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Where slow fashion’s always been in style 

The term ‘slow fashion’ is generally seen as a recent invention, but the movement has been around for longer than we think, whether customers knew it or not! 

Many people are familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’ and all of its negative connotations. In recent years, a new phrase has been coined as a direct reaction to this: ‘slow fashion’.

Slow fashion is the caring, considered and calm alternative to the hurried and harmful world of fast fashion – and it’s gaining considerable traction, not least as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent McKinsey & Company survey* carried out for their The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update report found that 15% of consumers in the US and Europe expect to buy more ecologically and socially sustainable clothing as a direct result of the over-consumerism and irresponsible practices that have been thrown into light through the Coronavirus crisis.

A post-lockdown report for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)** found that 83% of consumers surveyed thought that clothes should be designed to last longer and be repairable. 58% bought fewer clothes during lockdown with 28% reusing and recycling more than normal. Interestingly, the same report found that 27% of Generation Z – the 18-24 year-olds who are generally associated with fast fashion – want to support socially and environmentally responsible brands.

What is fast fashion?  

As the term suggests, everything about fast fashion is done at speed. Trends are quickly identified, garments are hurriedly made and rushed out to market, items are bought and delivered in the blink of an eye, then worn a couple of times before moving on to the next new thing.

It’s a phenomenon that’s largely associated with young, online only brands that update their websites with hundreds of new products every week.

Intense competition leads to customers who increasingly expect faster service and lower prices.

But all of this has a knock-on effect.

What are the problems with fast fashion?

The frenetic pace of fast fashion has potentially damaging effects from cradle to grave – from choice of raw materials and how these are sourced, through the treatment of suppliers and workers, manufacturing processes and impacts, and eventual disposal.

  1. Low quality garments

The speed of manufacture has an inevitable impact on the quality of garments produced. The materials used are frequently cheap – often synthetic, the stitching suspect and the finishing poor. There’s just no time to quality check before the next new trend hits the machines.

  1. Environmental impact

The substandard quality of manufacture and finished product and the transient nature of the trends mean that all too often items are discarded after only a few wears. In the UK, 30% of discarded clothing ends up in landfill***.

  1. Unethical working practices

Pressure on price increases the risk of exploitation along the length of the supply chain with growers and factory workers particularly vulnerable to poor working conditions and low wages. Corners are cut at every turn with potentially serious environmental effects.

What is slow fashion and why is it on the rise? 

Growing awareness of the damage caused by fast fashion has led to the emergence of the slow fashion movement. Lyst**** notes that the term ‘slow fashion’ generated over 90 million social impressions in 2019, as changing shopping behaviours started to take root.

Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion in every way. It’s about responsible sourcing, care of manufacture, quality of materials, and longevity of garment life.

Suppliers take care to understand the provenance of their stock and ensure that items are carefully made, building sustainable clothes that are made to last often using natural materials with low environmental impacts of the process.

As far as the customer is concerned, buying decisions are considered and unhurried. Time is taken to research the best options. Thought is given to how an item will complement an existing wardrobe.   This often leads to the purchase of investment pieces, which may cost more, but are of a quality that is built to last, wear after wear. These pieces are frequently of a timeless design that can bypass fleeting fashion trends to remain relevant for years to come, to the extent that items may become heritage pieces that are passed down through generations.

With its carefully curated collection of quality and long-lasting own-brand pieces and relaxed in-store shopping experience, The House of Bruar has been taking the slow fashion approach for 25 years!

The House of Bruar own brand range

The House of Bruar own brand range is characterised by pieces that bear the hallmark of a true slow fashion based approach. It’s a collection of classic and contemporary country clothing with a Scottish swirl in natural fiber fabrics – pure new wools, tweed, suede, leather. The carefully monitored quality of manufacture and the timeless nature of the designs build items made to last. Customers looking for their next “forever” piece –can browse a range of items that, while updated every year with new colours, designs, fabrics and yarns, retain the enduring appeal of true style classics. The House of Bruar own brand items live on through families to delight new generations of clothes lovers.

