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Comment: The compelling case for slow fashion

Daniel Odermatt, senior product and marketing manager at Swiss textile company Ventile Fabrics, discusses the rise in “well-made” and performance-driven clothing materials. 

When I took up the production reins at Ventile in 2008, the “slow fashion” movement and the use of sustainable fabrics were very much in their infancy. Fast forward to 2020, after the Fixing Fashion report published by the UK’s environmental audit committee in 2019, it is now impossible to deny that the sustainability agenda is at the forefront of discussions in the textile industry, and it peppers the conversations we have each day.

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Coined by Kate Fletcher from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, the term “slow fashion” emphasises a need for a slower pace in the fashion industry that encourages us to buy fewer garments of a higher quality that are made using more sustainable processes, less often.

Over time, we have seen a decisive move away from traditional fast fashion toward slow fashion. Consumers are looking to buy better-quality items from brands who recognise their environmental impact and use sustainable fabrics.

In 2008, we launched our first sustainable performance cotton fabric: Ventile Organic Cotton. Made from extra-long-staple cotton fibres, it accounts for just 0.04% of the world’s crop. However, it was not until 2015 that we experienced a real customer shift.

Between 2015 and 2019, with heightened public consciousness and growth in consumer demand for sustainable practices, Ventile experienced 112% growth in the sales of the fabric. Fashion search site Lyst announced a 47% increase in the use of “sustainable’ keyword search terms in 2018, and, along with the rise of brands such as People Tree and Veja, it became clear that we were seeing a significant consumer shift towards sustainable brands.

Such was the demand, for the first time in the company’s 76-year history, we began to produce our first line of 100% cotton pre-consumer recycled fabric: Ventile Eco. At an industry level, developing recycled fabrics must be encouraged as its production reduces the pressure on virgin resources, minimises the volume of water used and reduces pollution from pesticides.

From launching one new fabric in 2008, to developing our 2019 slow fashion awareness campaign called, “Join the movement. Love the environment. Choose slow fashion”, slow fashion is at the heart of everything we do. As of last year, one-quarter of all Ventile sales came from sustainable fabrics.

Being part of the slow fashion movement is more than creating a durable fabric made to last. It is about developing sustainable processes and raising ethical awareness. Slow fashion brands must look to their production process, adhering to stringent regulation and investing in the latest technology to maximise efficiency throughout.

This year, in a bid to increase awareness, trade show Future Fabrics Expo launched its Virtual Expo, a 900-piece online library. The virtual showcase is an online research and sourcing platform to educate industry professionals, present new sustainable fabrics and mills, and encourage informed decision-making in the design process.

For Ventile, it is important to connect social and environmental awareness with beautiful, well-made and performance-driven clothing. While we and the rest of the industry do so, we can only expect demand for fabrics like this to rise over the coming years.

Readers' comments (1)

  • To complement slow fashion, I suggest slow employment. Slow to hire, slow to fire and higher quality relationships, going from hired hands to trusted partners. We already see several industry leaders that have adopted this strategy, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and many private companies. Their profit and engagement results are substantially better than competitors. These Forbes and Harvard Business Review articles provide more background:

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