Episode 44: Why slow fashion principles help you achieve your business goals
Slow fashion, fast fashion, design process, production, sustainability
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to episode 44 of the fashion on Earth Podcast. Today I wanted to talk about slow fashion. I think there's perception sometimes that applying these principles means a lack of profit or sacrificing profit to operate more sustainably or ethically. But I wanted to highlight some examples of why this isn't true.
Firstly, let's start with fast fashion. Now, there's probably some retailers that come to mind for you when I mention that term, but essentially, it's a business model where you produce as quickly as you can or as close to the season as you can, in the cheapest materials possible. Selling trends or celebrity looks play into this and a bit of a spray and pray approach sort of happens in this area with multiple lines launching weekly, if not daily, and trying to test every new look or style.
Some of you might know that earlier in my career, I worked for an Australian fast fashion brand and it was very much like that. Their philosophy was churn and burn and that included employees. Get it in as quick as possible because you don't want to be sitting in a meeting on Monday discussing why a competitor has particular shade or colour or style, and you don't. That was kind of the culture there it was creation and speed to market, regardless of the cost. I mean, not financially, obviously, more to the planet. And it wasn't unusual for the owner to come in and put a tear out from a magazine on your desk and say she wanted it yesterday. And there was a very competitive culture between people or employees as well to spot the latest trend to pitch in the next meeting. One of the last round the world buying trips I did there ended in London furiously putting together the range handing over to the pattern maker who met us in Hong Kong, who then took the ranges to the suppliers to have the product made in stock fabric and airfreighted in about six weeks later, I think from memory. It was crazy. I was there for about 18 months, I think and by the standards at the time, that was a long time to work there. Thankfully, that was over 10 years ago now. But on reflection, some things even just gotten faster. There's now even a term called ultra "fast fashion", brands such as Shein, Boohoo, Misguided, which if you've worked in fashion and know what goes into a garment, you know it can't be good for people or planet.
Which brings me to slow fashion, which is considered, thoughtful and holistic, it's designing and producing in a responsible way. Design activist and author Kate Fletcher defines slow fashion as "quality based rather than time based". It's a movement that is aiming to unify sustainability and ethics and recreate the system to benefit people and planet. And it's worth noting that we only have the term slow fashion because we have fast fashion. Before that it was just fashion or clothes, slow fashion was the norm. And on that I think that's also the reason why we talk about sustainable and ethical fashion as being expensive because we've been exposed to so much cheap product that we now see that as the norm. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked that might be the subject of another podcast.
If we now turn to the business side of things, profitability is a huge part of being in business for one if you're not making money, it's basically a hobby. And if you don't make the money then you can't do more good in the world. So I really wanted to highlight today that slowing down and adopting some of these principles does lead to better profitability and won't come at the detriment of people and planet.
Firstly, I wanted to start with the design process. Essentially just slow it all down. But really invest time in understanding your product and customers so that you have the confidence in planning further out. Nature's the ultimate designer of beauty and functionality and she takes her time, great design does.
Also really look at how many collections a year you're doing. While you might believe in all of them and love all the items. I really challenge you to look at what you can take out. Because if you haven't really validated and proven the reason why each piece is in that range, it comes as a huge materials and human cost down the track, not to mention markdowns or sales to get rid of the product.
Next, really plan for your Production. Have those conversations with your suppliers on what their capacity is like at the start of the season or even earlier. For example, talk to them about how many orders you're looking to place for the season. This allows them to predict the number of workers needed and invest in their business long term. Rushing in a last minute order has everyone scrambling and suppliers could look to employ temporary workers or subcontractors or even force employees to work overtime to avoid disappointing you.
Finally, by making all of these modifications in your supply chain or processes, you can rely mostly on sea freight rather than air freight. And this is applicable whether you're importing fabric or shipping finished goods from overseas. Research thoroughly, plan your fabrics and number of styles so that you have confidence in your decisions and aren't second guessing yourself at the 11th hour. Aside from being cheaper financially, sea freight is dramatically less costly in co2 emissions than air freight.
So I hope today gave you an insight into slow fashion concepts and how they really do include profit or prosperity for all. And if you're interested in knowing more about this or have a specific problem or area that you need help with your business I'm available for one on one, one hour coaching sessions, which you can book in my website shop at belindahumphrey.com and it's an opportunity to get help on a particular problem or issue and some practical advice on what the next best steps could be. And as always you find the show notes and any links on the website in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.