In our middle school days, we were taught about the perils of greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, decomposable waste and many more aspects of climate change, and the environment as a whole. Its causes were ingrained in us, but the solutions were left up to us. Years later, as we have come into our own, we are able to see clearly just which activities of ours have a direct effect on all these consequences – one of the largest ones being fast fashion. Fast fashion, as the name suggests, is all about buying fast, using fast, and throwing away fast. What the trend does not consider is that it also leads to an expedient rise in wastage and faster environment degradation.
You may have noticed, the subject of ‘slow fashion’ slowly but significantly crept into our lives throughout 2020 – whether that be in the form of multiple thrift stores popping up on Instagram, companies vowing to cut down on their contribution to various kinds of pollution, newer slow fashion companies being set up or even the return of pre-worn and vintage clothes.
Maybe we, in fact, did use our time off from the world to introspect and realise that even on an individual basis, we contribute largely to a gruesome and highly unsustainable environment. The World Bank tells us that the fast fashion industry contributes to 10 per cent of the world’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. That’s bound to get one thinking, right? And so, we wonder, did the unforgettable year 2020 play a part in accelerating the idea of this sustainable choice?
Before we begin to attempt answering that, let’s have a look at some of the basic fast to slow fashion shifts that outlined 2020.
We at Homegrown, too, were lucky enough to be exposed to the various ways of reducing our fast fashion intake, and so, here’s our 2020 roundup of slow fashion shifts that India embraced.
The New-Found Fad Of Online Thrifting
Of the many revolutions Instagram witnessed this year, thrifting definitely sits at the top of the table – gone are the days when words such as ‘second-hand’ or ‘thrifted’ brought about questionable thoughts.
With the pandemic, a lot of things were put into perspective, including the support small businesses need and individual contribution to a more sustainable world. The world of thrift, too, got with the times and a large chunk shifted online, on social media platforms such as Instagram. This made thrift more accessible, recognisable and in all honesty, even popular.
Most of the items that these Instagram stores put on sale are part of a circular economy – one where a minimal amount goes to waste, and the majority of materials make their way to one owner or another. The sheer number of stores that established themselves online this year is a direct indicator of just how popular this method of consuming responsible fashion has come to be.
While the retail sector may have suffered a slight blow in 2020, resale and thrift boomed. ThredUp, an online thrift store’s survey of 3,500 women showed that 70 per cent of them are open to shopping second-hand!
If you were one to shop from a thrift store, you would attest to the fact that it is somehow fulfilling to do so – doing good by you, the planet and also a small businessperson.
Find our thrift store recommendations here: Your Go-To List Of Instagram Thrift Stores In India
The Return Of Vintage
Not too far from the act of thrifting, the increased sale of vintage clothes this year can possibly be attributed to two aspects – firstly, vintage fashion saw a comeback (again) and quickly gained traction as ‘How to get the 70s/80s/90s style’ video content took off on TikTok and later, on Instagram reels – this included everything from clothes and accessories to hairstyles! Secondly, the sale of these vintage clothes, too, was facilitated by Instagram stores. Through various collections of different eras and styles, vintage clothing was able to make its way into 2020 pop culture.
Pre-worn flared pants, bell-bottoms, Victorian collars, and so much more from a bygone era were in high demand this year which in turn, contributed to a circular economy and hence, slow fashion, and sustainability.
Here are some of our favourite online vintage stores: 10 Vintage & Reconstructed Fashion Instagram Stores For Your Bygone Era Penchant
The Basic Principle Of Recycling
The founder of sustainable denimwear brand, Nece Gene, Neha Celly, once left us with a comment that put so much in perspective – “The most sustainable garment is the one that’s not created in the first place, especially in a time when there’s an abundance of brands and products. The second most sustainable garment is the one that’s made with no new raw material and is only recycled.” And boy, is she right!
Young brands with their conscious minds have been taking into account the impact fast fashion truly makes on the planet, and hence, create fashionable clothing in ways that avoid adding more waste than there is already. Recycling old materials that would have otherwise made its way into a landfill, such companies pave the way to a minimal waste model of production that also results in top-quality clothing items.
Kriti Tuli, founder of Doodlage, a sustainable brand that uses fabric waste and rejected clothes to create fashion-forward garments, weighs in on the fact that we may have to wait for the pandemic to pass to see what the real impact of 2020 has been on people’s opinions on slow fashion. She says, “A lot of things contributed to the decision of slowing down for most people. It’s almost never so black and white when it involves such a large number of people.” However, she too understands the shift that has been taking place this year, and says, “People are listening more, exploring and spending a lot more time on social media to understand the condition and the impact of fashion.”
Don’t know what to do with your old clothes? Find your solution here: What To Do With Your Old, Waste Clothes
As Indians, our households have always normalised making use of an item till we absolutely cannot anymore, whether that be in its true capacity or even if used for a new purpose. (Un)surprisingly, reusing is not the only way of giving new life to old or previously used garments – upcycling is an efficient way to do the same.
As a method of promoting slow fashion, upcycling refers to the reconstruction of clothes that would have otherwise been thrown away. They are reintroduced with a new look and style to suit what appeals now. Reconstruction and restoration stores, too, had been established on Instagram in the past, but much like thrifting, garnered much attention in 2020.
One of the founders of Grandma Would Approve, an upcycling, reconstruction and vintage-restoration store, Priyanka Muniyappa provided us with much-needed insight into this phenomenon. She says, “The pandemic definitely paved the way for the dark truth of the fashion industry come to light.” Back in college, with an aim to reduce consumption, she created pieces out of textile that already existed, enabling her to participate in a circular economy, which is also the groundwork for Grandma Would Approve. Circular fashion was her calling then, and now, it’s a term that’s picking up traction. She says, “I couldn’t be more glad about this. I feel it’s a change for the better, where we are going to pave the way to discard old destructive capitalistic methods of mass production.”
She explains just what makes this practice special: “Upcycling is such an amazing tool because you can take something that belonged to your family or friends and recreate something that holds time and heritage, still keeping the energy of the past but, for the present and future context. There’s always room for growth, preservation and improvement.”
Here’s a sweet little story to get you started with upcycling: Upcycling The Mundane: Mother-Daughter Duo, Imarim Produces Home Decor From Scrap
For each of us, 2020 taught us unique lessons. Some of them, however, were part of a much larger picture – such as slow fashion. The market has been seeing growth for the past few years, but we believe that in some way or the other, the year 2020 played a special role – the stigma around pre-worn clothes reduced and people were open to experimenting. We only hope this year was the accelerator we needed in tackling the giant that is fast fashion and hereon, we are able to open more minds to accept a stance of fashion that is fresh, responsible, and rightfully cool.
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