The House of Bruar buying team builds lasting relationships with suppliers working with a range of manufacturers who have built their reputation on quality and longevity. Fabrics are sourced from some of the last remaining textile mills in Scotland, Ireland and the North of England including Magee of Ireland, Robert Noble, Lochcarron of Scotland, Halley Stevensons, Dundee, Abraham Moon and Mallalieus of Delph. Between them, these mills share centuries of experience in making woven fabrics that last from carefully selected raw materials, often using traditional methods unchanged for years, whilst at the same time adapting their processes and policies to minimise environmental impacts.

The Harris Tweed collection

The House of Bruar also has one of the largest collections of Harris Tweed items in the UK and has been working with Harris Tweed since before the store was built.  Hand crafted using traditional methods on the Isle of Harris for generations; Harris Tweed is woven into island life. The only fabric in the world to be protected by an act of Parliament, everything from the pure virgin wool, to the dying, spinning and finishing of the cloth originates in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Owning a piece of Harris Tweed is to play your part in sustaining a way of living that’s been at the heart of this Scottish community for centuries.

Abraham Moon

The House of Bruar proudly sources own-brand items from Yorkshire-based Abraham Moon Established in 1837 Moons is one of the last remaining mills in the country to produce finished fabrics from raw wool all on one site. All Lambs wool and Shetland tweeds that carry the signature Moon logo are lovingly and meticulously crafted from quality wool resulting in luxurious fine handling fabrics for quality clothing and home furnishings. Sustainability is at the core of the business with every stage in the process from the farms where the wool is sourced, the 100% natural fibre of the wool itself throughout the manufacturing methods and processes used on site carefully managed to create a product that meets the highest ethical standards.

Magee of Ireland

Another brand that takes the slow fashion approach, Magee of Ireland has its roots in a small drapers shop established by John Magee in Donegal in 1866. This family business takes the finest yarns – cashmere, lambswool, alpaca, silk and linen and weaves them into fine fabrics for clothing and home furnishings inspired by the colours of the surrounding land and seascapes. Magee is committed to slow fashion producing rich and soft cloths and finished items from renewable and biodegradable natural fibres which will stand the test of time.

Just a few other slow fashion brands to watch which The House of Bruar is delighted to include in its product selection include:

Julie Dillon Knitwear

Based in Dublin, Ireland, Julie Dillon uses 100% Irish wool to hand loom her range of brightly coloured children’s knitwear. Inspired by her surroundings, sheep play a big role in her cute designs which also feature other animals and motifs.

Fair Isle Knitwear

The distinctive patterns that characterise the Fair Isle knitwear range have their roots in centuries of Scottish island history. The Fairislers have been handcrafting knitwear in pure Shetland and Fair Isle wool and passing their signature designs down through generations since the 1600s and before.

Heathergems

From their base just down the road in Pitlochry, Heathergems have been crafting jewellery from heather collected from the Perthshire hills for over 50 years. Their unique designs are inspired by the colours of the landscapes around them, to own a Heathergems piece is to carry a little bit of Scotland with you wherever you travel.

The lockdown effect

And the movement is spreading. There’s increasing evidence that lockdown has led consumers to reconsider their approach to fashion to embrace a more sustainable process, collect more enduring pieces and curate a more capsule-based wardrobe.

What does this come down to? Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic has sown a seed of awareness about humankind’s impact on the planet and our combined responsibility to rein in over-consumption and reduce global inequalities for the benefit of future generations.

The challenge, when things return to whatever the new normal will be is to maintain the profile of sustainable fashion in the face of what many envisage will be a fury of discounting as struggling companies fight for survival. The RSA found that 40% of consumers are looking forward to buying clothes again post-pandemic. McKinsey & Company predicts, however, that, particularly in the high end market – “many consumers will be looking for so-called “investment” pieces — minimalist, last-forever items — that feel more responsible given the state of the world.”*****

With its long-held sustainable approach to product sourcing, quality of fabrics and longevity of its pieces, The House of Bruar will continue to deliver the slow fashion experience its loyal customers expect and enjoy, and now … it will likely pick up some new customers along the way.

ADVERTORIAL

*McKinsey & Company COVID-19 Apparel & Fashion survey, N=>6000, 27/3-29/3 2020
**RSA https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/bridges-campaign/omfashion.pdf
***RSA
****https://www.lyst.com/data/2020-conscious-fashion-report/
*****McKinsey & Company The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update

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