I love the idea of Slow Food, the movement that emphasizes good food, clean agriculture, and fair wages. Slow Food means slowing down and being mindful about what we eat, where it comes from, and how we eat it. And only good can come of that.
While I have been sold on the benefits of Slow Food for quite some time, I have a lot to learn when it comes to Slow Fashion. Stemming directly from the Slow Food Movement, Slow Fashion emphasizes the same principles: good, clean, and fair. This means producing quality, long-lasting, beautiful pieces; using eco-friendly materials and processes; and paying fair wages to the workers involved in production.
In today’s post, I’m partnering with Nordstrom Mission Viejo to celebrate Slow Food in their cafe and learn about Slow Fashion with some of their favorite brands. I’ll be examining how these two “slow” movements play out in the real world — the one in which we all need food, we all need clothing, and we are limited by time, money, and our small children who tag along everywhere we go (or is that just me? Probably not!).
Slow Food focuses just as much on the pleasures of eating well as it does on the responsibilities we share in understanding where our food comes from. Founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini in Italy, and sustained in the United States by figures like Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and Michael Pollan, the Slow Food Movement engages our senses as well as our politics, asking us to sacrifice a little speed and a little convenience in exchange for a more mindful approach to what we consume.
Waters has said that “only slow food can teach us the things that really matter — care, beauty, concentration, discernment, sensuality, all the best that humans are capable of, but only if we take the time to think about what we’re eating.” It’s relatively easy to envision how slowing things down in regards to our food would be a win-win-win, making our meals more enjoyable, nourishing, and ethical.
Slow Food “How-To”
But reconciling the principles of Slow Food with the demands of our busy, modern lives — the pace of which is amplified by the demands of motherhood — is not always easy. So I try to find space in my life, here and there, where I can “slow down” our food (at least a little).
For me and my family, this means:
- Cooking from scratch as frequently as possible. To make this happen, I keep our meals simple, cook in batches and freeze extras for later, and use Sundays to prep for the week.
- Sourcing produce locally. This is made much easier with Imperfect Produce deliveries. I’ve also enjoyed subscribing to CSA boxes from Tanaka Farms in Irvine and South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano, and of course shopping at farmers’ markets (although farmers’ market trips are far less frequent now than before kids).
- Avoiding purchasing from large food companies that cavalierly damage the environment and our health. Read more about Nestle, for example, if you want to lose your appetite for processed food.
- Eating mindfully and without distraction, making mealtime a sacred space in our home. This means phones, TVs, and iPads are not allowed at the dinner table. We also use Ellyn Satter’s strategies to avoid mealtime drama.
Slow Food in Nordstrom’s Marketplace Cafe
It’s hard enough to adhere to Slow Food principles at home; it can seem virtually impossible to do so when we eat out, without access to the behind-the-scenes of restaurant kitchens. So I’m always thrilled to find a place that is transparent about how it sources its ingredients, and offers dishes that are equal parts delicious and healthy.
If you’ve eaten at one of Nordstrom’s cafes, you already know how delicious the food is. But I got the scoop from the manager at the Mission Viejo Nordstrom Marketplace Cafe, and was thrilled to also learn about the attention the cafe pays to sourcing its ingredients and preparing them carefully. We’re talking organic, local, seasonal, from-scratch, with minimal waste. Check, check, check, check, check!
The cafe rotates its menu with specials that celebrate the best of the season, and also has one of the best kids meals in town: multigrain pasta with marinara and a side of fruit. My kids think it’s great and I think it’s great for them! So it’s basically the Holy Grail of feeding children.
Slow fashion focuses on beautiful, long-lasting pieces, eco-friendly materials and processes, and fair wages for workers. It is directly opposed to fast fashion: clothes purchased for dirt cheap, that follow trends lasting no more than a season, that lose their shape and develop holes within a few wears. The term was first used by Kate Fletcher, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, who compared Slow Fashion to the Slow Food movement.
What exactly is wrong with fast fashion? It’s a “race to the bottom,” in which factories pollute the environment and violate workers’ human rights in an effort to produce as quickly and cheaply as possible. Surprisingly, fashion is the second largest polluter in the world, behind the oil industry. And part of the movement’s impetus was the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, in which a building collapsed on workers making clothing for large, western brands, killing more than 1,100 people.
Slow Fashion “How-To”
Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, writes that we should “think less of owning the latest or cheapest thing and develop more of a relationship with the things we wear.”
This relationship should allow us to transform what we already own, in order “to create something beautiful, stylish, and very meaningful,” says Sasha Duerr, founder of Permacouture, in an interview on Foodie Underground. This can be a “moving, sensory, and very powerful environmental and creative act. This is much like knowing where your food has come from, or learning to grow food or cook for yourself.”
