Fashion is always about the new. Each season brings new trends, and the fashion industry preaches that the new is more valuable, because it keeps us ‘in line with the times’. Old clothes are deemed ‘passé’ and get discarded. This way, fashion, more than other disciplines, is able to continuously entice our need for consumption.
Currently, it is no longer a question of just one established fashion trend; since the democratisation of the sixties, many trends coincide at once. From the sixties onwards, an ingenious system gradually developed that we call fast fashion. Trends from the catwalk and the street are instantly picked up by businesses and end up in stores at rock bottom prices within six weeks. The removal of trade barriers in the sixties made it possible to move the production of clothing to low-wage countries. Through the digitisation in the nineties, information on sales, new trends, and patterns could be shared globally within seconds, allowing clever fashion companies (which combined retail and production) to become global players that continuously renew their stores with new collections of garments with a purchase price comparable to a piece of cheese or a movie ticket.
The fast fashion system results in an enormous overproduction and a lot of waste material. From all clothing produced today, only one third is sold at a normal rate, ano-ther third is sold at discount prices and the remainder does not even leave the warehouse or factory.
In addition, the production of these clothes entails a lot of logistics and transportation, causing the fashion industry to make great demands on our resources and environment. The cultivation of cotton alone is responsible for 2.5% of the global use of water. So-called ‘circular thinking’ offers a solution: second-hand clothing (post consumer waste) on the one hand, but also using the waste from fashion companies and un-sold leftovers as raw material for new fabrics and remodelled clothing, instead of simply throwing them away.
The Collapse of Value
In the nineteenth century, purchasing a dress would cost a yearly salary. Well into the twentieth century, confection was so expensive that families made clothes themselves from fabrics bought at the market, either with or withoutthe help of a seamstress. Today, thanks to outsourcing to low-wage countries, clothing is not much more expensive than a movie ticket or a piece of cheese.
As a result, we have lost the appreciation for the artisan process connected to making fabrics and clothing. The Slow Fashion Movement offers a counterbalance to this trend. In line with the Slow Food Movement, it focuses on a revaluation of local production and ecological awareness. Through timeless creations, designers aspire to make artisan clothing that lasts longer and is made in harmony with the environment.