Portland Slow Fashion

Laptops and Smalltalk’s Sustainable Fashion Forum

May 5, 2017

Last week I got together with my blogger friend Ellie and we packed our cameras and headed to Laptop & Smalltalk’s Sustainable Fashion Forum at the Good Mod near downtown Portland. There were drinks and nibbles to enjoy while we perused the racks of local designers who were on hand to chat and answer questions.  The street style among the crowd was definitely noteworthy and head-turning (in a good way).

After a half an hour of mingling, Kerri Ulloa of Green Eileen kicked off a six-person panel discussing various aspects of sustainability and ethics in the design world.

From L-R: Kerri Ulloa, Shelby Morgan, Kate Troyer, Marcela Dyer, Lizz Basinger, Alexa Stark, Jason Calderon

Some of the highlights:

Every empire has to fall and fast fashion has hit such a peak.

-Lizz Basinger, Lizz Basinger Designs

I think a lot of the public isn’t aware of how clothing is made and so I think a lot of brands are just banking on that lack of knowledge…. If you don’t know how clothing is made, why not go into H&M and if you see a pair of jeans for $15 and they look good, then sure, why not. But there is a whole reason why they cost $15. I can’t even buy material to make a pair of jeans for $15.

-Jason Calderon, West Daily

You wouldn’t expect to buy a pint of beer that has local and high-end ingredients and is eight bucks a pint. You wouldn’t complain that ‘oh, I can get a whole pack of Budweiser at the supermarket for the same price.’ It’s not the same thing.

-Jason Calderon, West Daily

We do have a vote with the power of the purse. I think we’re realizing we have that ability everyday, it’s not one time in four years, we have that ability every single day with every single purchase we make.

-Shelby Morgan, Veil & Valor

Hearing from these industry insiders reaffirmed my decision not to participate in the mass-profit process that happens with most major retailers. Retailers who are constantly cycling new clothing designs in and out with the goal of making as much money as they can. It’s a process that forsakes the art of clothing, and worse, favors profits over people.

Not only are these items cheaply made and rely on cheap labor, but I don’t want to be a puppet or a cog in the wheel of their process. I would rather support emerging designers and companies that value the people who make their clothes. I want to invest in companies that work hard to minimize their environmental impact. The apparel industry is the second largest polluter of the environment after the oil industry. We are just as responsible for that pollution when we participate in the fast-fashion cycle, buying and shedding clothing at an alarming rate. Attending this event was a good reminder to me to slow down and enjoy and care for what I have, and participate in fashion in the most responsible way I can.

If you ever feel discouraged about the problems that plague the apparel industry, let this post encourage you: you have the power of the purse. Together we will make a difference.

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  • Sirena Abalian May 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Love the format of this blog post! Always so inspiring to hear tidbits of wisdom from people who are making a difference!

    • Andrea May 5, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you Sirena! I feel the same way!

  • Vivianna May 5, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Its so important for me to have this community of ethical fashion bloggers. It helps reaffirm the power of my choice to be a concious consumer. When I’m surrounded by others who are not aware of these issues, it can be hard to feel like I’m actually making a change.

    I have coworkers who often judge me for spending more on my clothes, even after having good conversations about why I do it and its definitely a difficult spot to be in.

    They are lovely people but I can see this greater social construct around the issue, a big part of it being money. I make the same
    amount as my coworkers but save more than a quarter of my income because I choose to live small and slow.

    I feel compassion for my coworkers because I know they feel trapped by the constant barrage of “buy more, have more stuff!” all around them.

    Have you been able to have any “aha” moments with others who are maybe interested in slow fashion but aren’t quite there yet?

    Is there a way you stay inspired, or maybe rather empowered, in your day to day?

    • Andrea May 5, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I totally hear you Vivianna. I think the blog helps me have a certain level of accountability for what I buy, but like you I still feel like I need this community to continue to be re-inspired. Kudos to you for making lifestyle changes and letting your pocketbook reflect your values, that is awesome. I think most people just don’t have the discipline to do that. I agree, I see it all the time, and still feel the tug to have more, buy more, etc. myself. :/

      I have had some “aha” moments with others, but it’s hard, because I think people instantly feel judged. And i’m in a weird position because most of my friends have read some part of my blog, so I know they know how I feel, if that makes sense. That leaves it kind of up to them to bring up. At the very least when I talk to friends I try to encourage them to a more slow (less clearance purchases, more deliberate) approach in general to their closet, and that’s kind of the first baby step toward ethical fashion.

