses. They’re conscious of fair, living wages and the safety of their craftspeople. They’re diligent about the quality and longevity of their products. Slow fashion brands don’t create for this season, they create for life.
Being considered and caring about these things goes a long way to reducing the negative impacts of mass, seasonal production.
A slow fashion brand chooses to do the following things:
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other choices slow fashion brands can make and all centre around the question of what makes the world a better place - better environment, better society, better lives for everyone. We also choose to donate 50% of our profits, giving back to our stakeholder communities - many other slow fashion brands choose to undertake similar initiatives that benefit the world.
From the beginning we’ve been slow. We take time to design our products using a term we call backwards design. We start with the problem of waste, rescue the material in question and only then do we design products, and these products must do two things - suit that material with as little waste as possible and give them value and a new, long life.
We’ve developed this method over the years, first using decommissioned fire-hoses from the London Fire Brigade, then using Burberry leather off-cuts. Our backwards design process has allowed us to create a range of beautiful, luxury accessories that reinvigorate these materials that were otherwise headed to landfill.
We also produce in small batches - we don’t flood supply and then generate demand with big marketing campaigns. We produce small quantities, see what works and what there is a demand for, then we produce more only when we need to. We are open to feedback and encourage suggestions and critique from our amazing custodians. We test, optimise and improve constantly.
We make everything ourselves - this really is unique, most brands design and sell but they do not manufacture. We manufacture in-house, across two sites, so when people ask 'Who made my bag?' we know precisely. We pay Living Wages to all our team, at both sites... no one is left behind.
When we find another waste stream, we examine the material, we do an enormous amount of research to discover what might be the best possible second life for the material. Over the years we have pioneered solutions like this for more than 15 different waste materials; we regularly use around 10 different waste streams to produce our luxury, ethical bags, wallets, purses, accessories and homeware.
We take what most would call “waste” and we turn it into something beautiful and valuable. We do this at a slow pace that is sustainable and fair and suits demand. We do it methodically based on continued research and development. We also offer repairs - each Elvis & Kresse piece comes with a one year warranty, but outside of this time frame, we would rather repair a piece so it can continue its new life rather than be discarded.
There are a lot of fantastic brands now taking the slow fashion approach. Whether you’re looking for clothes or shoes - it’s always worth double checking who you’re buying from. A couple of really good reference points to check are the directories for our fellow Social Enterprises and B Corps. Both of these organisations are very strict on their membership so you can be safe in the knowledge that a certified Social Enterprise or B Corp (or ideally both, like us) will be putting their people, community and environment first. A few to look at include:
Unsure how decommissioned fire-hose, rescued leather and reclaimed parachute silk can be turned into something truly beautiful? Take a look at our collections here.