Slow Fashion In Colombia
Colombia is a South American country that ranks first place in Latin America for ethical practices and sustainable development. It supports international certificates such as ISO 14000, ISO 900 and BASC to ensure fair trade and environmental initiatives. In 2015, according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Colombia ranked second in social responsibility for its support of national artisans, indigenous communities and single mothers. Learn how slow fashion in Colombia helps artisans escape cycles of poverty.

Slow Fashion

Colombia benefits from slow fashion because it stimulates the economy and improves artisanal living conditions. However, these highly skilled workers are losing their jobs because of automated garment manufacturing fueled by fashion brands making cheap clothing at a rapid pace and at low costs. Consumers that support slow fashion in Colombia help empower artisans and fight extreme poverty. They also help preserve artisans’ cultural skills by supporting their handcrafted goods and allow them to work close to home.

Partnerships are vital in elevating slow fashion in Colombia. According to Aspen Institute, the second-largest source of employment in African and Latin American countries is from artisanal craft. However, artisans remain in poverty due to poor access to distribution channels and quality materials. Since fast fashion has forced artisans to seek different sources of employment, the loss of artisanal jobs risks that their cultural traditions be lost forever. This makes artisanal products reaching global markets and artisans receiving a fair wage critical for their livelihoods and for the preservation of their culture.

Growing Artisanal Sector

According to Artisanal Alliance, artisanal goods sold in international markets doubled between 2002 to 2012. Artisans are often women and informal producers that lack basic financial tools and market access to increase the production and sale of their goods. This is important because 65% of artisanal work happens in developing countries. These artisans could have better access to the global markets if they had the proper resources, tools and business partners needed to produce and sell artisanal goods. This would make it easier to sell goods to consumers interested in supporting Colombian artisanry and uplifting artisans.

Benefits of Slow Fashion

Slow fashion in Colombia empowers artisans, such as Leopoldina Jimenez. In 2017, she was recognized by Artesanías de Colombia with the Medal for Craftsmanship ‘Master of Masters’ for 48 years of work toward the elaboration of woolen fabrics. Her work has helped elevate artisanal craft while inspiring women to continue the legacy of their culture. She also finds it important to use her platform to provide greater visibility to rural artisanal communities in Colombia. Sopó Mayor’s Office fair highlighted her previous work and recognized her work with Exportesano with a Quality Seal.

Slow fashion in Colombia has also prospered through collaborative efforts like the Agua Bendita’s AB Hearts Initiative. This collective of 700 women artisans is empowered to take old Colombian beading and embroidery techniques and turn them into a business. Lead artisans distribute the work among the women and create prints that reference Colombia’s history and culture. This allows them to work at home and specialize in either beadwork and embroidery to complete requested design work.

Moving forward, it is essential that slow fashion in Colombia and around the world receives support and continues to grow. Slow fashion enables better livelihoods for artisans and is one way consumers can help alleviate global poverty.

– Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

South American Clothing Brands
Many young entrepreneurs in South America have employed local craftsmanship and design to create beautiful garments under ethical circumstances. These three sustainable South American clothing brands are not only exclusively elevating the fashion industry in the region, but are also providing jobs to locals.

VOZ – Santiago, Chile

The first of the South American clothing brands is VOZ, which is located in Santiago, Chile. This clothing brand’s main premise of employing Mapuche artisans is to create and design the garments. VOZ respects indigenous traditions and ancestral weaving techniques. As a result, it has become a pioneer brand in the region with ethical and sustainable business practices.

The designs are a product of collaborative and educational workshops for Mapuche women. In addition, VOZ has high-quality standards and sustainable materials. Furthermore, VOZ ethically and locally sources raw materials and fabrics from Temuco, Chile. These materials make sleek and elegant outfits for women. The entire supply chain employs Chilean work through this approach. Thus, local artisans are involved in the manufacturing procedure and the design processes of VOZ collections.

VOZ employed over 100 women artisans in its supply chain as of 2021. Additionally, these women have improved their quality of life as the brand pays them ethical and dignified wages. The CEO and founder of VOZ said, “A lot of brilliant women have not had the access provided to other Chileans, and this especially affects the way in which they can support their families. Offering a training program to these talented and motivated women is game-changing to the people here, and has a positive impact on the local economy.”

