Young Indians Tell Us Why They Switched To Slow Fashion In 2020

Young Indians Tell Us Why They Switched To Slow Fashion In 2020
Shreya Takodara for Homegrown

Change is the only constant – this is something we have known since time immemorial. Among the many examples that may describe this adage best, is fashion. Fashion revolutions seem to come and go quicker than we can make up our minds about whether we like them. From A-line dresses of the 40s to puffed sleeves of the 50s, and bell-bottoms of the 60s and 70s to the low waist fad of the 90s and 2000s, the whole fashion industry has been, and continues to, ride on a rollercoaster of its own.

It is clear by now, however, that those fashion revolutions are not limited to style, per se. They may very well refer to what we’re here to talk about – production, consumption and ultimately, sustainability.

The recent past has clarified that ethical and sustainable fashion is on the rise –– and a fast one at that. The Business Research Company does a great job at breaking down trends of a few years leading up to the pandemic, and also future expectations in its Global Ethical Fashion Market Report 2020. It reveals that compared to 2016, online searches for ‘sustainable fashion’ increased more than three-fold in 2019. While this may not quantify much, it does point to a large movement being set in motion — one where terms such as ‘eco-friendly’ are not alien to the world of fashion.

It is now no secret that, we, at Homegrown love our sustainable practices, particularly slow fashion. Our fondness of it admittedly led us to notice a special trend that took over our readers’ closets in 2020 – taking steps to eliminate fast fashion, and building a closet that consists of fashionable items that are products of a circular economy or available due to sustainable practices. And so, we saw the rise in popularity of thrifting, upcycling, recycling and buying secondhand vintage, and (obviously) decided to ask our readers about the slow-fashion-closet-building-2020!

A word about our responses:

  • The age group of our respondents ranged from 18-27 years old.
  • Most of our respondents were from Bengaluru and Mumbai. Others were from Indian cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai. 
  • For qualitative purposes, the respondents were not forced to choose from just a selection of options and were allowed to give us insight in their own words.
  • 10% of our respondents chose to remain anonymous. 

*Names of contributors who have requested anonymity have been changed to protect their identity.

Recognising The Slow Fashion Stimulus

It’s not as if the haunting practices of the fashion industry were begun only in 2019-2020 – they have been rampant for decades. What the year in question did do, however, is allow people to reflect on their choices that contribute dangerously to the industry. Now, quite simply reflecting on them does not make for much, but when coupled with opportunities to do better, things take a turn.

Rashi* from Bengaluru shared with us her list of motivations to try to switch to slow fashion:

“a) restrictions to go shopping

b) read somewhere that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the worlds carbon emissions (quite scary)

c) helping small businesses grow”

All three of these aspects more or less capture the mindset of most of our respondents. Recognising the various problems that come with fast fashion is a large part of the process. A common pattern we noticed is that many of our respondents turned to the surge of Instagram thrift stores to get their slow fashion fix.

Sharing this ideology is Neethu from Bengaluru, who says, “Researching about sustainability and carbon footprints over a period of time just proved so hard that clothes often don’t complete their life cycle or don’t get utilised enough which is what I was doing by hoarding all my clothes. Then I came across a few thrift stores on Instagram. And I don’t think I’ve ever shopped from a retail store ever since.”

A harshly true admission comes from Jahnavi from Mumbai – “Shein got shut.” We feel you!

Neethu from Bengaluru

Make The Shift - But How?

  • 90% of our respondents chose thrifting as a means to reduce fast fashion. Of these, 30% coupled it with upcycling.
  • 10% of our respondents began to shop vintage clothing items.  

When we say, “cut down on fast fashion,” we do not refer to the sole act of abandoning corporate fashion houses that contribute to unnecessary environmental degradation, although this remains a giant step to be kept in mind. Well and truly, we would wish to fulfil our fashion needs –– but how? 2020 brought to mainstream media a few ways to do so –– Instagram thrifting, upcycling, recycling as well as purchasing vintage.

Samadrita from Delhi admits, “I am guilty of impulse-buying a tonne of clothes from fast fashion stores/websites and not using them. I am trying to build a capsule wardrobe by which I mean buying only classic/basic clothing items that I can mix and match instead of buying one piece of clothing for one occasion that I will never wear again.” Simple, yet efficient. She rightfully adds, “There’s an entire market out there that’s sustainable and waiting to be explored!”

Samadrita from Delhi

Many have been conscious of their choices for years and capitalised on 2020 to further participate in clean consumption of fashion. Anuhya Katta from Chennai says, “I’ve always had an inclination to upcycle clothes – cutting up my jeans into shorts and big tees into tank tops and I continue to do the same. This year, however, I’ve started thrifting (not buying, but selling my clothes to thrift stores on IG) because I realised that I have hoarded a number of unnecessary clothes over the years. I believe this is one of the best ways I can personally contribute because these clothes remain in good quality/condition.”

Going a step further, Neha Shehnaz Butt from New Delhi established her own Instagram thrift store called Huckleberry Hangers! She says, “I wanted to share my love for vintage, thrifted, quirky articles of clothing with a bigger audience. I felt the need to share, not just because it is sustainable & budget-friendly, but one could lay their hands on unique finds.”

Thrift Store 'Huckleberry Hangers'

Go through the ultimate Homegrown thrift store guide here.

2020, A Team Player?

  • 100% of our respondents agree that 2020 did in fact play a role in furthering the slow fashion movement. Of those, 40% believe that it may also be due to the previous years’ awareness of the evils of fast fashion.

No words are enough to describe 2020. However, a phenomenon we are thankful gained speed and traction is that of saying goodbye to fast fashion and switching to slow fashion. Our respondents seemed to agree that the abundance of time this year led some of us towards making conscious choices.

Rayna Lele from Mumbai aptly opines, “If anything, it’s the evidence of how our choices have a ripple effect. There is no time anymore to continue downplaying the effects of our actions, be it with fast fashion/pollution/resource consumption and degradation etc.”

Pointing out the role of social media in this shift, Nischala from Hyderabad says, “Fastened up the process as more thrift stores, and handloom clothes popped up on my feed.”

Urbashi Chattopadhaya from Bengaluru seems to agree, and says, “Yes and no. Online stores were available for fast fashion brands but online thrift stores had a more interesting curation of clothes.”

The previously mentioned ‘Ethical Fashion Market Global Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Growth And Change’ by The Business Research Company also observes, “The top opportunities in the ethical fashion market segmented by type will arise in the eco-friendly segment, which will gain $840.1 million of global annual sales by 2023.” This statement corroborates the thoughts of our respondents, and proves the immense growth potential in slow fashion.

This is a change and development we truly look forward to. The pandemic forced us all into our homes and the one aspect that bloomed was the environment – almost as if in relief. We all have a duty to fulfil toward the planet and the cost of fast fashion and mass production is simply not worth it.

2020 did its own part (in its own bizarre way) to accelerate the slow fashion revolution, and now, it is our turn to carry it forward.

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