Why We Like Slow Fashion
At Mitera, we take fashion slowly, meaning we don’t have 52 seasons in our fashion calendar. We produce all our dresses with love and care at a family-owned factory in New York and know the names of the people who sew our dresses. We keep a small production so that each dress is made with exceptional quality and durability in mind. Our fabrics are traceable back to Japan, where our Founder Yoko is from. Not only do we produce our garments with the highest ethical standards, but we also subscribe to the philosophy of a minimalist wardrobe. It is our mission to create a dress that can accompany a woman throughout her motherhood journey.
We invited Tasha Muresan, our contributing maternal psychology scholar, to reflect on the issue of
One in every six human beings on this planet works in the fashion industry, making it the most labor-dependent industry today. As both an expert consumer and a motherhood scholar, I wanted to talk about the issue of slow/sustainable fashion because I believe that mothers are particularly well positioned to make an impact on this movement, as they hold a special sway over future generations.
It’s likely you remember the grim headlines following the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, and if you don’t, you’re at least familiar with the conditions of far-away sweatshops. Maybe you even have an image, like I do, that comes to mind when you hear trigger words like ‘outsourcing’ and ‘Made in Bangladesh’.
Motivated by the Rana Plaza tragedy, documentarian Andrew Morgan produced The True Cost, a film tracing the global impact of the fashion industry. Executive Producer and “Queen of the Green Carpet” Livia Firth has been on the forefront of the eco fashion movement for years, challenging brands and designers to adhere to a higher set of principles: “Pairing glamour and ethics to raise the profile of sustainability, ethics and social welfare.”
The documentary follows the steady rise of the ‘fast fashion’ industry, which quite frankly looks a lot like addiction. The footage they use as evidence of this is embarrassing and indisputable—Black Friday stampedes, brainwash-y, sing-song-y sale commercials, and YouTube fashion haul celebrities.
But there’s a high cost we’re paying for this fast turnover, this “52 season fashion year”, as they refer to it in the film. And this cost is quickly dismissed and justified because when we outsource, we are providing better alternatives for people living in areas of the world that seriously lack economic opportunity. In fact, entire national economies depend on our need to outsource. But, “It could be much worse for them” falls flat when you’re watching footage of men, women, and children mourning at a completely leveled Rana Plaza.
In processing my own reaction to the film, I sought out friends—all female, some mothers—to reflect with, and found that I emerged from each conversation feeling a revived sense of determination. A favorite assigned reading in graduate school was Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982), which deconstructs then-current, normative theories of human identity and moral development, which often did not address gender differences. A feminist psychologist and ethicist, Gilligan puts forth the idea that women are inclined to participate in an “ethics of care,” which places importance on empathy and compassion above morality and justice. Because this way of being is rooted in relationship, it compels a response and holds potential for stimulating change. Here, care equals strength. This is why I suggest that mothers are in the position to make an impact; there’s a special grade of compassionate awareness that ignites in the transition to motherhood—an ‘empathic enlightenment’, if you will. Because your child is inheriting the earth, it becomes harder to ignore brokenness.
What can we do as consumers, aside from being informed? We’re accustomed to the availability of affordable fashion, and if you’re like me you get a temporary high when you can buy something without worrying about the toll its taking on your bank account. Admittedly, asking people to essentially ‘want less’ is asking for large-scale behavioral change. We’d have to train ourselves to remember that buying less is a huge social and environmental investment.
The filmmakers in True Cost very aptly nod to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 address at Riverside Church in New York City, calling for a “radical revolution of values,” wherein “we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” Here again, mothers are in a great position to make a meaningful difference. When women become mothers, they often describe a shift in priorities that places less importance on material things. Mothers teach this sort of hierarchy to their children, I think, when they encourage them to share, to show concern for a friend’s scraped elbow, to look people in the eyes when they say hello, etc. Mothers greatly influence their children’s structuring of the social world around them, and this has the potential to be a fulfilling, beautiful responsibility.
Conscious consumerism is a value that honors both natural resources and human life. It also requires some level of self-discipline. So if, as fashion designer Orsola de Castro says, the way we dress is “fundamentally a part of what we wish to communicate about ourselves,” then we are making a powerful statement when we buy sustainable, ethically-made clothing. Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah of Cuyana, an online fashion company, center their entire (highly successful) business model around the idea of “intentional buying.” In an interview with Racked, they talk about the benefits of a minimalist wardrobe, shopping with style in mind versus trend. Personally, I am a big fan of this ideology and aspire to a pared-down, timeless-and-durable wardrobe. For most of us, we shop where we shop because it’s what we can afford. We might have a minimalist (-ish) wardrobe as it is, and our spending can’t be reduced to “giving in” to the temptation to buy cheap. So what can we do to improve the situation? Can we make an impact, regardless of the size of our disposable income? YES.
I reached out to Kathleen Talbot, Sustainability & Operations Manager at Reformation, an LA-based fashion company dedicated to thoroughly sustainable practices, and she’s composed a list of a few practical measures you can take to participate in the ethical fashion movement.
1. Being old is the new new. When you extend the life of a clothing item by three months you can reduce its carbon, water and waste footprint by 5-10%. So wear it out!
2. Did you know as much as 80% of clothes' energy footprint takes place during garment care? Wash cold, hang dry, and only wash as needed to make a huge impact in the life-time impact of your clothes. Air-drying your clothes just six months a year would save 700 pounds of CO2. That's the same energy as driving a Prius 1,800 miles, which is a super long road trip. Also hanging your clothes to dry looks super chic and Italian.
3. Washing a full load of laundry takes less energy, water and detergent than washing the same clothes in two smaller loads. In fact, full loads can save you 3,400 gallons of water per year. When you haven't done laundry in ages you're not being lazy, you're just being a super good person. (Good news for tired mamas!)
4. The average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. An estimated 90% of clothing is tossed way before the end of its life! Try hosting a clothing swap and give your clothes a chance to fall in love with somebody new. (This is a great opportunity to exchange hand-me-downs—kids outgrow clothes at an astonishing rate, don’t they?)
5. A secondhand purchase can save the equivalent energy of more than 80 half-hour workouts on a treadmill. On your mark, get set, vintage.
6. Throwback: 50 years ago the US made 95% of its clothing. Today it only makes 3%. We liked it better back in the day—choose local when you can. (Mitera is US-made through and through!)
This is a start! We don’t have all the answers, but there are small steps we can take to participate in conscious consumerism, to work towards a society and environment we want our children to inherit.
We welcome you to contemplate with us—we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Tasha Muresan, MA is a graduate of the Department of Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where her adventures in maternal psychology began. She has been a part of Columbia's Maternal Psychology Laboratory since 2011 and serves as Managing Editor of the lab’s online magazine, KHORAI. Not yet a mother, she has been fortunate to accompany other women on their motherhood journeys as a long-time nanny and newly-minted birth doula. She is a regular contributor to Mitera Blog.