Slow Fashion Summer Challenge
As much as light bulb moments are discussed, they are a rarity. They are low volume, high impact. Therein lies the why they are hot topics. I had one recently while writing an article for The Incline. It was about local recycling and conscious consumption of clothing and textiles. As I age, my purchasing habits lean more toward secondhand and vintage, and this is not for righteous environmental reasons. It is for selfish reasons. Breathing new life into pieces makes me happy. The pieces are unique and no one else will pass me on the street wearing it. While researching the article, I resonated with the importance of sustainable fashion. It is important to me. Around the same time, my friend Sarah, came to me with a challenge: Slow Fashion Summer. And, suddenly my light bulb had a room to spread its light.
Slow Fashion Summer is simple. It is also challenging. The pledge is not to buy any new clothes this summer (from June 21st until September 21st). The project is being supported by CollAction, a not-for-profit platform based out of the Netherlands tackling global issues through crowdacting. Crowdacting, as defined by CollAction, is "taking action collectively and conditionally with the purpose of achieving positive impact on the world and its inhabitants." The crowd can present a project on CollAction, and then CollAction acts as the facilitator.
World issues, such as sustaining a healthy environment, are intimidating. How am I going to make a difference? is a common question. A question which often leads to inaction because your action doesn't seem impactful. Your action feels "like a drop in the ocean." But crowdacting provides a community of action. It presents a task for a large group of people to perform together. "We hope that at some point, when faced with certain collective action problems, people's standard reaction is: we don't have to look at the regulator - we can use crowdacting to solve it," said founder, Ron van den Akker. Me not buying any new clothes this summer may not seem influential, but a 2,500 people doing it together? Now, that is a significant start.
Sarah was made aware of this project by her friend, Daniela Becker. Daniela volunteers for CollAction by managing a team (also volunteers) responsible for the website development. I shared a coffee with her on a blazing afternoon in The Strip District. Her passion was clear. CollAction has similar qualities of kickstarter campaign, but as Daniela puts it, "we ask for action. We use the crowd as an amplifier." The platform just turned one on May 15th, and Slow Fashion Summer is one of their biggest projects to date. "We're a social startup and we've been running many smaller sized campaigns to test what works and what doesn't," said Ron. "Now, for this year we said: cool, we learned a lot, now it's time to scale up. And to do that: let's focus on 1 or 2 campaigns this year and make them big. Let's officially go for 2,500 people on a pretty difficult commitment for some." But Ron, the entire CollAction team, and us folks in the U.S. participating thus far know we can exceed this goal.
The fast fashion industry has negative impacts on the environment, from waste contribution to water consumption to emissions. Its pillars are speed and low cost to keep the latest trends in front of us. Most often these pieces are disposable. They do not become heirlooms; their quality does not last the test of time. They are typically thrown away. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, on average in one year, the U.S. citizen throws away 70lbs of clothing and other textiles. There are approximately 327 million U.S. citizens. I don't like math, but that is a staggering amount of clothing waste. There are other upsetting stats. Check out this article (with pictures!) from the World Resource Institute for a clear explanation of fast fashion's impacts as well as the steps large fast fashion retailers are taking to reduce their environmental impact. The facts motivating Slow Fashion Summer alone had me hooked: the fashion industry consumes 32 million Olympic size swimming pools of water per year and accounts for 8% of global greenhouse emissions with no signs of slowing down. This is why I signed up. I want to join this vehement community.
It will not be an easy three months for me. With my pregnancy, my body is changing. I will be a different size each month of this challenge. I questioned myself on whether I could commit. Therein lies the selfish motivation. The questioning eventually turned into another motive. I doubted myself and now I want to prove myself wrong. As Daniella and I chatted, the beauty of crowdacting is individualizing the action. The more personal it is, the more likely you are to succeed in your commitment. Here is the great thing about Slow Fashion Summer, you can swap clothes or purchase secondhand, just do not buy anything new. Shameless plug, spend a couple of minutes with Sustainable clothing in Pittsburgh: A guide to smart shopping and Earth-friendly donations to learn about secondhand clothing options and how to recycle responsibly locally.
This 70s-inspired apron dress was a secondhand pregnancy purchase from none other than juju. I joke Leslie, the owner of juju, is slowly responsible for my entire wardrobe. In truth, there is no joking about it (search "juju" on this site). This dress, while loud and specific in color, is versatile in size. It is so versatile, I wore it backwards in this shoot without realizing it. For the entirety of the shoot, I thought it was tighter around my neck than I remember. I rationalized my neck must be growing due to the pregnancy and moved on. The tag sticking out underneath my chin on the car ride home confirmed my doubt. My mistake is yet another way to creatively refresh your clothing: rock it backwards.
This once brief light bulb moment (I care about how I consume and use clothing for not only selfish reasons, but for the environmental impact) has further cast its light thanks to Slow Fashion Summer. I am grateful to the universe (that includes you Sarah and Daniela) for bringing it to my attention.
I have not always been a responsible consumer. In the past, I have made fast fashion purchases. I can't say with 100% I will never make another fast fashion purchase. New is alluring. It is convenient and quick, that is why is it growing rapidly. Conscious consuming is not effortless and requires time. Thanks to Slow Fashion Summer, my purchasing habits are being brought to the light. I am committing to an environmentally responsible effort with my style more than ever before, and I feel a new energy circling my wardrobe.
We currently stand at 28% of our target of 2,500 participants. We have two and a half weeks left to go until summer officially kicks off. Won't you join us?