FORUM | The Slow Revolution, What Is It Good For?


Two weeks ago, I attended The RSA's (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) event on THE SLOW REVOLUTION, based on the rise of the Slow Movement, which advocates the slowing down of life's pace "in order to meet fundamental human needs, while allowing for the earth’s natural regeneration to take place." The event brought together five advocates towards this cultural shift in a forum that explored the notions behind 'slow' and how this was relevant in fashion, culture, finance and our philosophical outlook.What follows is a reflection of the event.
During my two year stint living with indigenous people in the Amazon, I had been dubbed by many in and outside my village as one with an old soul; the one who had found herself back into this world with an antiquated view of how one should move through space and time. I had always known that I existed with a momentum that required the slowness that came with enjoyment--just like a connoisseur would slowly swish a teaspoon of wine in one's mouth until every single taste bud could relish in its glory, or perhaps an old man in Arxia Corinthos (I did a study abroad there as a teen) enjoying a long conversation with his childhood friend over trees, terrain and politics. 
When I lived in Edinburgh, I would often take myself to the Wednesday night open mic nights at Eighty Queen Street Jazz bar (it is still today one of my most coveted memories) and sit whilst strangers took centre stage with the live ensemble to perform their melodies. I would stay there for hours, drinking wine and making conversation with the elderly who were sometimes brought to the bar as part of their outings. I sincerely loved it. John (one of the regulars in his early 60s) would always find me, and we would talk of "back in the day" when he would play his sax with his old band, and how they would spend hours playing the same phrases (a series of notes, a sentence of music) over and over until they would all agree on the key, transitions, and alternate chords. Those were the days John!

As I listened to the panelists, I was drawn to my own slow movement vis-a-vis a progression through time, and how this was often ambiguated and negotiated when moments in life begged me to move faster--especially when it came to fashion and personal achievements. Last year, after a conversation with Emma H., I challenged myself to ONLY purchase vintage, second-hand or ethical fashion for an entire year (one year has passed and I am still going strong, thanks to Ebay, my mother and aunties, and Emma H.'s closets, my and my grandmother's sewing machines, vintage boutiques and the ever amazing charity shops). This was a way to encourage a rewiring of my relationship with clothing, and the conceptualisation of my very own image.

So what is Slow Revolution? And is it really a SMART way of approaching an industry like fashion? As it pertains to Slow Fashion, the slow movement interjects by calling for a sustainable fashion movement relating to “eco”, “environmentally friendly”, "ethical", “green”, and “fair trade” efforts. It opposes the fast-fashion or “McFashion” of mass produced clothing and textiles, and supports local designers, handcrafted items, and smaller businesses which encourage a slower and more responsible form of production. At the same time it champions innovation through the repurposing and use of sustainable materials that are organic and invented (e.g. the use of plastic bottles to produce fibres for garments).
TRAID - Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development - is one of the many charities that not only sells old clothing, but alters/upcycles garments. This slow approach encourages contemplation between the things we use and their connection to the environment. It adds value to the items we purchase and use, through its quality, design and value in society, much like an ethical garment. Most importantly, its supply chain considers all involved--from the cotton farmers to the garment workers to the consumer's experience.

The RSA's Slow Revolution brought amazing speakers who are at the forefront of the Slow Movement in various ways: Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow; Kate Fletcher, reader in Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion; Deepa Patel, co-director, Slow Down London; Gervais Williams, award-winning fund manager and author of Slow Finance; and Ed Gillespie, Co-Funder of Sustainability Communications Agency, Futerra.
As Carl Honoré defines Slow Movement is:
...a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

He asked us to "stop and smell the proverbial roses," through the cultivation of slowness. Even sex has become an Olympic Sport, with the Slow Sex Movement advocating that we slow down in the bedroom. And what about the education and travel? Slow is about a tempo justo, about doing everything at its own pace. As Deepa Patel made us realise "we will never get these moments back again." We move fast, according to Patel, because in a way we cannot deal with our own mortality. We want to get so much in before we are no longer in physical existence. Even our finances can be considered in terms of Slow. Gervais Williams encouraged the audience to react slowly to the global financial market by waiting for the right investments to come along, so as to reconnect investors with their savings.

We need the Slow Movement to engage us more with the fact that we have been seeing a demise in the returns we get from our outputs. Hence, I wish to leave you with a list of ways you can join the Slow Movement as it pertains to fashion's ability to challenge the sustainability crisis. This has been encompassed within the Slow Fashion Values, which are meant to spark dialogue amongst designers, consumers, manufacturers and retailers, listed below.
1. Seeing the big picture: Slow Fashion producers recognise that they are all interconnected to the larger environmental and social system and make decisions accordingly. Slow Fashion encourages a systems thinking approach because it recognises that the impacts of our collective choices can affect the environment and people.
2. Slowing down consumption: Reducing raw materials by decreasing fashion production can allow the earth’s regenerative capabilities to take place. This will alleviate pressure on natural cycles so fashion production can be in a healthy rhythm with what the earth can provide.
3. Diversity: Slow Fashion producers strive to maintain ecological, social and cultural diversity. Biodiversity is important because it offers solutions to climate change and environmental degredation. Diverse and innovative business models are encouraged; independent designers, larger fashion houses, second-hand, vintage, recycled, fashion leasing, your local knitting club and clothing swaps are all recognised in the movement. Keeping traditional methods of garment & textile making and dyeing techniques alive also gives vibrancy and meaning to what we wear and how it was made.
4. Respecting People: Participating in campaigns and codes of conduct can help to secure the fair treatment of workers. Some brands have joined the Asian Floor Wage Alliance, Ethical Trading Initiative, and the Fair Wear Foundation, among others. Labels are also supporting local communities by offering skill development and helping them to trade, such as Toms Shoes and Banuq.
5. Acknowledging human needs: Designers can meet human needs by co-creating garments and offering fashion with emotional significance. By telling the story behind a garment or inviting the customer to be part of the design process, the needs of creativity, identity and participation can be satisfied.
6. Building relationships: Collaboration and co-creation ensures trusting and lasting relationships that will create a stronger movement. Building relationships between producers and co- producers is a key part of the movement.
7. Resourcefulness: Slow Fashion brands focus on using local materials and resources when possible and try to support the development of local businesses and skills.
8. Maintaining quality and beauty: Encouraging classic design over passing trends will contribute to the longevity of garments. A number of Slow Fashion designers are ensuring the longevity of their clothing by sourcing high quality fabrics, offering traditional cuts and creating beautiful, timeless pieces.
9. Profitability: Slow Fashion producers need to sustain profits, and increase their visibility in the market to be competitive. Prices are often higher because they incorporate sustainable resources and fair wages.
10. Practicing Consciousness: This means making decisions based on personal passions, an awareness of the connection to others and the environment, and the willingness to act responsibly. Within the Slow Fashion movement, many people love what they do, and aspire to make a difference in the world in a creative and innovative way.

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