Slow Fashion in a Fast World

Petra Mason speaks to the founder of fashion brand Twyg about consciously building a sustainable clothing collection that focuses on timeless, high-quality design over trend-driven pieces.

By Petra Mason
Sindiso Khumalo’s line will be shown at Confections X Collections this week

As sweater weather descends on the north, down south we are already slammed with summer (no spring again this year, thanks global warming). For the fashion forward in the global south it’s T-shirt time, which means buying mass market – or does it? Surely we all have enough summer clothing? The buck (literally) stops with us, as does the impact of feeding the fast fashion monster.

“The disconnection between maker, designer and end consumer within the extractive fashion industry has never been more apparent,” says Twyg founder Jackie May. The Twyg ethos is calling for something new – a slow, sustainable and ethical fashion eco-system and textile industry that reflects Africa’s cultures.

Twyg founder – Jackie May

What do you collect and from where?

“I buy very few clothes as I don’t have a big budget. When I do buy, I’m careful. I tend to buy local designers whose work I admire. By prioritising sustainable, locally made textiles and products, we support the South African economy, create more jobs, strengthen communities and reduce the impact of imported fast fashion on the environment.”

Is sustainable collecting possible? 

“Anybody who buys clothes with a long-term vision to keep and look after them and wear them over many seasons is buying sustainably. The most sustainable garment is already in your wardrobe! If you choose clothes carefully knowing that you will wear them for a long time – that is sustainable collecting.”

Jackie and Renée Neblett, founder and executive director of Kokrobitey Institute

How do you approach collecting in general?  

“ Collecting for the sake of collecting doesn’t really make sense to me. I am mindful of what I spend my money on and I wear my clothes for a long time. For example, I am wearing an AKJP jacket that I spent (for me) a lot of money on a few years ago, and I wear it a lot. I wear it multiple times a week.”

What is intentional buying?

“Being intentional about what you buy. Know what you are looking for. Look out for archive sales and vintage swops. Do a deep-dive into your style and what suits you. You’ve got to understand your body shape. Do not to buy something that does not suit you. Finding your style can be a lot of fun. Have ‘fashion shows’ with friends and learn what suits you.”

What is slow-fashion?

“Locally produced, eco-friendly vs cheap, imported fast-fashion which is made mostly from fossil-fuel-derived synthetic fabrics.

According to GreenCape, a non-profit that drives the widespread adoption of economically viable green economy solutions, about six percent of our country’s total landfill waste is made up of textiles. How do we change this? 

“Twyg is on a mission to inspire a fashion and textile industry that’s kind, fair, inclusive, diverse, nature-friendly and sustainable while embracing circular design principles. One of our solution-driven platforms champions this path by hosting the invite-only annual Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards, happening in Cape Town this month.”

Laani Raani, winner of a Twyg Sustainable Fashion Award in 2022

No one understands the intersection of fashion and sustainability as you do. Why does South Africa need sustainable fashion awards?

“The annual awards, launched in 2019, not only celebrates pan-African designers, innovators, influencers and activists by awarding them for their hard work, but also projects what they are doing to a larger audience. This encourages consumers to shop sustainably and invites the next generation of designers (and consumers) to take a sustainable approach.”

Jackie with conference delegates at a recycling textile facility

Judging is underway for the invite-only awards. The Twyg awards manifesto “aims to inspire a fashion and textile industry that is kind, fair, inclusive, diverse, nature-friendly, sustainable, and one that embraces circular design principles. Believing that, ‘In a circular economy, fashion needs to be slow: it should aim for clothes to be used more, made to be made again, and made from safe and recycled, and renewable inputs’.”

The Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards finalists will be announced on 12 November 2023, and the winner will be announced on 23 November 2023.

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