Clothing to Last a Lifetime: The Slow Fashion Movement
Whilst being connected with sustainable or eco-fashion, the ‘slow fashion’ movement advocates for clothing made with respect for people, environment, and animals. Essentially, slow fashion brands and designers are responding and reacting to the over-consumption of fast fashion by making clothes in a more considered way.
Slow fashion asks us consumers to look at and question the purchasing decisions we make, redefining our relationship with the clothing we buy and wear. It’s an ethos that champions a more thoughtful approach to manufacture and production where quality garments are built to last, and a more ethical design process is appreciated and valued. Taking into account considerations that go beyond market share and profit margin by crafting garments that will stand the test of time and look good for a lifetime.
The term ‘slow fashion’ is still relatively new in the contemporary lexicon but the ideas behind it derive from established working practices that go back to the early twentieth century. Prior to the advent of a trend driven fashion culture which is a relatively recent phenomenon, clothing was made to serve a purpose - whether that was utilitarian, functional work clothing, or simply to wear to church on Sunday.
Society bought clothes a lot less regularly – sometimes only a few times a year, and when people did, the garments themselves had to be durable and long- lasting. There was no such thing as disposable fashion in the early part of the twentieth century and this being the case, clothing itself was generally made to a higher standard than most people are used to nowadays, using the best available fabrics to the highest manufacturing standards.
This all took place before globalisation and the numerous free-trade deals that opened national economies in the latter part of the last century and so when a garment was made the process was predominantly localised with the end customer also being local too. Clothing didn’t travel across the globe, crossing time zones from factory door to shop floor but largely stayed within the communities that had produced it in the first place.
The whole nature of clothing production changed because of this with the concept of 'fast fashion' being born along the way. Brands started to market and sell clothing not as utilitarian ‘work’ clothing but as trend driven fashion for consumers with disposable incomes and ever-evolving wardrobes. The slow fashion movement takes us back to the more sustainable era before globalization took hold, when less was made but it was more often made better. Something that has a lot of relevance for the Cabourn brand.
It’s well known that Nigel Cabourn has an extensive archive of vintage garments that inspire and inform the range. Studying these references in detail allows the design team to develop a collection that has longevity in mind: something that has always been an important part of the brand DNA. The enthusiasm and passion for vintage clothing imbues every garment in all the collections ensuring that real authenticity can be found throughout the different ranges. But it’s not simply about designing clothes that are inspired by the past, but instead more about learning the lessons from this bygone era and applying them to current times. This might mean sourcing and developing fabrics from the best mills in Europe, using them widely throughout the range and keeping the best ones in the collection from season to season. Always being mindful of the environmental impact and ensuring that they remain fit for purpose for the longest possible time. Trims, buttons, and zips are again developed or selected with durability in mind with production taking placing either here in the UK or Europe where working practices and standards are high.
But this ethos doesn’t just apply to the design and development of the Cabourn collections – it runs through the rest of the brand too and is the basis of the Recycle and Reinvest program. At Cabourn we believe passionately that the products we make should last a lifetime, as clothing once did. The Recycle and Reinvest program allows the brand and its customers to develop this idea further by extending the lifespan of the garments that people have bought, worn and loved from Cabourn. The goal as a company is to become more ethically conscious and this is just another way by which the brand can do so.
Whilst we would never call ourselves an eco-fashion brand, the principles that underpin everything we do here at Cabourn challenge the very notion of fast fashion, and so whether it’s taking inspiration from vintage clothing, working with local suppliers in Scotland, making an range entirely in Japan or recycling well-loved garments responsibly, the Cabourn brand has for some time and continues to adhere to the fundamental tenets of what people now call slow fashion.