Vancouver Designers Embrace the Slow Fashion Movement

Slow fashion is about loving your clothes - and the planet - and the collections from these emerging designers are both lovely and long-lasting

Slow fashion designers create high-quality garments that last for decades

Three emerging designers launch slow fashion collections based on quality, craftsmanship and timelessness

Amroe Graham, Erin Polowy, and Sarah Fairweather want to make clothing more meaningful. Rather than producing cheap, disposable, trendy pieces, they’re all about designing long-lasting timeless creations that wearers can keep – and love – for decades.

The trio, graduating from Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fashion Design and Technology program, have designed beautiful, sustainable collections they hope will reflect both their own and their customers’ desire for quality over quantity.

What is Slow Fashion?

Much like the slow food movement, which promotes care in growing and preparing food products, slow fashion is changing the way we create, consume, and dispose of clothing by taking environmental and ethical issues – including water pollution, resource use, and human rights – into consideration.

Designers use natural materials, which greatly reduces chemical production and waste. They also consider the entire life-cycle of a garment, making conscious production decisions around land use and farming, labour laws and manufacturing, as well as care and disposal of clothing.

Slow fashion does not conform to seasonal trends; while new garments are sold, business models focus on revamping existing pieces to ultimately decrease consumption and waste.

Slow fashion can be produced locally or can involve working abroad with developing communities while supporting traditional techniques.

Is Slow Fashion Accessible to Everyone?

Although the fashion industry is shifting toward more conscious and sustainable garments, it is still difficult to find clothing that is 100% non-harmful and sustainable.

But with careful consideration, slow fashion ideas can be applied to any wardrobe:

  • Shop for garments that suit your personality and body type; work with clothing you already own, and that you can see yourself wearing in the long run.
  • Look for garments with good construction, as they will last much longer.
  • Buy from companies that are transparent about their materials and practices.
  • Shop in smaller boutiques and buy from local designers; you will have more access to information and can ask questions before you buy.

Slow fashion is about buying clothing that you not only need and will use, but that you truly love. Purchasing high-quality items may seem expensive at first, but the long-term wear and satisfaction you feel will balance the initial investment in these pieces.

Meet the Designers

Amroe Graham

On slow fashion: 
“Each piece is unique; it has imperfections from the hands that created it and a cultural story woven into it. The story promotes longevity of the garment through the emotional attachment of the wearer.

“Slow fashion is about creating garments that are heirloom pieces that are loved for generations.”

On her collection, Fusion by Design:
“The trim on the jacket is a hand-woven piece made by a woman from the Sacred Valley of Peru.

“These traditional designs have been woven for centuries and are committed to memory and recorded in the weave itself. The design lines of the jacket echo the diamond shape seen in the weaving, which represents water.

“The dress worn under the jacket is made from hand-woven silk and shows off the diamond shaping in the origami-like folds of the side panels [see close-up above]. The pattern drafting for this line is structural and detailed, using unique dart manipulation reminiscent of the 1950s.”

(Model  Jacqueline Ryan, Photographer  Seadance Photography)

Erin Polowy

On slow fashion:
“Slow fashion is about clothing that is fulfilling in its creation and use; looking back to a time when clothing was made with care, consideration and craftsmanship, which enhances the wearer’s experience with the garment.

“I see slow fashion as the solution to over-consumption, thoughtless production, and the disregard for people, animals, and the planet which is currently an unfortunate part of the fashion industry.”

On her collection, Knead:
“My collection includes pieces made from North American organic cottons and wool.

“The dress pictured is a lightweight organic cotton that has been hand-painted using natural dyes. The fabric is dyed using plants and food waste; the dyes on this dress include onion skins (yellow), madder root (pink), and coffee grounds (brown).

“Since the fabric is painted and not submerged, like most dyeing, multiple applications of a thickened dye paste have to be painted on to achieve the colours.

“The gathering detail at the top, along with the belted waist allows the dress to fit and be flattering on many different shapes and sizes because the neckline, armholes, and waist are completely adjustable.”

(Model – Tara Joshi, Makeup & Hair – Elena Ismail, Photographer – Ryan + Beth Photographers)

Sarah Fairweather

On slow fashion:
“Slow fashion means making purposeful choices; having the creator and end-user become truly responsible for their actions.

“Slow fashion is also very much about storytelling. It is about the story of how a garment is made, which allows a person to appreciate the craftsmanship. Also it is about creating a story by having a connection with the garment that represents your values.”

On her collection, memoria fahden:
“The coat is a classic style made of a wool cashmere blend. The hem has been needle-felted by hand with natural and hand-dyed wool. The coat is lined with digitally printed silk.

The digital print is a collage of photographs taken of a local scrap metal yard in Vancouver [see close-up above]. The scrap yard was the inspiration for the collection, as rust dyeing (using rusted metals collected at the scrap yard) is incorporated in other pieces of the collection.”

(Photographer  Matt Law Photography)

Fashion Showcase

See Amroe, Erin and Sarah’s collections at Kwantlen’s The Show, April 17 at the River Rock Show Theatre.