The Year of Slow Fashion: Q&A with Rachel Bethke

Making the commitment to the Slow Movement can mean a huge change for some. It involves taking a sober look at your consumption habits and core values. It is not always easy to break bad shopping habits such as: grabbing convenience food when in a rush or stopping by the mall with friends for some “retail therapy” but is truly worth the effort.

Some dip their toe in the waters of change and wade in slowly making small commitments at a time until they are fully-formed good habits, but not Rachel Bethke. Having grown up on a farm with first-hand experience with Slow Food, Slow Fashion was a likely next step for which she dove in head-long committing to a year of conscious fashion consumption.

Rachel has been chronicling her trials, triumphs and expressive style in her blog: The Year of Slow Fashion. Now that she most of the way through her personal challenge to slow down we asked her to reflect on what she has learned and how she has grown:

How and where did you hear about Slow Movement?

Slow Food really changed the terminology of what I was already doing. I first heard about slow food after watching Food INC and getting into discussions about it at my local college. As an agriculture major I have always had a weird dichotomy fighting me on this front. My education told me that agriculture in general was good and animals were being treated properly through good ‘animal science’ programs. Then I began doing more reading and realizing the meat I was eating was improperly treated and I began caring more about eating local/sustainable foods.

Growing up on a farm where we have fresh produce ½ of the year put me in a totally different position than some people. I have always been aware of where food comes from because for a large part of my plate it came from my backyard, my transition to becoming a vegan has made me think about Slow Food even more. The reason I have joined both these movements and the slow food movement as a vegan is to reduce my footprint on the earth. I know we are at a point where global warming is happening and not going to get better, but I feel like if I do my part I at least can say that I tried.

I think I began hearing about the slow movement in general when I started reading Adbusters in high school. The first thing that really made me start thinking about it was their celebration of BUY NOTHING DAY. It brought the absurdity of how we consume and how silly it is that every year on one day (black Friday) the United States becomes insane for cheap stuff. The first time I heard the term ‘Slow Fashion’ though was when I was reading a lot of books I came across Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline. It put together everything I already knew about the fashion industry from Adbusters and my personal research which inspired me to do this challenge for myself.

When you began The Year of Slow Fashion what did you hope to achieve personally and as a voice in the blogosphere?

At first I started it just for personal reasons, but I realized quickly that I want people to see that slowing down consumption does not mean you have to look unstylish or frumpy, it’s quite the opposite. When I personally started slowing down and observing my style from afar I think I began to understand my personal style better and it has only grown.


Now that you are most of the way through a year of slow fashion, what have you discovered about yourself and your consumption habits?

HOLY COW. What was I thinking? Is my initial thought when I just read that question.I mean I really have set myself up for quite the challenge and it has been quite a challenge so far. The one thing I have noticed is my clothes are very emotionally driven, some days I wake up and it’s lucky I put on my yoga pants and go to yoga. Other days I love getting dressed up and going out. I definitely am taking more fashion risks than I used to, I think I just see fashion differently now.

In terms of my consumption I have become aware of how much I relied on fast fashion. It was cheap and I was cheap and it was so easy to do! Now that I think about it more it seems silly, most of those pieces don’t even exist in my closet or if they do I have altered/adjusted them quite significantly.

How has Slow Fashion impacted the way you spend, where you shop, and how you view & use the clothing you already own?

Slow Fashion has impacted how I shop in every possible way. I honestly hadn’t gone into a mall since the blog started except a few days ago because I got a Victoria’s Secret gift card for my birthday (which I still haven’t spent mind you…). It was strange going to the mall. I honestly walked into Forever 21 just to see what was going on and I just wanted to yell really loud EVERYONE SLOW DOWN!!!!!

Instead I really enjoy going thrifting and to estate sales. It’s like a kind of game trying to find amazing pieces, it’s much more like hide and seek than going to the mall. The mall has 20 of the same thing that you can go and look up online before you go, whereas with vintage/thrifting there is maybe one thing, and it might fit you, and it might be nice and it might be what you are looking for. It’s so much fun!

I am also fully obsessed with Etsy, and although I don’t buy much I sure do waste a good chunk of time on many vintage/handmade stores there. I also have been loving searching for sewing patterns and DIY ideas. I find myself drooling over Megan Nielsen patterns and vintage lots on ebay.

BUT I DON’T REALLY BUY VERY MUCH AT ALL. Partially because I am between jobs and the other reason is because I really do want my consumption curbed. Before I started slowing down my fashion I would have bought so many ridiculous things at the spur of the moment. Now I take so much time to shop its probably annoying. I have realized though, that my wardrobe is not exactly what I want it so some spending must occur. Plus, if there is an amazing vintage dress that fits me perfectly it’s obviously meant to be.

I used to just browse the mall about 1 time a week, not really consciously, sometimes I would come out with something that generally would be too expensive or not fit well and I may wear once or twice; it was always on sale, always from a fast fashion joint and never made me feel good. Now, I leave my local thrift store which donates all the funds to the humane society, or a vintage shop run by the sweetest locals and feel so HAPPY about my consumption. I feel like that right there is the definition of SLOW CONSUMPTION. Being aware of it, enjoying it and getting a thrill out of it, not the kind of high you get by scanning your American Express every other day, but the kind you get knowing that your consumption is going to something greater than you.


What is your advice to someone looking to make the switch to slowing down?

I say give yourself a 30 day challenge. They are always fun and if you fail you’ve only failed a small challenge. Always make your goal personal and stick to it. If you are not a very self-regulating individual you may need a friend help you. I mean slowing down your fashion consumption is a little like quitting smoking. Some people get a sort of ‘shopper’s high’ buying stuff all the time, sometimes you need a support group to get over it.

I recommend that your 30 day challenge be to try to not buy anything for a month and use what you have in the backs of your closet, be more creative and utilize social media to help you decide what to wear (I personally love using the iPhone app GO TRY IT ON to help decide what to wear).
Another good option is to just do a little more research on the brands in your closet. I think you will be surprised how many are ‘slow’ and how many ARE NOT AT ALL. It may not sway you either way but it is another way of just becoming more aware of what you are doing day to day, which is the whole idea of the Slow Movement.

The passion, personality, and sense of humor that Rachel brings to her personal challenge is certain to inspire many to join the Slow Movement in large and small ways: either taking the plunge to not buy new for a year or to simply reevaluate what one already owns before purchasing anything new.

Follow the rest of Rachel’s Year of Slow Fashion on her blog, facebook, and Twitter.
Also, be sure to check out Rachel’s favorite local designer, Tenden on Etsy!


Images courtesy of Rachel Bethke, The Year of Slow Fashion.

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One Comment

  1. Clare wrote:

    Great interview! I especially loved Rachel’s description how consumption can still feel good, as long as it’s coming from the right sources (local, thrift, etc).