Slow Fashion Movement would not be what it is today without our ambassadors. They are the backbone and the spirit of the movement. For Slow Fashion Movement’s flagship campaign called Slow Fashion Season 2022 we wanted to spotlight our ambassadors found across the globe. We asked them to share their slow fashion journey and their expertise so we can all learn and grown from their experiences.
Meet Karen @fabulousmissk
Also known as the Fabulous Miss K., Karen is a veteran of the Slow Fashion Movement. She has had an extensive career in the fashion industry working with fashion giants that includes the likes of Vivien Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Karen has been an ambassador for over three years now, joining us to share her knowledge about shopping second-hand and vintage fashion.
Karen started dressing in vintage when she was fourteen, clearly standing out from her classmates. “I have always worn vintage and second hand because I loved it and wanted to be different from anyone else. I did not desire anything from the Highstreet.”
Nowadays, sustainability is promoted as a new concept, even by fast fashion brands, but Karen has been doing it long before it became a trend. “Working with Vivien, even back then, she was very eco-conscious and cared for the planet, so I guess some of that did rub off.”
According to Karen, shopping second-hand these days is not like it was in the old days and shares her time working in a charity shop. “The scary thing is that most of the clothes that are donated are from Shien or Boohoo. And we can’t actually sell them because most items are in such bad condition.” This oversaturation of fast fashion in charity shops shows that, even if we shop second-hand, we are still constantly reminded of fast fashions’ presence and hold on the world.
Given the enormous pressure in today’s society to be on trend and the constant push to be modern, I asked Karen ( since she’s been part of the vintage scene for so long ) about her perspective on modernity versus longevity in fashion.
“My mantra is vintage made modern. At the end of the day there is nothing new in fashion. Everything is a repeat of what’s gone on before. You do not need a new piece for it to be modern.”
All the while, a main staple of the sustainability movement is the capsule wardrobe. But the concept is not without its critics. I wanted to know Karen’s perspective: Is it better to have a minimalist wardrobe or should one go more on the side of maximalism?
“I think I have three or four wardrobes, including one for true vintage and one for everyday wear, which are pieces from the 60’s to the 80’s. I don’t think I can ever call myself a minimalist. I know minimalism works for some people but it does not work for me. I have such an eclectic taste of stuff that I know I like. I like mixing up prints, I like clashing things.”
Karen offers a number of services to help people on their sustainable journey. Her most popular service is her second-hand shopping trips offered in Norwich. Her clients are from all ranges in age from teens to women in their 70’s — proof that you are never too old or too young to care and wear vintage fashion. Another service Karen offers is ‘shop in your own wardrobe’. Over zoom she shows you how to style and work with what you already own. Viewing your own clothes through new eyes can lead to amazing discoveries.
Karen insists there is a lot more love in vintage clothing. Buying clothing made by people who care is what makes shopping vintage so special. You are actually buying a piece of history, a moment in time frozen in fabric. Could you really say that about a 5£ dress from Shien? It is good to apply this perspective when shopping for new clothes: Was this made by someone who cares?
Check out Karen’s book “Old Clothes New Trends Making Vintage Modern” available on Amazon to learn more about vintage fashion.
Meet Kristine @kristin.cheyrane
Kristine went from fast fashion consumer to slow fashion advocate. She joined the Slow Fashion Movement in 2021 when she found us on Instagram. Kristine used to buy new clothes every week. She grew up in Latvia and in her youth dressed mainly in donated clothes. A combination of having access to a lot of free clothes and growing up quickly led to an attitude of seeing clothes as “somewhat disposable” Her family had access to clothing donations for a few years up until her early teens
“When I was young, we used to go to this local church where once a month you could take as much as you could carry”. She has now shifted to the complete opposite, adopting more of a minimalist approach to her wardrobe. “I have about 90 items of clothing in my closet. That’s for all seasons. I find it very liberating to have a small wardrobe, the less you have the less trouble you have figuring out what you are going to wear today. It’s easier when you only have two pairs of jeans.”
However, having a small wardrobe does come with some challenges. Being creative and trying to establish an online presence at the same time is difficult to balance, and outfit repetition is highly stigmatized. “I used to have trouble with outfit repetition when I worked in a TV studio, because I was on air five days a week. I did not want to wear the same thing over and over again so I had five t-shirts that I kept in rotation. So, I think it can be a problem when you work on TV but on Instagram, I am in charge.”
I asked Kristine how she approached building her style and wardrobe. “I want a core, but I want to change the shoes or the accessories to make it more interesting. I like the idea of creating a signature look. I am a creative, so I rely on people recognising and remembering me.”
It is no secret that there is a deep psychology behind buying clothes. Kristine also shared how easy it was to fall victim to fast fashion because of the short burst of dopamine it gives you. “I started spending money, I started spending money on clothes and I realized this felt good and actually being able to buy clothes feels good. Before, I was only buying one item a year if I really needed it because my family was low-income. Suddenly I was able to buy clothes more often which was a dream come true.”
And what was the turning point? “I got to the point when I was spending more than I was earning, asking myself where is all my money going? Why am I spending so much on clothes?” Kristine eventually realized that the clothes were not leading to happiness, and having a big wardrobe was more trouble than it was worth.
It is easy to fall into fast fashion’s clutches. It’s the low prices, the marketing, the pressure of trends (which is just another marketing gimmick) and if you don’t know how wrong it is in the first place, how are you expected to change? “People don’t ask for quality, they don’t look for quality, and they can’t recognise quality.”
