We live in a fast moving world. A phone that we’ve had for a less than a year is outdated by a newer model, fashions change relentlessly with the season, and we’re too busy to cook and rely more and more on pre-prepared meals that are ready in minutes. With the anticipation of what is round the next corner and the excitement of the new, this way of living can deliver a tremendous buzz. But there are downsides, and a growing consensus that these outweigh the perceived advantages. So how can we embrace slow living in a fast moving world?
To start with, this way of living is stressful. The rate of change means we are always preparing for the next version, learning the latest technology or ‘decluttering’ last season’s fashions from our wardrobe. By the time we have come to appreciate something, it is out of date and ready to throw away. Our attention spans are becoming shorter and it is easier to get satisfaction by replacing an item with something new rather than investing of our time and attention and looking after it. We are losing our ability to cherish.
On top of this, there is a real cost to this approach. Things aren’t built and must be replaced sooner which puts increased stress on our resources and results in more waste. Items are not designed to be repairable. Even if we want to fix them, we have to throw them away if they develop a fault. This is taken to extremes in our throwaway society where we now have so many items that are designed to be disposed of after a single use – take-away coffee cups and water cooler cups being prime examples.
Given these trends, it is not surprising that our approach to life has been increasingly called into question and that people have looked for alternatives to our throw-away culture. It was out of this search for better ways of doing things that the ethos of ‘slow living’ evolved. It is not about how little we can do with, it is about focussing on the things we can’t do without. Slow can be summed up in four simple statements:
S – Sustainable – not having an impact
L – Local – not someone else’s patch
O – Organic – not mass-produced
W – Whole – not processed
The movement started in the 1980s and originally developed in response to the growth of the fast-food industry. The term ‘slow food’ was a reaction to ‘fast food’ and the term stuck. Through the nineties and later, the movement expanded to cover every aspects of our lifestyle from cooking to clothing and homeware to horticulture – ‘slow living’ was born.
A key aspect of slow living is that it does not reject all aspects of our modern day world – whether those be using internet or visiting the supermarket. The focus is on applying the slow principles where we can to simplify our lives and reinvigorate the connection with the things that we use or own.
Some great examples of companies that have taken the slow living approach to heart are Stinne Gorell, Care by Me and the Organic Company. Each of these companies are based in Denmark and have been successful in bringing together slow-living principles and the simplicity of Danish design.
Stinne Gorell designs a wonderful range of hand-knitted products including luxurious sweaters, ponchos, hats and gloves. As well as beautiful design, sustainability is central to Stinne’s approach. All of her raw materials are sourced from Fairtrade producers and knitted in sustainable operations. Stinne encourages a real sense of community amongst her knitters. For example, all her knitters in Denmark are based at home and they meet up once a month to swap stories and ideas as well as share wool. The output from Stinne’s team are fantastic products that are reknowned for their quality, craftsmanship as well as the sustainability of their production.
The Organic Company is also based in Copenhagen and specialises in the production of homewares in organic cotton including towels, oven gloves, aprons, blankets and bags. Like Stinne Gorell, there is a real emphasis on sustainability with all products are organic certified (GOTS), this standard guarantees the consumer not only that all fabrics are organic but also that a series of international worker rights are met and that no toxic, cancer-causing or polluting chemicals are used in the production. A key principle in the design of these products is that they are built to last. For example, kitchen towels are made in a heavier weight organic cotton with a hanging tab a stitched into the length of the towel meaning that it will never come loose. A beautiful design feature is that the washing instructions are embroidered into these tabs rather than being stitched in separately on polyester labels. This is more consistent with the design and removes the need to include a non-organic, synthetic material in the product.
Care by Me launched their slow wear production in 2013 in addition to the interiors. They manufacture top-clothing including sweaters, hats and scarves and use only the best materials that nature has to offer including cashmere and organic cotton. Central to the Care by Me ethos is that each items is made with a focus on quality and sustainability. All of the production takes place in traditional workshops in Nepal and is either entirely handmade or manufactured on a hand loom. This approach means that manufacturing can take place in villages without the need for people to move to larger towns and helps guarantee their future.
In our world of fast-moving product development and products designed to have a short life, the availability of products from the companies such as Stinne Gorell, The Organic Company and Care by Me is a breath of fresh air. In creating beautifully designed products, from sustainable sources that don’t change with the whims of fashion and are built to last, we can again invest in things that we want to keep and start to cherish.