Slow fashion and sustainable travel – My journey with consuming less

These rust colored overalls were made by artisans in Cambodia who receive fair wages for they work; specifically an artisan named Ramsey. Transparency in the supply chain is a great example of what slow fashion looks like.
These overalls were made by artisans in Cambodia who receive fair wages for they work; specifically an artisan named Ramsey. Transparency in the supply chain is a great example of what slow fashion looks like.

Slow fashion [sloh fash-uhn]

(n)

A movement to shift our fashion consumption choices to be more ethical and sustainable, largely through buying less and making sure what we buy is long-lasting and high quality. Closely related to slow travel, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of traveling through spending more time in one place.

I like to think of sustainable travel as a combination of eco-friendly habits, ethical engagement, and sustainable consumption. Slow fashion can fall under two of these categories.

Do you ever buy new clothes for a special trip or shop for new clothes during your vacation (out of necessity or as a souvenir)? That’s an opportunity for sustainable consumption; a chance to buy something secondhand, something ethically & sustainably made, or to skip buying all together. 

Reducing how often you buy clothes, reusing your clothes for a long time, mending, upcycling, and packing less when you travel are all slow fashion concepts that can become eco-friendly habits. 

I wanted to share my journey with slow fashion and how my travels helped me take steps toward a life of consuming less wastefully, at home and on the road. 

Who made my clothes? Learning about ethical fashion through fair trade

Throughout college, I volunteered at a fair trade non-profit store called Global Gifts. They sell items made by artisans from over 40 countries, which exposed me to international styles and cultures during each shift I worked.

 

Fair trade [fair treyd]

(n) 

Referring to the movement, or set of standards whereby artisans and farmers receive fair wages for their work, and the products are child free and sustainably made.

Unsurprisingly, I learned volumes about our supply chains and the many ethical issues that exist. Especially within the fashion world. Not to mention the incredible about of environmental damage fast fashion causes.

What backpacking taught me about slow fashion

In 2015, I spent the better part of a summer in Central America backpacking alone. In 2018, I spent 7 months backpacking the northern hemisphere. Both times I was carrying only a large backpack and a smaller day pack, of which my clothes comprised roughly 3 packing cubes. 

Then in 2019, I spent 3 months abroad in Kampala, Uganda. I packed more luggage overall for this trip, but about the same amount of clothes as before. 

What I found every time was that while I occasionally got tired of clothes which were ill-fitting, poorly made, or not really my style, I really never minded working with a “travel capsule wardrobe’. Some clothes which I really loved I never got sick of and still wear a lot to this day.

Having a smaller capsule wardrobe saved me time getting ready every day and was way simpler to carry on my backpacking adventures. Plus, it saves a little bit of fuel when being carried on transport. 

(While this amount isn’t huge, it can add up over long travel journeys and can make a substantial difference in some types of transportation. I invite you think riding on the back of a small motorcycle on a bumpy, dirt road, just after a big rain, carrying only a day bag. 

Now imagine that same ride only this time you’re carrying a stuffed-to-the-brim backpack, a bulging duffle bag, and a tote overflowing with things you may wear once.)

Most importantly, I think it’s helped me hone my sense of style. When you have to wear the same things over and over again for weeks, you better be sure it’s something you actually like to wear! If not, you’ll know quickly.

Slow fashion, travel, and Suitcase Six

Travel helped me become acquainted with the idea that I can get by with far fewer clothes than I thought. In fact, I might even prefer it that way. I’ve begun to implement that same capsule wardrobe concept in my closet, inspired by zero-waste bloggers and Marie Kondo’s wisdom. 

But something I love about people who create travel content is that they’re artists! And fashion is something that goes hand-in-hand with travel, especially in the age of social media. And I don’t hate it, to be honest. 

Sarah playing in the sand on Harbour Island, Bahamas. Getting to Harbour Island was one of our less expensive costs of travel in the Bahamas.
When I’m traveling, (okay and sometimes when I’m home) I wear my swimsuit as a body suit under a skirt, shorts, or even jeans and walk out the door. Space efficient, easy to clean, and versatile.

I think about brands I love like NINAKURU, who make eco-luxury accessories that are ALSO ethically made. I think about companies like Up Norway who treat their Norwegian travel itineraries like works of art, right down to the locals they partner with. 

Everyone loves having beautiful photos on vacation in stunning places with gorgeously flattering outfits. But I propose that we can do this on our travels and in our daily lives by curating intentional wardrobes with items you truly enjoy wearing. 

Wearing my aforementioned bikini as a tank top at Lake Tahoe.

I’m not the first to do so – in fact, that’s the heart of the Marie Kondo method and the Slow Fashion movement. It’s not about never buying anything new – it’s about being intentional with what you buy. Keep what you really love, and stop buying what you don’t, and responsibly relieve yourself of the what you no longer need. 

Slow Fashion and Suitcase Six

Now I’ve come full circle. In May of 2020 I started working as the (paid) Marketing Manager for Global Gifts! This means I’m working with ethical brands and fair trade more closely than ever before. And I’m still talking about sustainable travel, including the clothes we buy and pack for our trips, on Suitcase Six.

So, I’ve taken the slow fashion season pledge this 2020 to not buy anything new for three months. I know that even though I won’t be perfect slow fashion will be my default going forward rather than the exception. 

Slow fashion resources from Suitcase Six

Sweater – purchased secondhand; jeans – gifted from sister; bag – purchased from NINAKURU, a brand which pays artisans fair wages for their luxury products

Changing your habits and changing your wardrobe takes time – but it’s worth it! And I’m here on the slow fashion journey with you.

I’ll make it easier with resources to help you: expect more brand reviews, roundups, and content about sustainable and ethical brands I personally use in my day-to-day!

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Slow fashion and sustainable travel - My journey with consuming less

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