Kristine hosts a radio show Slow Living with Kristine on Poppyland Radio
Meet Abby @abby.n__
Abby is the newest out of the four ambassadors profiled in this article. She is currently starting her slow fashion journey, but has learned that we do not need to do something perfectly to get started. We just need to start. She joined Slow Fashion Movement in January 2021, finding us through Instagram to educate herself about the fast fashion industry and to join a community.
Abby used to be an avid consumer of fast fashion. “You see all these clothes and you just keep buying and buying.” Then she took part in our 2021 Slow Fashion Season where she found it to be a rewarding, but also challenging experience, “Summer is when I buy the most clothes, so not buying anything at all was really weird, but at the same time I already had a lot of clothes. So, it was finding different ways to restyle things that I had, it was fun. It was also tough — I am not going to lie — but at the same time rewarding.”
In our talk, Abby referred to herself as not being 100% slow fashion, which I found an interesting sentiment. “I still buy underwear (from fast fashion). I don’t feel comfortable buying second-hand. I don’t think anyone would.” She also highlighted a very important issue within the zero waste and sustainable movement- the pressure to be perfect. But it’s important to remember that as long as you are making a conscious decision to be better we can all start to make a difference.
Abby’s wardrobe is on the minimalist side. Throughout her slow fashion journey, she has learned to love her wardrobe and her body a lot more. “This year, in preparation for summer, I knew I did not want to buy anything. So I went through my wardrobe, looked at what I had, put together different outfits and took pictures of me wearing them. Now, the next time I don’t know what to wear, I can just look through my pictures.” I pointed out she inadvertently created Cher’s wardrobe planner from ‘Clueless’.
As someone who is still relatively new to the Slow Fashion Movement, I asked her if there is anything she has learned about the fashion industry that truly shocked her. “Finding out about the workers (who make our clothes) how badly they are treated — it was shocking. And the fact is that people just don’t know.” Finally, I asked Abby what she has learned from starting her slow fashion journey.. “If I put my mind to it, I can accomplish it. If I am passionate about something I can really commit to the cause.”
Meet Vanessa @vanessaruedam
Vanessa has always had a sustainable perspective on the world and started her first business creating jewellery from leftover fabric. Venessa found us through Instagram and joined the movement during the pandemic. Her relation with fast fashion was, as she put it, “worried, I was worrying all the time”.
She worried about what she was seeing with the constant consumerism happening around her. Vanessa used to live in New York. “It is very difficult to be slow in New York, not just in fashion. You can’t even walk slowly.” The culture behind Black Friday in the U.S was a huge shock for her. “Fast fashion is all about how people engage with clothes, there is an urgency behind it. People have a compulsion to buy. I am worried about this sentiment of urgency.”
Her parents owned a textile company and could recognise and appreciate the value of good quality textiles. “I was shocked to see people actually buying fast fashion, from H&M, Zara etc. Buying so much clothing made from bad (she used a more colourful word) textiles.”
She got her start in fashion by creating a jewellery brand in 2010, creating from the leftovers of her parents’ textile company. It led to an accidental sustainability venture. “My way of thinking is not ‘oh, I am going to be sustainable’. It’s more ‘what can we do with this’.”
She credits her South American background for always seeing the potential in items and having a more sustainable mindset — ‘finding treasures’, as she so beautifully put it. She was upcycling before even knowing what upcycling even was. She ended her jewellery line when the demand got too big and exceeded the limitation of its origins.
Vanessa has gone on to set up workshops in her local community around the concept of mending. They are set up for seven to fifteen people of all ages that would like to attend. The concept of mending means viewing the tear in the fabric almost as a scar. It also means viewing clothes as an extension of yourself, as part of your body, and therefore treating clothes like a second skin. Vanessa has even taught embroidery as a tool to mend clothing, and always makes sure to explain the history and concept behind it to her students.
She is convinced that fashion is not static, and that having a very conceptual way of thinking can reshape the way you see the world. “I like to view us artists and designers as medians. We help people see the world through a new lens, giving them a new perspective.” She described her teachings as giving people a new pair of glasses by allowing people on seeing the world through these different lens.
Slow Fashion Season 2022
Slow Fashion Season is all about slowing down and encouraging consumers to give up buying new clothes for a month. I rounded off my interviews by asking our Slow Fashion ambassadors what advice they would give to someone just starting off in their slow fashion journey.
Karen: “Stop. And think. Ask yourself: am I buying this because I want it or do I actually need it? The next time you decide there is something you actually need take a step back and ask yourself can I possibly buy this elsewhere like a charity shop? Can I possibly find this second hand? Once you start it will become your new addiction. Use it as a challenge.”
Kristine: “Do you need to shop at all? That’s the greenest purchase: the one that you never made. A 100% sustainable fashion brand that has no impact on the planet does not exist. Are you looking to add to your wardrobe or are you looking to replace it? Ask questions. The more questions you ask the better because it slows you down. Make a list. If there are items in your wardrobe that you don’t wear, write down why you do not wear them. And if you wear something a lot, write down why you wear it a lot.”
Abby: “Taking it one step at a time. You don’t need to feel that you must do everything all at once, like completely stop buying. Take it at your own pace. Challenge yourself and say this month I am buying no more than five pieces and cut back gradually. And try your best to educate yourself. It’s important to remember not to be hard on yourself.”
Venessa: “To reflect on your own identity, the basic thing is to really know your style. Where is it coming from? What are you trying to say? The basic thing to know is that you are always communicating with your image.”