NIDO – Buenos Aires, Argentina

This slow fashion brand creates beautiful knitwear crafted from local sustainable wool. Additionally, this wool comes from the provinces of Chubut and Patagonia. Argentine weavers from the provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba make NIDO’s clothes. The merino wool is hand-dyed and woven in spinning wheels.

NIDO strives to maintain a personal link with the artisans and weavers, as most women working for the brand come from vulnerable poverty situations. Additionally, NIDO grants them a craft to make a living and earn a fair wage for their work. In this way, the brand manifests itself against fast fashion supply chains that create their clothing in sweatshops.

NIDO manages to employ artisans who receive fair salaries by charging an honest price for their sweaters and blankets. Thus, it has become a pioneer brand in Argentina that maintains an ethical supply chain. The company launched the school of textile crafts in Buenos Aires in 2016. It trained more artisans in vulnerable conditions and spreading traditional Argentine weaving techniques to younger generations.

Artemera – Asunción, Paraguay

Artemera is a new sustainable clothing brand that provides feminine clothing for women and girls. It has now expanded its collections for men as well. Artemera has made 100% artisanal garments with colorful Paraguayan motifs and textiles since 2016. Furthermore, local artisans hand-make collections, while founder Luciana Abente creates the designs.

While the brand started by exclusively making t-shirts inspired by national folklore, art and customs, the brand has now broadened its line to include pants, dresses and sandals with excellent quality ideal for the hot tropical climate. Moreover, one can attribute Artemera’s uniqueness in design to its quick success among locals and foreigners alike.

Artemera has donated a significant amount of revenue to social and environmental projects, such as the #ConservemosLoNuestro campaign. This business committed itself to a reforestation campaign in the Morombí national reserve in Eastern Paraguay, which is home to more than 60 endangered species. Furthermore, this collaboration protects forest resources and promotes tourism in the region.

These three sustainable South American clothing brands have significantly improved the lives of women and the economy. These companies have provided jobs for locals who are living in impoverished areas. Furthermore, the companies hope to expand their reach for the future.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Ethical Fashion
Slow fashion, also called ethical fashion, has become more popular over the last several years. Surveys showed that shoppers were 10% more interested in knowing how manufacturers make their clothes in 2020 than they were two years before. Meanwhile, the surveys showed that around 66% considered sustainability when purchasing products. Slow fashion has countless benefits from alleviating environmental strain to stopping animal cruelty. Also, slow fashion can help end world poverty. By buying ethical fashion, consumers directly aid companies that care about their employees. These shoppers are also opening many new industries within world economies and providing the makers who sew their clothes a better quality of life.

Brands that Care

People who desire change in the fashion industry and better working conditions for garment makers have created many ethical fashion brands. These companies seek to spread awareness about harmful working practices. They want to give back to the communities that contribute to their work. They aim to show the public that customers can have beautiful clothes without exploiting people in the process. These brands strive to support garment workers who would, otherwise, be living in poverty.

One brand that recognizes that slow fashion can help end world poverty is Able. The brand started in Ethiopia in 2010 to give women who wanted to leave the sex industry a chance to find work. Since 2018, Able has started a movement called the “Accountable” and published its worker’s wages. The movement aimed to give its customers full transparency and educate the public on what a “living wage” includes and inspire them to demand the same for other brands.

Another example of an ethical fashion brand is Seza’ne. Starting in 2013, Seza’ne’s focus is on “helping the next generation.” This led it to start the nonprofit Demain (meaning “tomorrow” in French) in 2017, which is focusing on improving education access for disadvantaged children worldwide. Partnering with other education charities, Demain has started a monthly program named “The Call of the 21st.” This program includes donating 10% of the profit Seza’ne makes on the 21st of each month to its supported charities. It also ensures that Seza’ne releases a new design each month with the intent of donating 100% of the profit. Demain supported over 30,000 children and has collected over $3 million for its supported charities.

Buying Less

Since ethical fashion pieces are more expensive, customers receive encouragement to buy less. Besides considering the price, the clothes last much longer and thus buyers do not have to replace them as frequently. Buying less helps garment workers because they have less pressure to make more clothing in exploitive working conditions.

A typical fast-fashion brand expects to put out a new fashion line every two weeks. Garment workers often experience inhumane working days, working 11 hours or so with no breaks due to the high demand. To make the clothing cheap for customers, these companies pay their employees very little. Sometimes, they receive as little as 50 cents an hour. This system limits workers to poverty, as they have no time to find other sources of income.

