Do slow fashion and indigenous know-how go hand-in-hand?
The Ancients got it right
We are all aware of the fast-paced, use-and-throw fashion industry of this era. The mass-produced garments, directly and indirectly, contribute to many environmental no-nos. We also know enough about microplastic pollution and overflowing landfills, which are constantly in news today.
But why are we still unable to change our shopping patterns? Have you ever sat back and thought about how it was done back in the old days?
Rewind to pre-historic times, the early hunter-gatherers and nomads wore leaves, bark and animal hides as clothes. Animal hides were made on a strictly need basis. Large-scale tanneries and fur factories did not exist then. The environment was still healthy.
Later, linen and wool were a huge hit. Starting from the ancient Egyptian civilization, to the Grecian and Roman empires, linen togas and tunics were in vogue. All the materials were hand-woven and produced on a small scale.
As a result of which there were no complaints of microplastics in their food chain or the problem of greenhouse gases messing with the environment. Their fashion, if not entirely animal-friendly, was still very sustainable.
Let’s revisit the times when our grandparents bought clothes on rare occasions or when our parents rocked bell bottoms. Garments were definitely not the main reason the environment suffered back then. Since the Industrial Revolution took a firm root, the apparel industry went on to become more and more unsustainable.
This is why we claim that the ancients got it right. Their approach to fashion, though extravagant was nowhere near as unfeasible as it is now.
Is it possible to live a zero-waste, slow-fashion lifestyle now?
Let us take the example of Angel Chang. She is an American fashion designer who moved back to Guizhou province in rural China. There she learnt the traditional knowledge of the Miao, Dong and Buyi tribes that goes back 14 generations in history. She learnt about plant dyes and indigenous techniques for making garments.
Chang aims to focus on a different tribe from a different location each season and highlight their craftmanship. Her line of clothing is designed and manufactured by these tribes in a zero-carbon and natural manner. “For the public, the collection enables them to learn about indigenous practices and experience the joy of wearing clothing made directly from nature,” she says. “For the artisans, each purchase brings revenue back to their communities and creates jobs for elders, mothers, and the younger generation.”
There are many eco-conscious brands like Angel Chang, that seeks to make the planet a better place. Slowthreads looks to do the same.
How can we as individuals emulate the ancients and start being kinder to the world?
- Do your research. Know the root cause of the problem. Understand why slow fashion is important and why you should make a conscious effort to be sustainable.
- Walk around the neighbourhood and find local craftsmen or small businesses. Not only can they provide sustainable options but also teach you a thing or two about the traditional methods of making clothes
- Learn to want less. Once we realize that we have enough clothes in our closet that we can restyle/ upscale, we would not want to go on a shopping spree.
- Look back at history. Learn about linen, khadi and desi cotton. Understand why they are safe alternatives and invest more in them. The returns you get will benefit the planet too!
- Written by Sukhanya Sriraman