It is needed a change in the whole system beyond fashion only (The True Cost, 2015). As Fletcher (2010: 264) stresses, slow fashion is a proposition to deeply change the fashion sector and thus the system questioning the role of economic growth and the values and views behind this goal. Real sustainability needs a different economic system.
Some will defend that although some things must be changed, the profit-related activities still have to be preserved since it stimulates the economy and market; i.e. to have entrepreneurial opportunities a system of competition through private ownership and profit-directed activities should be endorsed (Henderson, 2015). However, most of the barriers for sustainability are part of the bigger system such as globalisation and the aim of economic growth (Ertekin et Atik, 2014: 60-1).
Globalisation can be understood in different ways from trading beyond frontiers and the liberalisation of governments to westernisation and a threat to sovereignty and national culture (Rupert et Solomon, 2006; Schotle, 2015). As a standard and commercial system, globalisation is a way to have the same products all around the world and whatever does not fit in this global mass-market is discarded (Rupert et Solomon, 2006: 1-2).
Also, globalised capitalism has brought a global infrastructure for production and finance, and a de-territorialisation where processes, markets and labour are not linked to nation-states (Rupert et Solomon, 2006: 3). Despite any protectionist attempt, business look for low-cost locations elsewhere to manufacture and new marketplaces to sell and compete (Brooks, 2015: 39-45).
This economic system has been seen as a natural process and as a free activity instead of a social constructed system (Bruyn, 1977: xi). But as Polanyi (1944) explains, the system was created through several political and social events ending in an economic system where social relation are inserted in the economy and not in the reverse direction. Thus, the market economy became the rule as an economy where market prices control the system and where people are expected to aim for maximum profit. However, now analysing this as a system where the institutional order and values are created by people (Bruyn, 1977), it is possible to accept that people can construct an alternative system as well.
A new alternative is a more diverse and distributed economy where the global is a network of local systems, opposite to just a central market with identical products (Capatti et al., 2006: 3-4; Clark, 2008: 430). A distributed economy would foster a ‘localised, distributed, production system and consumption model, using as much as possible what is available locally and then using globally what is not in the local level’ (Capatti et al., 2006: 9). Economic resilience as well as a cultural diversity will be a result of a local agenda (Fletcher et Grose, 2012: 108). Then, the challenge is to break with the localise discourse and to confront the mainstream, instead of just being a superfluous solution for that what the mainstream has left aside (Amin et al. 2002, 125).
Therefore, to abate fashion’s social and environmental impact the whole system has to be transformed as well, since it is the capitalist system who brought sweatshops, child labour, environmental devastation and alienation (Holskins, 2014). ‘Fashion speaks capitalism’ (Wilson, 2007: 396). Then, the goal is to create a practice where the result of producing goods is away from environmental and social quality destruction and better aiming for a natural well-being (Fletcher, 2014: 147).
This post is part of an original dissertation essay about how slow fashion contributes to social economy. It was written for internal objectives for ICCE department of Goldsmiths College, University of London. If you want to read the whole essay or just debate the topic -which will be great-, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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