… and I am a slow fashion girl.”
Last Friday I went to visit Adhesif Clothing here in Vancouver. Melissa Ferreira is the designer of Adhesif and she kindly allowed me to walk around her store snapping my camera like the clothes paparazzi (hey, I need the practice!).
Melissa makes all of her clothes by hand. But what makes these clothes particularly unique is that they are made out of textiles she finds in thrift shops around town. She then pairs these together into new garments. No two dresses I saw in her store had the same combination of fabrics and prints. Most of what she finds is just yardage – pieces that are only a couple of square yards. She said that it is much more rare that she’ll take apart an existing garment to make something new as this usually ends up in more waste. I commented that the dresses on her racks seemed wonderfully soft and flowy and she said that a lot of what she finds in thrift stores today are old scarves.
Melissa got into the world of fashion out of a love for vintage clothing (vintage being anything over 20 years old… this makes the 90s vintage. So are my grade school clothes suddenly fashionable again??? Bring on the jean shorts!!). By buying vintage fabric, she says, her clothes take on a unique look.
Though it was her love of vintage clothing that got her into fashion, she says she has also been overwhelmed by the amount of waste that she has seen in the fashion world. And this is when Melissa started telling me about fast fashion vs. slow fashion.
The leaders in fast fashion world are stores like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21. These stores have a business model that relies on getting the season’s trends to the racks as quickly and cheaply as possible. They want to make the prices low enough that even you and I can buy them, and will feel like we are getting an excellent deal – perhaps playing to (or creating?) our obsession with bargains. But of course, clothes that are made fast and cheap aren’t meant to last. In fact, that might be the point.
‘Planned obsolescence’ is usually something we think of with appliances (toasters and fridges that give out after a few years) and electronics (laptops and cellphones built to last a few years until significantly better models are out and it becomes cheaper to upgrade than to fix). It’s a way companies can ensure that they will have a customer base in the future. If they make their products too durable, who would ever need to come back for more?
I’ve never thought of it, but much of the fashion industry is also built on a concept of planned obsolescence. Not only do styles become obsolete (I’m sorry, but running around in spandex has not been cool since I was in preschool), but clothes themselves become obsolete by breaking down – losing their color, shrinking, tearing, wearing thin. The turn over rate is pretty astounding when you think about it – totally new styles roll down the runway at least twice a year. Another aspect of the fast fashion world is quick product turnover – so nearly every time you come back there is something new and exciting to find. And where do you think all the faded/ripped/thin/frayed/so-last-year’s clothes go? Of course – your local landfill. To sit around til (nearly) kingdom come.
Which is where Melissa comes in – she believes in slow fashion. Slow fashion is a model that works to create quality pieces that can last for years. This often means that the prices will be higher than what you’d find in a big business clothing chains (but, don’t get me wrong – I checked the price tags at Adhesif and these clothes aren’t at shockingly high fashion prices… they are really pretty affordable!). However, it’s a worldview that sees your clothes as a type of investment, not just something to fill the next season. And it even sees the buying experience as important – what if you actually had a relationship with the person who made your clothes? or the person you bought them from? (this would obviously be excellent for me as I have no idea what looks good on me and I typically buy clothes that don’t even fit…. Help me, Melissa!)
Though I don’t think Melissa considers herself a warrior for the environment, I think her store may be reducing landfill waste in two ways – first by recovering items that no one seems to want, and secondly by making them into new items that are meant to be used for a long time.