News / Fashion

Taking a walk down fashion’s slow lane

Sydney Road tour aims to show shoppers how to dress themselves without damaging the planet

Stylist Jenna Flood says Brunswick is blessed to have so many second-hand clothing shops.

Mark Phillips
Tuesday, July 19, 2022

YOU’VE heard of slow food, now prepare yourself for slow fashion.

It’s all about stepping off the fashion treadmill, buying pre-loved clothes, mending what you already have, and dressing more sustainably, says Brunswick-based stylist Jenna Flood, who will be conducting slow fashion tours of Sydney Road over the next two weekends.

She says that with its plethora of op shops, progressive outlook and a small but growing community of sustainable designers, Brunswick has the potential to be an epicentre for the slow fashion movement, which has emerged in response to concerns about the impact the fashion industry has on the environment and labour standards.

“Fashion whether it’s slow or fast uses up Earth’s resources, and we don’t have many left, so I think we need to just slow it right down to sort of preserve what we have left,” Ms Flood says.

“For me slow fashion is everything from buying nothing at all, to mending your clothing, to supporting local brands, op shopping, making your clothing.

“I think it’s a little political statement every time I mend my clothing, instead of buying something new, every time I sell my clothing and then buy something sustainably made, I think it’s sort of a political statement to rewear something 50 times, rather than buying something new.

“I just don’t think we can keep buying fast fashion clothes from Shein and H&M and keep going in an economy like that. Because the Earth will soon disappear if we keep reaping all those resources.”

After growing up in a part of rural Tasmania where the closest clothing retailers were a 45 minute drive away, Ms Flood, 33, admits that when she first moved to Melbourne in the late-noughties for tertiary study she embraced the fast fashion lifestyle, shopping every weekend and spending much of her income on new clothes she would only wear a couple of times before discarding them.

But her eyes were opened about half a decade ago when she saw a film called Minimalism: A Documentary about Important Things, which had a life-changing impact.

“It just made me realise that I didn’t need so much and I didn’t need to have the latest thing, I could still be happy with what I already owned,” she says.

“That sort of led me down the path of zero waste, veganism, and then eventually slow fashion. I just found they’re all interconnected.

“And it just felt right to me, and made me also save money as well. And also helped me be part of a new community with lots of people who are into the same thing.”

Plunging herself into researching about the fashion industry, she discovered the damage caused to the environment both in the manufacture of clothing such as polluting of waterways by toxic dyes and chemicals and the dumping of used clothes as landfill, and the impact the global fashion industry has on workers in Third World countries.

“People are literally dying to make our clothing or not being treated fairly. There was a documentary I watched where a woman who worked in the garment factories only got to visit her young son maybe twice a year as he was growing up because she couldn’t afford to look after him. She had to send him to live with her parents. And I just really don’t want my clothing to contribute to something like that.”

“For me slow fashion is everything from buying nothing at all, to mending your clothing, to supporting local brands, op shopping, making your clothing.”

Since then, Ms Flood has launched her own career as a freelance stylist called Ironic Minimalist where she advises clients how to make best use of their existing wardrobe, to restock with second-hand clothes and to dress themselves sustainably.

She also works part-time at Mutual Muse, a second-hand clothing store in Sydney Road that operates with an unusual buy, sell and swap model.

She says fast fashion is driven by the commercial imperatives of clothing labels to continually encourage consumers to buy new season trends, amplified by traditional and social media.

The main barriers to slow fashion are access and time. To buy clothes from op shops requires an investment of time and effort that many people simply cannot afford.

Ms Flood senses there is change happening as consumers are more informed about the impact of fast fashion but she would like it to happen faster.

“I don’t say people buying fast fashion are baddies, I think it’s just the pressure of society and also the economy to buy more stuff,” she says.

“I’m very privileged because I can just hop down to the local op shop and have a browse anytime I want.

“But people who live further out, they don’t have the time to go op shopping. Or they might have children and they don’t have anyone to look after their children.

“It’s easy to go to Kmart, and it’s often cheaper to go to Kmart.”

Over the next two Saturdays, Ms Flood will be leading slow fashion tours along Sydney Road in conjunction with the Sydney Road Business Association.

The two-hour tours will visit six shops and designers, including Mutual Muse and Vinnies, spending about 20 minutes in each shop, and Ms Flood will explain her slow fashion philosophy and provide styling tips along the way.

“I just really want people to see that there is an alternative to fast fashion and that we don’t need to shop so fast,” she says.

“We really don’t need to support companies that are harming the environment. I want people to see the different options that are available to them, and to share my story and share what I’ve found.”

Each tour is limited to 15 people and costs $15.50, including the booking fee. Tickets can be booked online.