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A Lesson in Slow Fashion

A Lesson in Slow Fashion by Colleen Kanna
Last week I got a lesson in slow fashion. So much so that I didn't even get out my weekly blog post.
When I say 'slow fashion', what does that mean to you? For me, the consumer, what immediately comes to mind is the opposite of fast disposable fashion. By definition, slow fashion is the conscious choice to buy better quality clothing less often, to not chase after the latest trends at the cheapest price. 
For me, the designer, slow fashion means taking the time to develop well-thought-out and well-designed pieces for the customer who is near and dear to my heart, women over 40. Real life, real women with all their triumphs and struggles, successes and failures, ups and downs, in sickness and in health.
For me, it's taking the time to talk with women, having customer conversations, to see what they like, what they don’t like, and what’s on their wish list. It means designing over time, letting it evolve, and not being in a rush to get new styles to market.
I don’t want to be like software developers: just get it out there as quickly as possible, bugs and all, and then fix it later with patches and updates and new versions. Where being the first to market is the holy grail. Nope, I am not interested in that. I want to get it right or as right as can be from the start. I would rather delay then put something out there in a rush and not be happy with the fit, the drape, the design details.
Last week working with my design development and manufacturing team, Duey and Milena, of Canadian Service Apparel, has been a lesson in slow fashion. We have been working on a tunic for over 3 months now. We have had a few iterations of the sample but it has not come together like I wanted it to.

One of the problems was the delay in getting my customized fabric. So we have been working on samples in old fabric, still bamboo, but not the same composition. Well, what we have learned is only do samples in the fabric you intend to use in production. Different fabrics behave differently even if they are only slightly different. Lesson learned.

So I am delaying the tunic until Spring/Summer or maybe in even next Fall. I want to take the time to get the design right with the new fabric and then try it on women and get their feedback. Find out what they like and what they don't like. Then tweak and make adjustments and try it on again. It takes many iterations. It takes time to get it right. Patience. That is what slow fashion is about...patience.

I am very happy with the new cardigan and pant. We have been working hard at getting the design right. Again once the new fabric arrived, it changed the design. Not what I was expecting. The rib behaved differently from the one used in the sample. I am so grateful for Duey and Milena who patiently worked with me to get the look and feel I wanted. It really was a slow and deliberate process, lots of trial and error. Our mantra was "Let's try it and see". Many times it didn't work, but how do you know until you try.

It's a learning process which can be frustrating if you let it be. And boy, was I letting it be but then I stepped back and decided to look at it with curiosity and an "Oh that's what happens when you sew it this way with this fabric". Then it became more about enlightenment, evolution, and figuring it out which led to the 'aha' moments and that was way more fun. You can't rush the creative process. It takes time. But the result is well worth it. Something you can be proud of. That's slow fashion. 

Colleen Kanna

Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of COKANNA Designs, a line of stylish bamboo Canadian-made clothing for women over 40. Five percent of sales are donated to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in support of their Head Start Program for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.


  • Colleen

    Thank you for your message, Robin. it is customers like you who come to mind when I need to slow down, take a deep breath, and patiently move forward one step at a time. So thank you!

  • Robin

    Thank you for taking the take the time……it will be worth it !
    Have a great weekend..:):):)

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