Boosting the Economy

Perhaps it is counterintuitive that buying less clothing could have a positive impact on our economy. However, slow fashion opens up many new industries that do not exist under the fast fashion model, particularly through a system called “circular fashion.” This aims to use and restore clothing for as long as possible.

Because people throw most clothes away when they do not want them or when garments have damage, they lose more than $500 billion every year. Meanwhile, clothing from slow fashion brands tends to last longer and customers can wear them longer, which opens up many new industries to increase a garment’s life. Examples of possible industries include clothing repair, fixing damaged clothing as well as adjusting clothing sizes or altering clothes to fit new trends. Furthermore, one can also partake in clothing resale, selling clothes so people who want sustainable clothing on a smaller budget can purchase them second-hand. Lastly, people can utilize clothing rental, especially in the case of when they will use clothing for a short amount of time such as in the case of formal clothing for children.

Outside Fashion

Outside of the fashion industry, slow fashion can help end world poverty and boost the economy in the same way other industries can. Giving the people who make clothing a livable wage and helping them rise out of poverty allows them to purchase more U.S./European products.

Slow fashion can help alleviate world poverty because it allows the people behind these brands to continue carrying out their beneficial work. It demands that the people making clothing receive just pay and have safe working conditions. When garment workers obtain support, they are able to have access to resources for themselves and their families.

Mikayla Burton
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty and Slow Fashion in Argentina
Argentina is the home of skilled rural artisans. Furthermore, it has an abundance of natural fibers, cultural craftsmanship and citizens eager to find employment. Slow fashion has allowed artisans to escape an exploitative fashion system. As such, this system pressures workers to toil in illegal sweatshops called talleres clandestinos. Brands and consumers that support slow fashion in Argentina uplifts artisans to earn a fair, living wage, respect from others for their artisanal skills and preserve their cultural techniques.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion in Argentina has emerged through different initiatives. Organizations and businesses seek to make clothing with a positive social and environmental impact. The first edition of the Slow Fashion Authentic Argentino fashion contest launched in the city of Rosario in 2015. Additionally, the city municipality supported this federal initiative to promote slow fashion in all Argentinian provinces and to award designers on tailoring and sewing, textile comfort, garment functionality and innovation. Argentina Sustainable Fashion Association emerged to generate a network of artisans, producers, suppliers, designers and entrepreneurs working in sustainability in 2018.  Furthermore, it actively spreads awareness of sustainable fashion to Argentina’s general public through different initiatives, partnerships and projects.

Highlighting Hecho por Nosotros

Hecho por Nosotros is a nonprofit that holds consultative status with the United Nations. It uplifts local Argentinian producers by providing consistent, full access to global markets. Additionally, Hecho por Nosotros strives to change mindsets to create a new sustainability paradigm for the fashion industry. Its work has received endorsement from programs that aim to unite and advance sustainability actions such as the C&A Foundation, BCorps, ASHOKA Fellow, GlobalizerX and Fabric of Change by ASHOKA.

Hecho por Nosotros partners with animana, an Argentinian ethical fashion brand. Moreover, it has provided jobs to more than 3,000 artisans by increasing capacity to 364 artisan groups and 27 fiber producers over the last 10 years. Furthermore, it created a business network of 7,500 artisans to integrate them into global markets and trained 1,500 student designers in sustainable fashion. Big fashion houses exploit Latin American artisans. As a result, Argentina has combated this by purchasing quality materials and elaborate embroidery for extremely low prices and then marking it up to 1,000 times.

Slow Fashion Benefits

Slow fashion in Argentina allows artisans to escape the cycle of poverty by providing access to global markets. In addition, these markets allow them to sell their products. This provides them with solutions to Argentina’s high export tariffs and protectionist trade policies that have led to mounting unemployment rates. As a result, one-third of the population lives in poverty.

Consumers and brands that support slow fashion in Argentina allow artisans to prosper. It effectively uplifts them from the cycle of poverty, helps preserve traditional artisanal activities and shifts the focus to sustainable production. This leads to empowered communities producing high-quality products for conscious consumers all over the world.

– Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

Slow Fashion in Mexico
Mexico is rich with indigenous craftsmanship but it is slowly disappearing because of fast fashion. Without artisanal work, indigenous communities have had to work in different markets or migrate to seek jobs overseas. This has caused highly skilled artisans to leave behind their craft and their unique culture in exchange for underpaid jobs with inhumane working conditions. Brands and consumers that prioritize Mexican artisanal work help preserve the textile heritage and techniques unique to indigenous communities. Here is some information about the relationship between poverty reduction and slow fashion in Mexico.

Slow Fashion

The concept of slow fashion takes into account the resources and processes necessary to make clothing with a positive social and environmental impact. It means valuing the fair treatment of people, animals and the planet. Slow fashion in Mexico has been most effective through the small-scale, ethical and eco-friendly production of textiles and garments that artisans make. Carla Fernandez, designer and pioneer of slow fashion in Mexico, set the framework to prioritize a bottom-up creation process rooted in studying the artisanal textile-making techniques so that artisans can be the protagonists in the production and design process. This allows respect to go to ancestral production techniques and designs and helps preserve traditional pre-hispanic craftsmanship.

The Partnership with Conaculta

In 2013, Fernandez and her team partnered with the Mexican Secretary of Culture to systemize a methodology to work with artisan cooperatives. The Barefoot Designer Manual published the research and the General Directorate of Publications of Conaculta edited it. Partnership with Conaculta meant greater institutional responsibility for preserving Mexico’s cultural heritage through fashion. It also allowed more designers to take part in slow fashion through the detailed training manual. This has empowered rural artisans because they can receive fair wages for their labor and greater market access as more designers acquire knowledge on sustainable production techniques in indigenous communities and how to fairly integrate them into the fashion industry.

As indigenous artisanry secures more commercial success at international value chains, it also helps shift the industry to slow fashion. This transition especially supports Mexican artisans based in rural areas. In 2016, Mexican Household Income and Expenditure Survey data revealed that citizens within major federal entities earned more than 50% in comparison to those in rural areas. Artisanal cooperatives would help bring economic growth within Mexico’s most remote areas, which was previously not achieved by top-down NGO and governmental development programs aimed at supporting and training artisans.

Benefits of Slow Fashion

At the beginning of the pandemic, Mexico’s federal government and two companies committed to purchasing handmade face masks produced in Mexican communities that the pandemic hit the hardest. The National Fund for the Promotion of Handicrafts managed 139 artisanal groups which included Mayan, Mixtec and Zapotec artisans to make cloth masks using their traditional techniques. This initiative provided $85,560 USD for materials and provided training to ensure masks met health requirements. Every mask produced has had the name of the maker and the name of their town embroidered on it. This initiative is an example of how artisans are capable of producing essential goods during COVID-19 while still promoting cultural diversity through slow fashion.

By understanding the problems of unemployment and artisanal skills unique to each region, it has allowed for economic opportunities to open up. This helps preserve traditional artisanal activities, supports the growth of slow fashion and empowers forgotten and invisible rural artisans.

– Giselle Magana
Photo: Pexels

Fighting for the World's Poor with Slow FashionPrior to the rise of fast fashion, the latest runway designs slowly trickled their way into the masses, but the quickening and cheapening of clothing creation have forever changed the way people shop. This detrimental and exploitative process is mostly in vain since the clothes are so cheap that 85% of textiles end up in landfills each year. “Fast fashion” refers to cheap and trendy clothing that utilizes the rapid production of our globalized economy to produce items as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Although this might seem exciting, fast fashion as a phenomenon is often pointed to as one of the prime contributors to the waste and exploitation of the world’s poor that takes the glamour out of fashion.

Fast Fashion and Poverty

To make clothing cheaper, more dangerous and toxic chemicals are used in factories where workers make below living wages. Worldwide, one in six workers is employed by the fashion industry, and the majority of these workers are women. Many workers are also children as young as 10 years old.  Over the past few decades, factories have moved to low-income countries where workers’ union laws and human rights protections are less stringent. An Oxfam 2019 report found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earn a living wage. The culture of exploitation within the factories makes women vulnerable to abuse but they cannot report it for fear of losing income.

The millions of the world’s poor working in the bottom rung of the fashion ladder deserve better. One study found that a $20 shirt would only need to cost $0.20 more for Indian factory workers to earn a living wage. Another breakdown of a 29 £ T-shirt found that only 18 euro cents go to the worker’s pay.  As consumers of fashion, we can help combat this industry by participating in “slow fashion.” Slow fashion is the antidote to fast fashion which prioritizes quality clothing that is made ethically and sustainably built to last. Here are some ways to participate in this movement.