      Reading and researching for the blog definitely helps keep me feeling inspired and empowered. I love reading other blogs, and following the articles that companies like Zady share. Also, ProjectJUST is a great site to look up brands on. Probably my favorite way to stay inspired though is to listen to podcasts (or read blogs) about minimalism. So much of those principals can be applied to slow fashion, and I find them really inspiring.

  • Elle May 5, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Your fashion sense (and sizing) is very different than mine, and seems to lend itself well to the current sustainable fashion offerings out there – which is awesome!!! I’m petite and my style tendencies are such that when I look at the work of most ethical designers I think “how lovely…. but for someone who definitely is not me.” Were there any insights shared for people like me who want to purchase sustainably when they purchase new but find themselves in the margins stylistically and size wise? How do we make our voices heard when our voices (via our purses) don’t have an opportunity to be heard? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! It’s something that has MASSIVELY frustrated me since discovering sustainable and ethical fashion. The cause and lifestyle resonates with me. The clothing doesn’t.

    • Andrea May 5, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Elle! You are definitely not alone, I have heard other folks say the same thing. There are SO many amazing ethical brands out there, they can just be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Can you give me more of an idea of what style you’re looking for? And perhaps I can point you in the direction of some brands/shops/bloggers who might be more targeted to you. Have you checked out my ‘where to shop’ page for more places to find different styles? Perhaps Style Saint or Reformation, is that more your style?

      • Elle May 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm

        I’ll have to check out your “where to shop” page. And you’re so sweet to want to help out! I feel like my style is pretty eclectic so it’s a bit hard to pin down… but I tend to go for less loose and flowy and more tight and structured (I don’t like feeling like I’m drowning in fabric) – though anything that fits well and has good drape is the best. (I have hips and a bum so I like shapes and silhouettes that aren’t very boxy, too.) I love colors, and fun details, and I feel like my ideal future wardrobe would be a cross between Christina of “New Darlings” and Jean of “Extra Petite” with a healthy dose of quirk thrown in (think retro, vintage, boho, embroidered details and silhouettes). I also like Mara of “M loves M”‘s bright and happy aesthetic, and a lot of her outfits are cute.

        Honestly, I think my biggest concern is fit. I kind of squirm at the thought of spending a lot of money on a dress or shirt or something only to have to go spend an additional like $50+ on tailoring it in the shoulders and the rest of the bodice, y’know? And that might be a hurdle I just have to jump over, but I wish there was a sustainable brand that catered to petites! Maybe one day!

  • Bobbiejean May 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Great post! Can’t wait to visit in June… I’m hoping my husband falls in love with PDX and we move lol (from Houston!) Nice to see so many ethical fashion folks together

    • Andrea May 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      I’m excited for you! I hope you love it here. Spring is really nice because everything is in bloom. :) Also, it’s very green!

  • Lesley May 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am inspired by the slow fashion movement but have been unable to give up some mall stores completely. Your words have hit home in a way that others haven’t before.

    On a related note, I am feeling the same way towards furniture/ home wares, etc. The “fast” consumer culture extends well beyond clothes and there are some amazing, ethical makers in all fields now. Other empires are falling!

    • Andrea May 7, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      I’m truly honored and humbled by your words Lesley! Excited for you as you continue on this ethical/sustainable clothing path. And I’d like to give a big “amen!” to your second statement. I agree!! I feel like my eyes have been opened even more because I live in a city that is full of artisans and carefully crafted goods. I think making purchases like that leads to us valuing and keeping what we buy longer, rather than moving cheap decor in and out of our house based on the latest decorating trend. Other empires are falling!

  • Lauren Greenwalt May 5, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Great post Andrea. It’s awesome to hear this from other local designers too, very refreshing.

    I am happy to say that my closet is becoming more – vintage / hand / ethically made, focused, rather than filling it with quick indulgences of fast fashion. I no longer shop at H&M and make a point not to.

    Thanks for sharing Andrea! :)

    • Andrea May 7, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Wooohoo! That’s awesome Lauren!! I LOVE hearing this!! It’s kind of liberating to not be temped by the latest window displays at stores like H&M, huh?