1840 Journal

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Chronicles

Slow Fashion: The Opposite of Consuming and Throwing Away

4 June 2019

In the same vein as slow living, slow made fashion encourages us to take the time to make clothes well in order to enjoy them for as long as possible in an eco-friendly and sustainable way.

Slow fashion (or more globally, slow made) opposes fast fashion, where the main focus is on overproduction and over-consumption and where quality is sacrificed in favour of quantity and profitability. It’s not surprising that under the influence of fast fashion, we consume 400% more clothing today than 20 years ago, according to the organization Fashion Takes Action!

Aware that a T-shirt can travel over 3,500 km before being worn and that its production requires up to 600 gallons of water, independent fashion designers are increasingly opting for local manufacturing to reduce the impact of consumption on the environment. They’re also taking the time to be hands-on with their materials from A to Z, like Marie-Anne Miljours from Miljours and Niki and Corinne from HOTELMOTEL. All three designers, like many others who share their point of view, focus their attention on humans, the product, and the environment in order to offer more eco-conscious fashion.

At the Heart of Miljours’ Values

When Marie-Anne Miljours launched her eponymous leather goods company, she wanted it to embody the values of slow fashion. “For a designer, the idea is to make collections that are timeless and therefore don’t abide by the trends of the season. You focus on the product’s quality and sustainability so that it can be used in the long term.” 

This is why making just one piece like the Roby tote could take up to 6 months of work, depending on Marie-Anne’s creative pace. However, it will last much longer than a single season. “You make fewer models, but you take the time to design and produce them well. Everything is about the quality, and not the quantity.” Each leather item, like the Müller passport holder, is made by hand in her Montreal studio by using a longer, but more eco-friendly, vegetable tanning process.

By consuming slow fashion clothing and accessories, “[…] the customer allows the designer to create and produce with dignity by giving them the time and the money to do so, which shows them that their work is valued,” Marie-Anne explains. “By encouraging this type of creation, you’re investing in an artisan’s quality of life.”

For Miljours, the decision to slow down is built into each step, including the choice of suppliers. “When I approach a new supplier, I always ask them what’s their ideal price. I never look for discounts. I’m looking to establish long-term relationships.” Marie-Anne hopes to create for many years to come, which is why she prefers to go slow. “I don’t want to work like crazy and burn myself out. I want to save my energy for the long term!”  

Preserving Traditions with HOTELMOTEL

“We’re creation nerds!” say the two brains behind HOTELMOTEL as they erupt into laughter. Designing duo Niki and Corinne enjoy manufacturing objects in order to contribute to preserving artisan trades. “That doesn’t mean that we’re traditional. On the contrary, we innovate a lot in our creative process!” 
 

 

To do this, they also need to participate in educating consumers by being transparent about their manufacturing process. “People need to know why making a shoe takes time. It doesn't come out of a mold, there's something like 200 steps!” For them, the slow fashion movement makes people aware of the skill of artisans. “We have to help people understand so that they change their way of consuming.” Niki and Corinne are particularly in favour of repairing shoes, which encourages people to buy less and use the same item for a long time.  

The artisans of HOTELMOTEL review their chain of production all the way up to their suppliers in order to adhere to their values: “The material has to be produced under good conditions in order to be sustainable. We’ve visited each of our leather factories in Italy and France and we’ve seen the environment in which the animals are raised.” They did the same for the supplier of the French taurillon leather that they used in making their Taco belt bag.

Niki and Corinne regularly open the doors of their Montreal studio to share their way of life with their customers. Everything that they do together is aimed at helping them live in accordance with their values, have a better quality of life, and be chosen by customers who share their philosophy. 

Miljours and HOTELMOTEL are only two examples of members of Fabrique 1840’s large family that have adopted the slow made approach in their creative processes. Other leather goods companies, like Cantin with its Eugene travel bag made using authentic artisanal expertise, and Louve Montréal, a jewellery company that stylishly combines leather and wood in its Cravate necklace, prefer to make timeless accessories by hand rather than following the trends that come and go.

When consumers become interested in where their products come from and the mission of the companies that they support, they also participate in creating more sustainable and engaged fashion and in affirming their own personality and values. As emphasized by the activist and author Anna Lappé, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

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