UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Textiles and the slow fashion movement : creating community through cloth Raven, Sarah Margaret


The fashion industry is one of the largest economic systems in the world. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the fashion Industry was generating upwards of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars of global revenue, employed billions of workers, and resulted in the consumption of 80 billion pieces of new clothing each year. While the pandemic brought minor setbacks for many brands, the fashion industry has seen rapid growth in recent years, and with this growth comes major issues to the social and environmental impacts involved in the making of clothing. People working in textile and garment factories are often faced with poor working conditions, miniscule wages, and regular contact with hazardous materials, risking their lives and safety to produce trendy, often inexpensive clothing for overseas consumption. The use of chemical manufacturing processes, synthetic materials and dyes, industrialized farming of natural fibers, and considerable amounts of pre- and post-consumer waste has made the fashion industry one of the most substantial in terms of its negative environmental impact. As consumers become more aware of these issues, there is an increasing demand for ethical and environmentally sustainable clothing brands that support equitable conditions for their workers, ensure fair pay throughout the supply chain, and reduce the use of hazardous manufacturing processes and associated environmental impacts. This thesis includes a case study of a small textile and clothing business located in Vancouver, BC, Maiwa Handprints (Maiwa). Maiwa utilizes a “human scale” or “slow” business model to prioritize building and strengthening relationships with the artisans they work with by focusing on preserving traditional production methods, fostering creative exploration and education, and building a community of thoughtful producers, consumers, and crafts people iv around the world. The Maiwa case study is compared with data from leading fashion industry experts to assess the impacts of a slow fashion business model in creating economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable practices in the textile and fashion industries. Anthropological analysis also reveals deep human connections to cloth and clothing and the ways in which it can reflect, shape, and even create our social and cultural realities.

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