A lot of back and forth went into sourcing the basic and most important raw material for the brand. We had to ensure what we source and where we source from stays true to our and the brand’s belief system. The challenges posed were many, the solutions very few. Much easier opportunities presented themselves in terms of getting easy access to fabrics or ready garments but we wanted to challenge ourselves. We wanted to start on the right note – source locally (& responsibly), sell globally.
We started on a year long journey but finally sourced 80% of the fabric for Slowli being sourced from Ugandan cotton farmers under CMIA- Cotton Made in Africa.
Cotton from CMIA is produced by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and is grown under rain-fed conditions, cultivated using pesticides and fertilizers in an effective and responsible way, and harvested by hand.
This means far less water consumption, more traceability and transparency in the supply chain, lesser greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton and more livelihoods for the small African farmer.
In many parts of the world, cotton is grown in large plantations, but in Africa it’s almost exclusively cultivated by smallholder farmers using crop rotation. Crop rotation means that the cotton is grown alternately with other crops, such as basic food crops like maize, soy or groundnuts. That reduces both leaching from the soil and the occurrence of pests. Cotton is often a complementary cash crop: it is cultivated for sale, alongside foods grown for subsistence. The cultivation methods also support smallholder farmers in growing food and thus make an important contribution to food security.
Smallholder farmers practice rain-fed cultivation, in other words they rely on natural rainfall being sufficient to water the crops. The wet and dry phases in agricultural parts of Africa suit the cotton plant. In its growth phases, cotton is highly sensitive to excess moisture: In the first phase of sprouting and growth, the cotton plant needs moist soil, whereas in the ripening phase too much moisture damages the quality of the fibres. All available rainwater has to be used efficiently, especially in drier parts of Africa. That requires the balanced use of fertiliser or mulching, whereby the soil between the cotton plants is covered with organic material, such as leaves, to reduce the loss of moisture through evaporation.
It is man versus machine: cotton in the US, Brazil and Australia is harvested using gigantic machines, but in agricultural parts of Africa harvesting is done mainly by hand. Of course, that takes much longer, but it also has major benefits compared with machine harvesting. The machine makes one pass through the cotton field taking, not only the cotton boll, but everything in the field; however, human pickers work in a much more careful and environmentally-sound way, taking only completely mature fibre bolls. Hand-picked cotton is also cleaner, because the machines take considerable quantities of soil, leaves, twigs, etc. with them.
Another benefit is that hand picking, unlike machine harvesting, does not use defoliants, so there is less chemical contamination of the cotton. However, there are also quality issues that face African hand-picked cotton. Plastic waste has unfortunately spread, even to remote villages in Africa, and may lead to the presence of foreign material.
Going into the future our endeavor would be to work with similar procurement of fabrics that are eco-friendly or work with dead stock fabrics (that get left over from other giant garment manufacturers).
Right from the inception of the brand, we were both sure of one thing -We women come in all beautiful shapes and sizes and fast fashion just doesn’t cut it for most of us. Women a.k.a multi-taskers have so many emotions, so many thoughts and so many physical fluctuations over a single day that the last thing we need is worrying about what we’re wearing is complementing our mood and sensibility at a particular hour of the day.
That was our starting point. As professionals, mothers, home-makers and all of the above we needed to make something that was breathable, formless yet feel good, easy of wear and show off (wink wink). Something that was fashionable but functional at the same time. For eg most of our clothes can be easily worn by new mom’s who constantly need to be ready to feed their babies.
Something that was versatile yet compatible with your surroundings. For eg Most of our clothes can be done up or down according to where you are. In office – just throw a blazer on top and voila you’re ready. Have to rush for happy hour after office – off goes the blazer, on goes a belt and scarf and some chunky earrings and there you go. We’ve also made sure we give as much styling tips and advice with each of our garments to maximize wear and glamor.
MORE WITH LESS
There is a reason we proudly call ourselves Slowli. We’re not big on fast moving trends and cheap materials. We want you to wear our pieces for many seasons to come, on many occasions. At Slowli, we believe that less in more! Throughout our website and social media pages you’ll see us encouraging you to wear a single garment on different occasions in different ways. All this while looking FABULOUS!
With the world becoming more and more conscious about healthy choices and how we can contribute in our own small ways to make this planet a better place, we can all start with something that is so close to us and in our very own hands. Clothes. By being slightly mindful and following a few easy steps we all can give a longer life to our garments. Ensuring they don’t end up stacking the landfills somewhere by wearing them for as long as we can and then perhaps looking at ways to recycle. We ensure we make good quality products that last but we need your help in ensuring they’re cared for.
Some Wash Care Tips to follow:
- Wash less. Wear more. Think before you wash your garment – Do you really need to wash it. Remove stains between washes. If there is a small stain that can be removed locally, don’t put the entire garment through a washing cycle. Follow the wash care instructions if you can.
- Handwashing your clothes has several advantages: with the right approach, you can save water and energy (also money!). Handwashing can also be gentler on some items, meaning a longer lifespan while maintaining their stretch, padding and accessories. Wash separate colors together. No time for handwash? No worries. Just use the minimum or eco-friendly option on your machine.
- Air-dry your clothes if you can. After taking your cotton item out of the washing machine, gently shake it to avoid deep wrinkles, and immediately hang or lay flat to air-dry. Using the dryer puts them out of shape before they should and racks up your electricity bill too J
- Wash Cold. A quick tip for little to no effort is to wash your garments in cold water. Modern washing powders and detergents are now able to clean clothes effectively at a lower temperature. This saves a lot on heating energy – and even washing at 30 degrees uses around 40% less energy than higher temperatures.
Recycle! We’re proud of you for making it through the life of your garment. If an item can no longer be worn, or you simply know it does not bring you joy anymore then try this. If it’s still wearable, give it to a friend, donate it to a thrift shop, or repurpose it. If the garment is no longer wearable, recycle it. (No it does not mean dumping it in your nearest second-hand bin) Instead, find a service in your area that recycles textiles. Going into the future Slowli aims to start a recycle program where we will happily take your old Slowli garments and in turn reward you for it :) Keep watching this space for more.
Our products also make for great gifts. “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you”. Encourage your friends and family to make responsible fashion choices too.
Handloom weavers in India - Uplifting small artisans
Leather certifications and sourcing – Focusing on Cruelty free
Manufacturing unit certifications – Uplifting local businesses and communities