Tips for practicing Slow Fashion with our own shopping habits include:
- Building a wardrobe over time and avoiding impulsive shopping decisions
- Learning about brands, and finding out where products, materials, and labor are coming from
- Spreading the word about brands embodying Slow Fashion
- Saving well-made pieces
- Patching and altering our clothes
In My Closet
While I work (relatively) hard to trace the origins of my food — I shop locally, love my Vital Farms Alfresco eggs, and stick to organic, properly-raised meats — I have very little idea where my clothing comes from. And whereas I’m conscious about budgeting extra money for food that serves our health, protects the environment, and supports local farmers, my eyes light up at the sight of a shirt on sale. For $15. Made of polyester. That will go out of style by next month.
So my approach to shopping is in dire need of a transformation — a sort of Whole30 for the shopaholic. However, I was happy to find just a few items in my wardrobe that embody Slow Fashion principles. And after learning more about the attention these brands pay to creating good, clean, and fair products, I plan to prioritize purchasing from them when I need something new.
Each of these brands is sold at Nordstrom, which prioritizes quality and is a good bet for sourcing Slow Fashion. “I love that we carry a lot of slow fashion brands that are empowering to the environment and the future of fashion,” says Annie Gendrau, a friend of mine and stylist for Nordstrom. “These are great brands that are on-trend and give back. It’s a win all around!”
We are big fans of Patagonia in our house. This brand is the epitome of Slow Fashion, as its mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, in his book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, says that “everything we personally own that’s made, sold, shipped, stored, cleaned, and ultimately thrown away does some environmental harm every step of the way, harm that we’re either directly responsible for or is done on our behalf.”
To that end, the company supports repairing, trading in, and buying used Patagonia products at Worn Wear. It pledges 10 percent of profits to environmental groups. And it tracks its supply chain, transparently chronicling the conditions in which Patagonia products are produced.
Although his Patagonia wetsuit cost him twice as much as a normal wetsuit, it lasted him five times as long. “Normally, a wetsuit lasts me one season,” he said. “My Patagonia suit has lasted five years and is still going strong.”
And when a seam opened up on the side, he sent it to Patagonia and they repaired the seam and sent it back free of charge. “Better than new,” he said.
beek shoes are another example of a purchase that costs more upfront, but pays off in the long run. The beek founders developed these shoes, which are handmade and take 48 hours apiece to create, after growing tired of Fast Fashion and disposable products. The shoes are made with 100 percent leather, which is an expensive and labor-intensive process, and actually pretty rare (most manufacturers cut costs on “leather” shoes by using rubber on the bottom of the shoe, which means the shoe will not stand the test of time). But 100 percent leather means that the shoes actually get better with age, rather than wearing out.
Cline says, “There are very few high-quality garments being produced at all. A very, very small amount. So small that most people never even see it in their lifetimes. People are wearing rags, basically.” So a company like beek, intensely focused on creating high-quality, long-lasting products, should be celebrated.
I’m lucky enough to have received a pair as a gift (don’t be jealous — they were meant to make me feel better for getting cancer… and they DID!). I’m in love with my Beek Puffin loafer, and am also head-over-heels for the bestselling Beek Finch sandal and Beek Lark Sandal.
Treasure and Bond
Treasure and Bond is a Nordstrom brand that donates 2.5% of its net sales to organizations that support youth. For the last year, Treasure and Bond has been funding YWCA in the United States and Canada, and in the U.S. specifically the funds have been designated for the YWCA’s TechGyrls initiative, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).
I have a Treasure and Bond denim jacket from a few seasons ago that I love and wear all the time (no longer available). The price was right, it’s held up great, and goes with everything.
“Treasure and Bond has go-to wardrobe staples like denim, tees, plaid shirts and jackets with a great lived-in vintage style,” said Gendreau. “It’s Nordstrom’s first-ever private label, giving the shopper quality as well as the the satisfaction of doing good.”
Gendreau shared with us an outfit put together from a few of Treasure and Bond’s best current picks: Drusy Stud Set, Throw-On Cardigan, Bond Loose Fit Ankle Skinny Jeans, and Winsor Block Heel Bootie.
Vote with Your Wallet: Slow Food and Slow Fashion
“Every purchase we make is a vote for the sort of business we want to see, and whether this is shopping at a local farmer’s market or buying ethically-made fashion, we as individuals have the ability to influence markets,” says Cora Hilts, co-founder of sustainable fashion retailer Reve En Vert, in a Life & Thyme article.
Our role as consumers is an important one, and we vote with our wallets for the kind of world we want to live in. And while I can’t promise that I won’t ever make an Old Navy Clearance purchase again, I can say that I’ll think twice about it. Just as I do when shopping for food. Join me in striving to slow down, and focus on getting a little better, a little more knowledgeable, and a little more mindful each day.