Slow Fashion: Focusing on Quality with Sustainable Materials.

Categories: Extra

There is a growing trend within the fashion world for sustainable, ethical clothing. At the forefront of this movement is Carin Mansfield, a designer who devotes herself to the art of "slow fashion".

This style is, she says, designed to oppose the "fast food" approach to fashion, practised by chains on the high street.

From her small, independent shop in central London, In-ku, she sells clothes inspired by old workwear, each garment made individually and locally.

Carin Mansfield, founder of clothing brand Universal Utility, is trying to do.

Walking into her minimalist, small four-storey shop, In-ku, on a central London side street, with white washed walls and just a few garments hanging on hooks on each floor, is a complete contrast to the busy, crowded shops just a few steps away on Tottenham Court Road.

The clothes she makes are inspired by old workwear. Pre-washed so they won't shrink further and slightly crumpled, the loose fitting garments are sewn precisely, with all raw edges hidden.

Her three London-based machinists make each garment individually, rather than parts of the whole such as in a factory, and are paid per item of clothing, rather than by the hour.

It means there's no economy of scale, and Ms Mansfield says that to create garments in this work intensive way "you've got to be a slight maniac".

She spent two decades working like this as a wholesaler, including a 10-year collaboration with Comme des Garcons, but rejected an offer from the Japanese fashion label to make her clothes under licence, after seeing the samples and realising it just wasn't possible to scale up her work without significantly compromising the quality.

Instead she set up the shop, where each item costs an average of £500. To make sufficient profit, she should charge between £800 and £900, but she says it's "hard enough" to sell them at their current price.

Explaining why the clothes cost so much is difficult she says, adding that sometimes you sound too much like you're trying to sell them, and the vast majority of customers aren't interested.

After two years in business, she takes a small salary, but is not in profit. But she says she's okay with the fact she hasn't made a fortune.

"Making something of quality that is appreciated is worth lots more in the end," she says.

“The problem is that all the Primarks and these types of stores on the high street have given people a false sense of how much work goes into garment making. I call it ‘fast food’ fashion. My clothes I would call ‘slow fashion’. Customers have come back to me who have bought stuff 20 years ago that I made and they still come in wearing the clothes. Every one of my pieces takes a machinist who has been on the machines 40 years a day to make. Each garment is made one by one. It’s better to buy fewer things, that’s what we advocate, buy one good thing that you love and wear to death. Hopefully my clothes will be able to be worn in 50 years.”

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