Fast fashion is passé, slow fashion is the future.
1 Tell us about your experience in the fashion industry?
I started my career in PR, working with all sorts of different brands – both sustainable and fast fashion houses. This gave me an alarming insight into the scale of mass production. Whilst I found the amount of waste – in particular plastic – used by the brands shocking, I also started thinking about how we can use the power of this industry to become an agent for change. That is how I arrived at SARDIN, and consequently Slow Exposure.
5 Tell us about SARDIN, a new sustainable fashion e-commerce platform that you are also working with.
SARDIN started as a platform creating campaigns with brands that ran for a period of 30 days on a pre-order basis (which fundamentally limits our current tendency to overproduce). As soon as I met with Rune Orloff (CEO) and the rest of the team, I knew I had to get involved. Whilst I had always enjoyed writing, my position as editor of SARDIN manifested itself in a series of really interesting opportunities. Towards the end of last year we ran campaigns with the likes of Spencer Phipps and Matthew Williams, so to hear their take on the industry from a brand perspective was super interesting. I also hosted SARDINTalks, a monthly podcast interviewing these game-changing designers. I am currently planning a podcast series for Slow Exposure.
2 What truly inspired you to start your platform for ‘provoking thoughtful consumption’ - Slow Exposure?
I was spending significant amounts of my time searching for sustainable brands and, as I found more and more innovative designers, it dawned on me that there has to be some kind of library to help other people to access them. This is when Slow Exposure as an idea came about; the name echoes what I’m trying to achieve, exposing people to innovative brands, one day at a time. The name also alludes to the ‘slow fashion’ philosophy, and an idea that consumption should be deliberate, thoughtful, and infrequent. I’ve received comments in the past that the brands in the sustainable sphere are too expensive, and I aim to showcase all types of different brands and price brackets.
In a way, it’s all about knowledge, and empowering people to make better-informed decisions. I feel that many people would make different choices if they only knew the ramifications of buying ‘fast fashion’. The fashion world is different from the food industry, as the consequences of endorsing it in its current state are nearly invisible to the consumer (the wages of a factory worker half-way across the globe are unlikely to weigh heavily on the conscience of a teenager shopping in H&M). By contrast, the cost of buying battery-farmed chicken is more apparent.
3 Sustainable fashion has become a buzzword recently, is it making any real impact on the industry?
Essentially there is no such thing as a sustainable brand. As long as we are manufacturing more stuff, however sustainably, we are just putting more onto the planet. The most sustainable thing to do would be to stop producing all together, but people keep buying, myself included. So if we’re going to do that we have to do it slowly and consciously.
I’m a romantic at heart, but to say yes would be naïve. The problem is that the responsibility now lies on the shoulders of the consumer; it is our decision to buy less and more responsibly. Our society has entered into a state of mindless consumerism, you buy a T-Shirt for a tenner and then the next day it goes to the back of your wardrobe. I hope that sustainability is having an impact on the industry but it has to be done in a sexy way.
4 In light of climate change and ecosystem degradation, I get a sense that the new generation of fashion professionals are thinking much more about the social and environmental impact of the industry, would you agree? Are the conversations changing in your cultural milieu?
I think people are definitely more aware, but then I’m just speaking from a very narrow demographic of people. I’m very lucky to work alongside a number of people who are professionally and emotionally invested in this cause, but I’m also very wary of being trapped in an echo chamber. In a way, this is the duality of social media, algorithmically connecting people who are interested and yet keeping others away. For me with Slow Exposure, negative attention from a fast fashion brand like Zara would mean just as much as encouragement from an environmental NGO.
5 Who are your favorite responsible designers/brands at the moment?
I applaud anyone selling good vintage as it’s not always easy to find and make sellable. Marketplaces like Vestiaire Collective are great. I find most of my stuff on eBay and in flea markets – it’s definitely a skill but once you nail it, it provides hours of fun. Smaller brands like Maison Cléo, Olderbrother and Archivist are so strong because their story is carried through everything they do – the more a brand exposes of their methods the better, transparency is vital.
If money was no object, brands like Mara Hoffman are verging beyond fashion into the sphere of art. Lastly, basic brands are always great – we need basics everyday, and labels such as Pansy and Oar Basics are definitely ones to watch.
6 Which fabrics should we avoid buying completely?
I would just avoid the ‘fast fashion’ giants. Even if they entice you in with sustainable collaborations, I believe they are just marketing ploys. Their business is designed to just create more stuff at an inhumane rate. Even in the luxury sphere, let us not forget that in 2017 Burberry destroyed £28.6m worth of unsold stock. Also, the prices of luxury brands do not directly always correlate to fair wages for their workers – so put some solid research before investing in a very expensive pair of shoes.
7 Can you suggest three things our readers can do today to reduce their fashion footprint?
It’s so much more than just fashion. I think it’s important that we don’t think about them as separate spheres; the food, fashion, and travel industry (to name a few) are so intertwined. We are conditioned to jump in a plane, throw vegetables we didn’t end up eating in the bin, or buy a dress for one wedding. A really easy one is buying a reusable coffee cup – there are loads of options and I’m a big believer in small steps making a big difference. Lastly, I can recommend unfollowing or writing to the Influencers you follow on Instagram – they have big voices that can effectively influence change and I’m tired of seeing two-day trips to LA and pictures of single use coffee cups. Living completely waste free is hard and my own level of waste is definitely still a work in progress, but to be self-aware is the first of many vital steps. That consciousness will then grow to influence other parts of your life, or at least that’s what’s happened for me. Everyone wears clothes! Do it properly!
- Tina Ateljevic