Slow Fashion Month: Six Tips To Start Your “Slow Fashion” Journey

April is Slow Fashion Month, and while I’m no fashionista, I’ve spent the last few years changing how I buy my clothes and jewelry. I love a bargain, and I love the ease and speed of large online retailers. But I realized that my purchases have an impact, and sometimes the bargain isn’t worth the impact. 

This is the world of Fast Fashion.

In a world where we can have anything delivered to our doorstep with the click of a few buttons, we don’t have to think about where our stuff comes from. It’s just there. Yet the hard truth of the matter is that much of what we purchase causes others to work in awful conditions. We are always looking for fast, cheap, and convenient, but that has a cost, often to the world’s most vulnerable people.

Sure, we can buy a shirt for a few bucks that was produced in an oppressive working environment in the developing world. Fast Fashion is all around us, but we don’t see the impact it has on the people who make our clothes. 

Slow Fashion Month: Six Tips To Start Your "Slow Fashion" Journey

There is an alternative: Slow Fashion.

This is the movement that celebrates fashion that empowers and advocates for people and the environment. Slow Fashion embraces fair trade organizations that allow workers to receive fair wages and work in safe, dignified working conditions, which is often the opposite of Fast Fashion.

I started my Slow Fashion journey small. I subscribed to an Earring of the Month club and started getting fair trade earrings that were beautiful and handmade. Through that, I learned the artisans’ personal stories and saw how a simple pair of earrings can provide dignified work. That work, over time, allows families to escape the cycle of poverty. It keeps women and children from falling into risky work like sex trafficking. It allows families to send their kids to school, instead of into the workforce or onto the streets.

I realized a pair of earrings mattered.

And if the fair trade earrings I bought empowered someone, that meant that the things I bought that weren’t fair trade could be disempowering. It could mean someone worked 16 hours a day in horrible conditions for very little pay.  Someone was trapped in modern-day slavery to make a pretty pair of earrings for me. It could mean children were making my items. As a mom, that breaks my heart. 

That felt heavy. 

I felt the weight of the dollars I spent, and I knew I needed to make some changes. And so I began to purchase as much as I could from fair trade sources. And when I couldn’t do that, I bought things second-hand. I just couldn’t keep contributing to the world of Fast Fashion with the dollars I spent.

You might feel overwhelmed at the idea of purchasing ethically sourced items. I hear you.

We all have finite resources, and purchasing fair trade items can cost more. Here are some tips to start making the change to Slow Fashion and other fair trade purchases.

  1. Start small. Choose one or two items to buy fair trade. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Take small steps, and as you can, increase how much you spend on fair trade items. I started with earrings. Now, almost every jewelry item I buy is either locally made or fair trade. 
  2. Focus on quality, not quantity. I realized that having a few higher quality items that are sourced ethically means much more to me than having a ton of items that came to me from the Fast Fashion world. 
  3. Shop second-hand. When you can’t buy fair trade items, choose to shop second-hand instead. It saves a ton of money, diverts waste from a landfill, and means your family’s clothing doesn’t force others to work in a sweatshop. 
  4. Subscribe to a monthly fair trade box. I’ve been a subscriber to a few over the last several years. Fair Trade Friday, Causebox, Do Good Mail, and Hope Mail are a few options. You’ll receive a box on a monthly basis filled with fair trade items that do good in the world, and you’ll discover new things to love. 
  5. Learn more. April 19th-25th is Fashion Revolution Week, and it’s a great time to start learning more about Slow Fashion. Once you start learning the names of people, primarily women, who make the things you wear, it’s hard to turn back to Fast Fashion. Hear their stories and know that your dollars are making a difference.
  6. Look local. It can be tricky to find fair trade items locally, but you can always check out the nearby Ten Thousand Villages shop, or contact other local artisans. While a local artisan might not be certified fair trade, they may be sourcing their products ethically, and local is always better than a large online retailer or box store. Check out your Main Street community, Newbo City Market, or the Downtown Farmer’s Market to find local artisans who are doing some good in the world.
How will you celebrate Slow Fashion month?

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Jen is a mom to two kids, Penelope (19 months) and Jethro (2 months). A graduate of Central College, Jen moved to South Africa with the Peace Corps after college, where she developed school and community gardens. Upon returning to the states, Jen moved back to her hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, where she met her husband Darin. In 2019, their young family moved to Cedar Rapids, where she began work with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as a Healthy Food Access Specialist. Despite working full time and wrangling two young kiddos, Jen still finds times for her favorite hobbies-cooking, gardening, reading, and napping.