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Why slow fashion is the only way forward

Founder of her eponymous label, Roopal Vadgama explains why fewer purchases of better-quality garments will last longer and is better for the planet

For our alternative fashion week takeover, The Gallyry is spotlighting sustainability in the fashion industry, from inspiring creatives and designers, to innovative organisations and brands.

Traditionally, clothing expressed the art of making clothes and celebrated the skills of craftspeople. It reflected the place and culture of the people wearing them. Before the transition to new production methods, with the industrial revolution, garments were locally produced. People would buy from local businesses or sew from textile resources available to them. Natural, quality materials would serve them for a long time and be used to make durable clothing. Today, slow fashion implements a pre-industrial revolution style of thought by bringing awareness to these buying behaviour qualities.

Slow fashion is mindful of the hands that make every garment and acknowledges the needs of our community and our environmental footprint. It encourages us to slow down our consumption, and reduce mindlessly throwing away clothing for the next big trend that fast fashion has generated. We have to be thoughtful about making purchases that; has value, are designed to last and enrich our lives. Fewer purchases of better-quality garments will last longer and be good for the planet.

Creating a brand dedicated to slow fashion

Slow fashion is simply the decision to be conscious with our choices. For me, that is being responsible, and taking a creative, holistic, and fair approach in doing business.

I am a self-taught pattern and garment maker. I started my business by offering my tailoring services for bespoke orders and recently introduced upcycling sarees into wearable dresses. Whether it's choosing to give purpose to an old fabric or select from a variety of fabric and style options, bespoke garments give you the freedom to custom make to your size and needs.

"Slow fashion is simply the decision to be conscious with our choices."

From design to concept, every collection has presented me with the opportunity to look at products not only as a material value but also an expression of human and environmental quality. There is a wonderful quote by Gandhi that reminds me why slow fashion is the best practice: "there is no happiness in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness." It is important to me that I source my materials ethically. The Spring Lookbook features handloom fabrics from Dastkar, who are a society for craftspeople. They provide artisans in rural India a platform to showcase their skills, give them long term employment, fair wages, and safe working spaces, along with educational support and skill training.

Every collection is designed in few-of-a-kind, limited pieces with each item lovingly handmade on order. I can cater to women in different sizes, offer hem lifts, reduce overstocking, and wasting materials. I am continually finding creative ways to make use of my wasted fabrics. My remaining resources; such as lining, fastening components ,and laminate-free packaging materials are all sourced from local businesses in the UK.

Staying motivated as a slow fashion brand

I was introduced to the Slow Fashion Movement when I was looking to manufacture my embroidery designs. I came to learn that traditional heritage textile skills, passed down through generations, were declining in trade. Hand embroidery had been taken over by machines that could produce similar work at a fraction of the cost. Those who were sourcing embroidery were either paying artisans unfairly or using machine embroidery that required less labour. I came across a couple of brands who were taking steps to help sustain hand embroidery. Consequently, I followed the same and started learning about the changes I could make to become a conscious and mindful designer.

"To change the patterns of clothing consumption is a journey. It continually requires us to find new and creative ways of approaching slow fashion."

To change the patterns of clothing consumption is a journey. It continually requires us to find new and creative ways of approaching slow fashion. Building a slow fashion brand that aligns with my values is a thoughtful and gradual process that begins with myself. I design and make garments at a considerable slow pace. I noticed I could not keep up with large organisations who were changing trends and pushing for new collections every mid-season. Tonnes of garments, sold and unsold, are reduced to waste over new trends. As a maker, I empathise with artisans, and this encourages me to question my decisions when making. I strive to lengthen the life of every garment through careful design decisions, working alongside artisans to make hand made products that pay homage to traditional Indian textiles.

Changes people can make away from fast towards slow fashion

It’s easy to forget the power we have as consumers. Our choices influence our identity, values, and affect cultural diversity. The slow fashion movement is not about living by a set of rules, but it's about aspiring to live better. It is about understanding the repercussions our purchases have on workers, communities, and ecosystems.

"The slow fashion movement is not about living by a set of rules, but it's about aspiring to live better."

As consumers, we need to start taking responsibility for our daily choices, commit to buying less, and invest in pieces that last longer. Such as; garments you can style multiple ways and staple workwear pieces that can save you time thinking about what to wear every morning. That's not to say you cannot purchase at all or you have to start from scratch. The solution is to transform your garments into a personal collection that represents your style, where your ethics and aesthetics blend seamlessly. Your wardrobe should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love. Slow fashion is timeless. It speaks to our creative spirit, unlike fast fashion that speaks to our manufactured insecurity.

I always refer Jane Milburn's Slow Fashion Manifesto to people, which breaks down the many ways to shop slow fashion. There are small steps we can take that can make a big difference in the journey towards a more sustainable fashion future:

Shop less.

Consider upcycling/ bespoke/ tailoring service.

Shop small and local businesses.

Consider second hand and vintage.

Look for brand transparency.

Ask pertinent questions before purchasing.- Who are the artisans that make these garments? Are the fabrics made from natural, organic and eco-friendly materials? Am I supporting artisanal trade? etc.

Consider the lifecycle of the garment.-How will you dispose of the garment, after its many wears? Can you pass on it on as a hand me down? Is it biodegradable?

Choose high-quality garments that you know you will go back to every time.

Buy seasonless.

Care for your garments properly so that they last you a long time.

Browse Roopal’s beautiful ethical occasion wear on their website or check them out on socials @roopalvadgama.

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