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The aim of slow living is to slow down and connect with life. Slow living first started as ‘Slow Food’ in 1986 in Italy as a response to the growing number of fast-food chain restaurants. The definition ‘Slow Fashion’ was first mentioned by Kate Fletcher in 2007 were she compared the slow food movement to the sustainable and ethical fashion industry. Sustainable, organic, eco- friendly, low processed or no processed methods all can be a part of ‘slow living’. Slow living is seen as a direct retaliation to the fast-fashion system going against everything it represents in terms of sustainable and ethical practices. The fast-fashion industry is the second most polluting after oil. Resources are being used up faster than they can be replenished. “The average UK consumer today buys up to one-third more textiles and garments than four years ago and spends one-quarter less per garment.” These unsustainable practices need to be re-thought and so does our attitudes towards fashion.
Slow living incorporates mindfulness and relaxation as part of its practice. Many different types of craft can be produced in a ‘slow’ way for example though knitting, embroidery, painting and knitting, “Studies show that the rhythmic, repetitive dance, of the needles can lower heart rate and blood pressure, lulling the knitter into a peaceful almost meditative state.” Slow living is also thought to be relaxing because of how involved you can become with the process, with lots of people growing and processing their own raw materials for example, sheep wool for yarn. People with environmental concerns are more in control of the harmful materials they are using. With fast fashion there is a disengagement in the relationship because the consumer has no idea about whether the product was ethically made. With slow living people are more likely to appreciate their material possessions they have handcrafted themselves “The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new’ (Sennett, motorcycle book).
The object I have chosen to analyze in this essay is a repaired Slazenger tracksuit by Celia Pym. Pym is known for her distinctive style of ‘visible mending’. Pym likes working with tracksuits as they don’t fray making the reconstruction process easier, “I’m not sporty so the unsporty sportiness of these things is amusing, and the end product is very beautiful – an ordinary piece of fabric is transformed into a work of art” She reconstructs and mends woolen & woven garments by darning them back together as wearable garments in her own distinctive style. The threads are always a loud assortment of a wide variety of colors that is purposely stitched in a mismatched fashion to show that the item has been repaired, letting people know this is a handmade garment, this contradicts most peoples intentions when repairing a garment, which is to make the repair unnoticeable. There is also a certain stigma around repairing clothes, usually that you are too poor to buy yourself new clothes.
The clashing combination of such a wide variety of colors livens up the otherwise dull black tracksuit. I viewed this work at an exhibition called ‘Subversive Stitch’ exhibiting different textile artists, the tracksuit was accompanied by a matching pair of Slazenger socks and unbranded gloves, it reminded me of something you might see a workman or a laborer wearing it has been transformed from a cheap tracksuit that is usually just worn for comfort or for doing messy jobs to a unique handcrafted garment. It has also gone from being something mass-produced to something handmade, the value of the garment changes from something cheap for the masses to something that has personal value. Pym runs workshops to share this technique with others, most people bring in items that have a significant emotional value in their life that they don’t want to throw away but they don’t have the skills to repair it. I think that the spreading of these skills will help reduce waste and also allow people to create greater emotional bonds with their clothing meaning they are more likely to pass it on or swap it rather than just throwing it in the bin. Reconnecting with the object you are repairing is the most important part of the design process, not only is Pym repairing the clothing but also peoples relationship and unique personal history that someone has attached to that item.
Memory plays a huge part in her work and the idea that though memory we can create a greater bond with the objects we own, in turn generating less waste. Products are discarding when they don’t add any meaning to our lives, even if they are still functional and working, by adding deeper meanings to the products we buy we can reevaluate our dependency on constantly buying something new and most off the time, unnecessary to our lives. Ways you can add meaning and memory to the objects you own is by creating products collaboratively which will create positive memories behind the product and customization and personalization which reinforces a bond of ownership. Even with all these methods research says that consumption rates are not positively affected by emotionally durable design, maybe because it is still uncommon. Jonathan Chapman argues that ‘the onset of ageing can concentrate, rather than weaken, the experience of an object”. For example Sigrid Smiths fabric was specifically designed to age with use, and was intentionally designed this way so that when the velour ages, the orange fabric underneath becomes more prevalent creating an interesting design.
Sustainability and slow living go hand in hand. Garments that are produced in a ‘slow’ way are more likely to be ethically made as well, paying people the correct wages and making sure everyone gets a fair cut of the money. The prosperity of the fashion system cannot be denied, about sixty million people worldwide are employed in the textile industry and three quarters of them are women, this is important because in most industries women do no thrive as well as men, keeping the jobs for the women and so paying them fairly is important for ethical design.
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