Kwantlen student helps slow fashion movement gain momentum

A Q&A with Kwantlen fashion design student Sarah Fairweather.

A Q&A with Kwantlen fashion design student Sarah Fairweather.

By Tabitha Swanson
[associate culture editor]

Sarah Fairweather, a fourth-year fashion design student, sits stylishly the Richmond KSA lounge. With her slightly-disheveled, curly red hair and a tape measure slung around her neck, she looks like a designer on a mission.

Collection by fashion design student Sarah Fairweather.

On April 17, the fashion design and technology program is putting on their annual fashion show at the River Rock Show Theatre. The fashion show is a final project for all students in the fourth year of the bachelor program. Using the skills they have acquired from their studies, every student must design a line of clothing for it.

Fairweather has chosen to create her women’s clothing line using the principle of slow fashion. The slow fashion movement promotes a more relaxed life pace and valuing how and where something was made as opposed to solely the price. Slow fashion ideas include: buying local, fair trade, buying organic, buying quality over quantity, and wasting less resources. Slow fashion isn’t something that is just a fashion-industry trend; we can see it in food, architecture, jewelry, and local businesses.

Fast fashion is what companies such as H&M or Zara are using. When a new trend comes out, they have it designed and made within a week. The clothes we get from these stores aren’t made to last long. Sometimes, after just one wash, you’ll find them falling apart. The slow fashion movement believes we should change that, and reduce the amount of waste we are dumping into the world.


Q: In what way is slow fashion clothing constructed differently?

A: Well, there is a lot of textile design, so it’s the handiwork and the craftsmanship that goes into it. I have a coat that’s needle-felted, so everything’s placed by hand and then needle felted in place… and then all the finishing and construction is good, and the fabric quality is really good, so it’s going to last.

Q: Do you feel as though that is how the trend of fashion is going to go? Back to buying quality instead of quantity?

A: I feel like there is starting to be a shift in buying quality product, but I think the real shift is that people are really starting to think and ask questions. With other movements like slow food, or buying organic, buying local farmers markets – you’re starting to see that in fashion. People are wondering things like, “Who made this? What conditions were they in when they made this? Were they treated well? Were chemicals dumped into the water?” People are just starting to ask questions like how it’s made and where it came from. If you look at the mass market, it’s not going to be like that anytime soon, but it is definitely going to make people think.

Q: Do you think that you would start reworking fashion (using already made clothes to make new ones)?

A: We don’t have a system in place, so you don’t really know what you are working with in terms of the fiber content and stuff like that. I think for me, what’s interesting is scrap material. In one season, if you make coats, you have all this leftover fabric. You can then use that fabric as embellishment in the next season and that saves the fabric from being wasted. Then you know where that fabric has come from and how to care for it.

Q: What are some things you are doing with your collection to prevent waste? 

A: In part of my collection, some of my things are rust-dyed. I went to the scrapyard last year for the first time, which I think was just a really cool experience in itself, like to see where your garbage goes. It’s really sad and it really makes you start to think. I think rust-dying is one of the coolest things because you get to take something that’s garbage and you get all these really interesting shapes because of the metals. All you do is you soak your fabric in vinegar and water, and then wrap it in the rust. You can leave it out for days and you just kind of see how it’s developing. And then, once it’s done, you just rinse it out and it’s set. It’s a really good dying practice because with many dyes, you have to mix it with chemicals and you’re using so much water, whereas this, I leave it out in the rain. It’s actually really good in Vancouver because it rains all the time.

Collection by fashion design student Sarah Fairweather.

Q: What prompted you to start going to farmer’s markets and promote other sustainable, local endeavors? 

A: I think this kind of started in the summer time, I studied abroad in England and I think by travelling around, my perspective started to change and I started to really think. When you go any place you start to really think how fortunate you are and just start to really look at the way that you live. I started to question the way I did things, and I think this summer I just started doing a lot of reading. I was reading books on textile future and sustainability. I have a friend who is at Emily Carr in her fourth year and she’s doing her grad project on slowing down Vancouver. We would just go on bike rides in the summer time and then just tell each other what we’d read. Initially, I didn’t know that what I was talking about and what I was thinking about was called slow fashion, it was just talking about changing the way we do different practices and it just developed.

A: What are some other highlights you are looking forward to at the fashion show?

Q: Ohh, highlights. Well I’m really excited for everyone’s line. This year, there’s a lot more women’s wear and I think just a lot of visually interesting lines. I’m really excited to see everyone I’ve worked with for the last four years and see the end product of it all. I think that will be the biggest highlight, just seeing all of the collections together.

You can buy tickets at Tickets for the matinee show are $20 and tickets for the evening show are $40.