Slowing Down Fast Fashion

| 9/15/2011 4:41:34 PM

Fashion sketch 

It’s the last day of New York Fashion Week, where celebrities and the industry elite flank runways to catch the first glimpses of new lines from high-end designers like Marchesa and Alexander McQueen. For the average U.S. consumer, though, fast fashion—cheap clothing produced quick and dirty—hangs in the closet.

Fast fashion’s formula, known as the “quick-response method,” keeps up with ever-changing trends promoted at events like Fashion Week by speeding up every aspect of the clothing-production process: design, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing. In order to keep the pace lively, workers’ conditions and the environment suffer.

A recent study by Iowa State University professor Elena Karpova and grad student Juyoung (Jill) Lee, however, finds that fast fashion doesn’t fly in certain markets, reports Aaron M. Cohen in The Futurist (Sept.-Oct. 2011), offering hope that we don’t have to stay on the current industry treadmill. Cohen writes:

Japanese consumers are willing to pay more for domestically made products with higher price tags, which has resulted in fewer purchases of less-expensive imports. The Japanese apparel industry’s emphasis on more expensive, higher quality goods distinguishes them from foreign competitors in a positive way. Marketing efforts help drive these trends…. Clothing stores in Japan target older consumers, who are likely to be more interested in long-lasting quality than keeping up with the latest styles, while American advertising targets younger consumers interested in just the opposite.

Responsible clothing options in the states and elsewhere are increasingly easy to find, tracked by blogs like Eco-Chick and Eco Fashion World and spearheaded by green designers such as 2010 Utne Visionary Natalia Allen. And, Cohen says, some in the high-fashion industry are recommitting to artisan craftsmanship, with houses like Hermès beginning to emphasize “slow fashion.”

While we in the Utne Reader office certainly don’t claim to be fashion plates, perhaps we’re ahead of the trends on this one: I’ve had my favorite pair of jeans for nearly a decade and our hipster office manager owns a loon-emblazoned sweatshirt (with red, built-in cuffs and collar) that’s older than he is. Slow fashion, we’re ready for you.

Mika Herrera
9/27/2011 3:41:06 PM

I love "Slow" fashion

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