“Be proud of what you do.” said a Swedish voice, in a room filled by thirty people. This time I was going to wear a garment that someone else wore for months, and I would make patches on my garments that were worn out or torn, and I would even never mind the huge bite that my cat left with its teeth on my sweater, and keep its story. And also, I would be proud of it! I was happy; the ‘poverty’ of my childhood has now become fashionable in Sweden’s streets: ‘Slow Fashion’.
I would participate in a ‘boarding’ event for the second time after the Life Below Water Conference in Malmö in October, and let`s put aside if it was slow or fast, but its being about fashion had created some reservations in my mind. I was a PhD student studying on migration, and why would I join a fashion event! We were also asked to bring with us one or more garments that we used, we were bored with, or still liked but wished to share with someone else, and even, if we had another garment that required patches, stitches, or something else, we would also bring them with us. I sent an e-mail to the relevant department of the Swedish Institute stating that I wished to take part in the event, and finally I participated in the ‘Slow Fashion’ event in Stockholm on March 7-8, 2018. Let me tell you from the start; for the first time in a long time, I saw so many smiling people together, it was something I missed.
In the building of the Swedish Institute in Stockholm, the event began with presentations by Johanna Nilsson and Jennie Johansson, who embraced the ‘Slow Fashion’ lifestyle, with examples from their own life. Indicating that a slow and sustainable ‘fashion’ is possible, contrary to today’s fashion of fast consumption, the couple argued that we can not only create our own style with our garments, but also gain a consumption habit that reflects better quality and values at the same time. Speakers, who reminded us of the motto of “buy less, choose well, make it last” by giving reference to British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, tried to prove to us by simple mathematical calculations the fact that not how much we pay them, but how long we use them would show the quality of our garments: If you wore a sweater that you bought 100 SEK 100 times, that sweater would be a very sustainable choice because it cost you only 1 SEK for each time you wore it. Less washing of our garments, repair of worn out and torn parts of them and polishing and shining of shoes are a must for ‘Slow Fashion’. I have learned for the first time that wool garments clean themselves! You could clean your wool clothes in the open air in your balcony or under the steam (as well as ironed!) while you are taking a shower in the bathroom. And also, if you live in a climate like Sweden’s where snow is not uncommon, you could just put your wool garments on the snow to clean them. But it is also emphasized that if you want your garments to last long, you definitely should not dry them in the sun. And above all, all of these could start with little steps and turn into a habit, and then a lifestyle.
On the first day after lunch, the moment I was waiting for with curiosity came, and everybody took the garments they had brought out of their bags and hung up or put them on the table. The garments would be swapped, and of course, the ladies were much more enthusiastic in this regard than the men, and they outnumbered us. Some brought only one garment and returned with a few, some brought more than one garment and returned with one or none. It was the good side of swap based on sharing. I was already used to swapping garments with my twin brother when I was a child, and I also often wore the ‘old’ garments of my cousins; so, it was a great trip for me to my childhood for a short time at that moment. After the swap, that the person who brought the garment shared the story of it with the new owner of the garment and us created new meaning values in the room, and the theories of the presentation in the morning were practically performed in the same day’s afternoon.
After a pleasant evening and a nice morning breakfast, the second day flew by. Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives was waiting for us when we arrived at the Stadsmissionen Remake workshop, where even the secondhand blankets turned into garments or skirts, and the old gained new meanings and values in the talented hands. After a short presentation, everyone spread to the various corners of the workshop; some of them made patches on the garments they had brought, some of them stitched, some cut out the old garments and created new ones. And just as it was in previous posts, no ‘photoshop’ was used or no fake smile was attached to the faces you see in this post. One more thing: All the faces you see in this workshop were selected from the best students in their academic fields in their own countries, received an acceptance from a university in Sweden and entitled to the Swedish Institute scholarship. And, those people took pleasure of touching needle, thread and scissors at that moment. At the end of the workshop, it was absolutely worth seeing the moment when everybody presented us the new garments they created.
The last stop of the event was Filippa K. In the presentation of Sustainability Director Elin Larsson, we met with the concept of ‘circular fashion’. This concept, which includes the principles of “reduce, repair, reuse and recycle”, promotes us to be brave enough to try new things, and humble enough to change along the way. In my opinion, the discourse “simplicity is the purest form of luxury” was the most striking part of this two-day event, which can be summarized in the way that, indeed, every new garment means a piece that is missing from nature.
Of course, what actually makes an event nice is to make new friends and share. With some of them, we shared just a few words; with some of them, we chatted for hours, walked in Stockholm’s snowy streets, discovered new tastes in a Mexican restaurant, and even shared a bird’s eye night view of the city in a Skybar. Camilo from Colombia, who had coincidentally took part in the background of some shots in one of my previous posts, took place at the forefront in this post; again from Colombia, Sandra carried the familiar warmth of Latin America to this cold country of the north; Lilit from Armenia disproved the deceit of politics and insincerity of diplomacy for me once more; Haggah from Kenya made me feel as the best photographer in the world with her incredibly beautiful poses; Gilda from Albania inebriated me with her plain and fluent Turkish that she learned in a Turkish school in her own country; and most importantly, Sinem from Turkey offered me her Turkish sincerity and smile with all her generosity. Thank you. And, Natalia from Russia.. you were so shy, so timid that I could not fit you in the shot I actually wished, in no way; it was why I had so few shots of you when you asked me “You don’t have mine?”. I will make it up to you in the Diploma Ceremony on June 1, promise.