Heritage slow fashion
A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie Javelosa (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2018 - 12:00am

I get stressed nowadays when I am in a mall. Clarification: I would rather say, I pick up the frenzied stress of clothing or fashion brands that have to constantly come out with collections to entice the fickle,  trendy market. I find myself as part of the textile industry now as we in the GREAT Women space, continue to develop our artisan textiles around the country. And we almost got caught in the speed of it all until I took a side step.

The mainstream global fashion industry is on the bullet train with overconsumption, a cancer of our world today. Some Fast Fashion brands take a mere two weeks, deploying designers on the ground to pick up market needs then quickly pump, into their supply chain, all the requirements to have the next cheap and affordable collection on the floor. But a price tag is different from the cost of the fast product. And this goes for food and other products, too. The price tag is not the same as the cost of that product that finds its way to the consumers’ hands. The cost includes the environmental cost and the quality of lives of workers in that supply chain. The fashion and textile industry is high on the list that contributes to the depletion of fossil fuels used in production and even transportation. More and more man-made components are also being introduced as synthetic fibers mean cheaper and quicker alternatives.

And there is the pollution of our fresh water resources due to cotton production and synthetic dyeing processes. When I was in India, I was told that the next season’s colors would be known by people near rivers where clothing factories were. The dyes used filter out to the waterways coloring the rivers and streams.

My own journey into the textile and apparel field has always been from the outside looking in. Until I took a conscious sidestep to take the alternative route to Slow Fashion that followed on the trails of the Slow Food movement, which we already embraced wholeheartedly.

Slow Fashion represents all things “eco,” “ethical” and “green.” The phrase was coined by Kate Fletcher, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, when fashion was compared to the Slow Food experience. The alternative Slow approach now becomes a revolutionary process encouraging us all to take quality time, embrace sustainable values, and mindful contemplation of choices we make in our lifestyle, production and consumptions.

A decade back when we began ECHOstore, we embraced the Slow way as we started to speak on behalf of balancing people, planet and profit. Today, it is so nice to know its mainstream thinking.

In our recent GREAT Women collaboration with French designer Christian Louboutin and his “Manilacaba” tote, we bridged the bottom of the pyramid weavers from mountains and villages around our archipelago with the luxury fashion house’s global boutiques in all the major fashion cities of the world. It made us see firsthand the challenges we face as we move into this world of textile, choosing the handmade and artisan-created.

Choosing to innovate from tradition even as the tide of synthetic textiles and fibers flow in from China. Choosing to make a stand for our little weavers and communities that otherwise would be lost and made poorer by globalization’s speed. They gave us a lesson that put us back to think about the Slow approach. No matter the order and deadline, some would choose to go to their festival or family celebration. Or plant in their fields.

We pulled our hairs with stress at the delay, at the fact that some of them didn’t even have cellphones with connectivity. We knew deep down inside that they were teaching us to keep on track…the Slow way. To honor their culture and festivals of life.  Even as they wove their intricate textiles with natural fibers by hand.

So, the question begs to be asked:  Can we continue business this way? I believe we can. For intrinsic to the Slow way is to also respect the social issues that pertain to traditions that must be respected, to heritage that is diverse and must be allowed to be expressed, for cultures to slowly evolve and revitalize itself in the eyes of the global market.

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