Slow Fashion October movement pushes back against cheap, trendy and environmentally harmful 'fast fashion'

Fast fashion, it's cheap and trendy clothing that's made quickly so we can all have the fashion trends of the season, but it has been criticized for the impacts it has on the environment.

'It's a celebration of the things that are second-hand … that we've made,' says Manitoba wool farm owner

Anna Hunter at her fibre and wool farm, about 50 kilometres east of Winnipeg. (Submitted by Anna Hunter)

It's called "fast fashion" — cheap and trendy clothing that's made quickly and inexpensively so we can all have the fashion trends of the season. 

But it has been criticized for the impact it has on the environment, and the workers who make it.

But a movement called Slow Fashion October is a push back against the fast-fashion industry, and its environmental effects.

Slow Fashion October was started a few years ago in the U.S. by knitters and other clothing makers to acknowledge, and be conscientious about, our clothing consumption.

"Slow Fashion October is a month to celebrate the changes that we've already made and to look at some of the things that can be improved when it comes making decisions about our clothing," said Anna Hunter, the owner of Long Way Homestead, a family owned and operated fibre farm and wool mill near Ste. Genevieve, Man. — about 50 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

Hunter with some of the wool created at her Manitoba farm. Focusing on local producers is part of the slow fashion movement, she says. (Submitted by Anna Hunter)

"It's a celebration of the things that are second-hand, the things that we've made, the things that we've mended," she said.

"So many of us don't think about where our clothes come from, how they're made, what sort of resources it takes to even make those clothes and then how quickly we discard them."

Hunter became more involved in slow fashion after she committed to not buying new clothing for a year.

That same year she moved to Winnipeg from Vancouver, and even with the very different winters, she still didn't spend money on new clothes.

"I found myself stumbling through, trying to sew some ski pants," said Hunter.

She also learned that she owned 10 black T-shirts.

"They were all the same and they were all black and I had 10 of them — and it's just really not that necessary," she said. 

Fast fashion has created an environmental impact that Hunter believes many aren't even aware of.

"We're bombarded with messages that we actually need to have the newest designs and the newest fashion and so we are buying a lot of clothing and then getting rid of it every six months or every season," she said.

'Overwhelming' environmental impact

Slow Fashion October is about "looking at ways in which you can not be constantly be purchasing more clothes, not be purchasing clothes that are cheaply made in ways that are bad for the environment," said Bethany Daman, the green-living co-ordinator with Winnipeg's Green Action Centre. 

The centre is concerned with how fast fashion is impacting the environment and what they can do to help stop it, she said. 

The 2016 documentary RiverBlue highlights that exact problem, said Hunter.

It shows the impact that the clothing industry has on fresh waterways throughout the world, including the synthetic dyes used, the water used for producing and manufacturing cotton, and what then happens with the run-off. 

In countries where a lot of clothing is produced, like China, Indonesia and India, you can actually see the dye running into the rivers and changing the colour of the water, Hunter said.

"Sometimes it's overwhelming if you are looking at the blue jeans aisle and you're thinking about how much of that synthetic blue dye has gone into fresh waterways."

Hunter dyes wool at her farm. 'Using second-hand stores and making your own clothes will help reduce our fast-fashion input,' she says. (Submitted by Anna Hunter)

While we might not see the same environmental impact in Manitoba, we do still have issues here, said Hunter. 

"The amount of clothing that goes into landfills, you know, even in Canada, in North America, in Manitoba — it's huge," she said, especially when there are better ways to get rid of your unwanted clothing. 

There's the option of donating used clothing, or repairing that pair of pants with a hole in them, she said, "recognizing that most clothes can probably be fixed by a tailor. Using second-hand stores and making your own clothes will help reduce our fast-fashion input."

Hunter owns a sheep farm and manufactures wool that's all grown and made in Manitoba. Supporting local manufacturers is one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to slow fashion, she said.

"Supporting local farms, local producers of textile, local designers, local sewers — that's all a part of keeping that input much more localized."


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