The wrist is subtly bending in harmony with the movement of the fingers, choreographing a beautiful dance of needle and thread on a piece of fabric. The tenderness of the movement interacts with our souls to remind us of the once-forgotten treasure of life. In fact, did we ever forget about this irreplaceable treasure?
The pandemic has taught us to rethink about our actual needs and our material life. When being somehow forced to take life slowly, we began to doubt why were we living at such a fast pace. Isn’t the slowness that we are now having exactly what we craved for when getting suffocated on the stressful days?
What is the value of craftsmanship? Can you imagine these delicate embroideries being the products of a fast fashion brand?
Once lost in the swirl of fast fashion, we now woke up from the illusion and realized the price we had to pay for the fast and cheap fashion. We have left behind the skillful hands of the artisans, we have left behind the stories that once moved us. After a long detour, these gems are in our grasp again. Lidewij Edelkoort, the world’s famous trend forecaster and the author of Anti_Fashion Manifesto, said the virus was causing “a quarantine of consumption”, that “we will be in a position of having a blank page for a new beginning” of “a better system”.
Fashion is a mirror that reflects the ideology of a society. “Slow” is one of the most important keywords of this decade. Many of the trendsetters began to advocate for slow fashion and the return to craftsmanship and the wisdom of everyday life. The new trend of fashion stresses on clothes as a form of art, and praises the techniques and stories of artisans.
The minä perhonen piece store in Kyoto is decorated with fabric scraps from curtain production, and some empty cardboard roll after being used for rolling up fabric.
Akira Minagawa, the designer/founder of the Japanese fashion brand minä perhonen, endeavors to achieve sustainability. The brand’s store piece, Kyoto, is themed around sustainability. Going into the shop, you can see a big “hole” that allows you to peek into the background of the production, where a seamstress is busy sewing with a sewing machine. In fact, you can even hear the sound of the sewing machine running in the shop.
The contemporary fashion industry has 52 seasons a year that produce up to 100 billion pieces of clothes. Do we really need that much? Perhaps not, because only the pieces that can stimulate your emotion are needed, after all.
The current fashion cycle is apparently still on the wrong track. If we would like to see it back on track, the only method is to first return to the very beginning of fashion. The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design. Their branch in Dundee, Scotland is collaborating with Stitch-School on an exhibition titled Sewing Box for the Future, which provides practical online and offline needlework classes that advocate recycled and upcycled fashion as a means to help reduce waste.
Slow fashion can bring joy to our souls. Traditional craftsmanship can also be passed on to the future through a variety of creative ways. The American fashion designer Alabama Chanin is one of the most renowned slow design movement activists. She has taken the extra mile to combine designer items, production, fashion school, and fine dining into one integrated experience for her customers to understand her value from all angles. My favorite sewing tools brand Merchant & Mills also took their Sewing Retreat classes to a seaside vacation rental to make sewing a vacation activity. These are only two examples of how people advocate for slow fashion I have on top of my head. There are many more fascinating stories that I can tell, but I better spend some time organizing the list I have and share it with you one by one in another article.
Shifting the focus back to Hong Kong, my SLOW STiTCH PROjECT is a one-year project that aims at making sewing and stitching part of our everyday life. The project includes multiple hands-on online and offline activities for participants to learn embroidery skills, to try a collaborative design, to share with other participants works and books they like, and to engage in recycled and upcycled fashion. The project provides slow fashion followers a platform to get to know one another, and hence join forces to advocate the value. Through this, a bigger crowd of people can take it slow to enjoy the beauty of the nice fabric and the mindfulness of the designers’ work, so fashion items can, once again, soothe our exhausted souls.
Nature is angry at the irresponsible behavior of human beings, but it is still giving us a second chance. The virus is a signal from nature to remind us of the essence of life and the purpose of craftsmanship. With such realization, we can gradually turn the story of our lives into a finer one.