Sustainable Designers Slow Down the Fashion Industry

Aiste Zitnikaite packages a top in her Cape Cod studio. Photo credit: Audrey Jaber.

Growing up in Lithuania in the 1980s, Aiste Zitnikaite developed a unique relationship with fashion. As a young girl, rather than buying dozens of cheap, trendy tops and accessories from fast fashion sites, Zitnikaite made her own clothes, which she wore for at least a week before washing.

 

“You couldn't really go shopping for clothes, so everybody knew how to sew,” says Zitnikaite. “You basically made your clothes, you fixed your clothes, and you passed on clothes from your grandparents to your kids.”

 

Zitnikaite’s unique history with fashion is the reason that she became a sustainable designer, pushing for slow fashion. “Slow fashion just means you have a closer connection to the clothes that you wear,” she says.

The term “slow fashion” was first coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion following the slow food and farm-to-table movements. Much like the food industry, Fletcher noticed a need for a slower pace within the fashion industry. 


According to Good on You, a website that provides ethical fashion brand ratings, slow fashion “advocates for buying better-quality garments that will last longer, and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet along the way.” Slow fashion generally favors timeless designs and is locally sourced, produced and sold.

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Devinto studio in Cape Cod. Photo credit: Audrey Jaber.

Zitnikaite brings this point of view to Devinto: her eco and ethically-minded clothing brand based in Cape Cod. She uses natural textiles and utilizes all of her scrap fabric. Each piece of clothing Devinto sells is made-to-order by Zitnikaite herself. She handles everything — from pattern making and cutting to sewing and packaging — which allows for a more personal relationship with the clothing. 


But what Zitnikaite is doing at Devinto is not the norm of the industry: fast fashion is. According to Earnest Research, the US fast fashion market grew by 15% between January and June of this year. Shein, a giant Chinese fast fashion brand, had its biggest year of sales to date, becoming the largest fast-fashion retailer in the US by sales. 

"Fast fashion is never going to be sustainable,” Zitnikaite says. “It's all about the faster you do it, the better it is. And that's not a healthy industry." Slow fashion is vital for combatting this destructive trend. With fast fashion, clothes are viewed as disposable; however, with slow fashion, they hold a much larger weight. 

 

“It's very easy to throw out an item that you bought for $10 — maybe $20 dollars,” Zitnikaite says. “But when someone has something made for them, they’re gonna have those clothes in their closet for a lot longer.”

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Aiste Zitnikaite sews a top in her studio. Photo credit: Audrey Jaber.

Aiste Zitnikaite irons fabric. Photo credit: Audrey Jaber.

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