How to Participate in Slow Fashion

  1. Good On You: Good on You is a site dedicated to bringing slow fashion to consumers. Type a brand into their directory and they will provide you with an ethics and sustainability rating and a justification for their assessment. This is especially helpful if you are new to a brand.
  2. The Fashion Transparency Index: This is an assessment by experts of the 250 largest clothing retailers to provide you insight into their ethics and production.
  3. Online Thrifting: Although rifling through your local thrift store is a fun adventure, for those looking for specific secondhand clothing, online stores are a helpful tool. Thredup: This site has something for every budget and resells household brand items at varying prices and conditions. They also provide a clean-out kit for those who wish to sell or donate clothing. TheRealReal and Vestaire Collective: For lovers of luxury items, these sites are perfect and they authenticate items for you.
  4. The 30 Wears Test: Before purchasing a clothing item, ask yourself if you will wear it a minimum of 30 times. Take inventory of items you own that will pair well with the said item.
  5. Learn how to mend clothing: Not only can this come in handy in case of emergency, but instead of throwing away an item that is damaged, you will be more inclined to fix it.
  6. Quality over quantity: Critics of sustainable fashion argue that its prices are too high. Investing in staple clothes that are built to last is cheaper in the long term than constantly buying cheaper and trendier items.
  7. Fast fashion is tempting. The prices and designs are more attractive and accessible than many brands that source higher quality materials and pay their workforce more. But as more people demand sustainable fashion, creative and affordable solutions become available. Together, we can demand better for the world’s poor that create our clothing and transform the industry.

—Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a term that the fashion industry uses to refer to the cheap manufacturing of runway styles in a quick manner and it has established dominance in today’s consumer market. Top brands like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 utilize this production technique to hook customers on seasonal goods through low-cost labor that often puts employees at risk. Several controversies in the past have led to disasters, taking the lives of thousands and putting into question the ethics of mass production. In the wake of such calamity, slow fashion has risen up as a movement against the large companies. Through the promotion of improved safety measures and higher quality groups, small businesses are attempting to counteract the damage done.

Fast Fashion Disasters

Past grievances physically showcase the drawbacks of the Fast Fashion industry. The work conditions often put employees in dangerous situations which results in severe consequences. The Rana Plaza Factory collapse goes down in history as an example of this for the fashion industry. The factory, located in Dhaka, Bangladesh, manufactured clothing for European and American companies. On April 24, 2013, the building collapsed in on itself and killed 142 employees in the destruction. The disaster was a wakeup call for most, as the building itself violated several safety codes and builders constructed the upper four floors without a permit. The event called into question the ethics and legality of mass production factories. Specifically, the fashion industry entered the debate because not only do companies put lives at risk, but the monetary compensation is notoriously low.

Low Wage Workers

Another significant aspect of this problem is the location of the factories. Companies often take advantage of underprivileged and impoverished nations in order to reduce costs. The wages that citizens of these countries receive often do not measure up to the amount they work. One prime example is with the brand H&M, which has faced recent backlash for failing to provide fair living wages to its workers in various countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Turkey and Bulgaria. While H&M responded by arguing that there is no global standard for a living wage, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) found that workers in Cambodia earn approximately half of those in Turkey. It is therefore evident that the company has been taking advantage of the low quality of life in Cambodia and exploiting the poverty of the nation.

The Slow Fashion Movement

The slow fashion movement has surfaced in recent years as a response to the controversy surrounding fast fashion brands. Members of this crusade work to fight against current practices by producing higher quality goods in safer working conditions and for better pay. These businesses also receive help from organizations like the Good Business Lab, a start-up that focuses on finding a compromise between company goals and employee treatment. At the moment, the nonprofit is located in India and has a sister branch in the United States in order the spread the aid.

The Need for Consumer Awareness

With materials and business practices put under a lens, others have forced the fast fashion industry to refocus itself. The fashion industry is reframing products and their value in the eyes of the public. Additionally, it is finally addressing the imbalance between labor wages and work conditions for the employees. Ultimately, as consumers become more aware of the malpractice occurring behind closed glass store doors, these companies will have to reevaluate their practices and make some drastic changes.

Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr