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“Quality is not just about what you see, it’s also about what’s behind...”
The concept of “slow fashion” is slowly but surely redefining the world of contemporary fashion design. Nowadays it is almost as if we have this stand-off going on, with fast fashion in the red corner and slow fashion in the blue, each followed by a band of loyal supporters; commercial, high-street brands vs. independent designers and ethical advocates.
The fashion industry is fast approaching a fork in the road. Do we embrace the slow route for a better and more sustainable industry? Or do we continue on the fast track, proceeding to leave a trail of carnage in our wake? The reality is that slow alternatives need to be explored and instigated, fast.
“We need to change our mindset”. Roberto Compagno, one of the founders and the director of the Italian brand Slowear, is demonstrating to the fashion world how a brand can successfully utilise the concept of slow fashion to market something innovative, accessible and above all, luxury.
As it states in their latest publication, “Slowear’s history starts with the search for the perfect pair of pants”. Compagno’s father established the initial company Incotex in 1951 within Italy’s Veneto region, where the factory specialised solely in creating and supplying quality trousers for larger companies. “We specialised in creating trousers that had a perfect fit, anything from five pocket classics to more sartorial styles which used specialist fabrics”.
The range of companies that Incotex produced for changed over the course of time; where in the beginning they were supplying the army with their uniforms, in the 80s they were creating trousers for big names such as Ralph Lauren.
Nowadays the Veneto region of Italy, in which the factory was founded, is responsible for almost 40% of the luxury fashion production in Europe. It is an area which is renowned for its longstanding dedication to maintaining traditional craftsmanship and the ‘Made in Italy’ label.
“Veneto has had a very powerful trade for over 1,000 years. I think it is to do with the mentality of the people who live there. They take risks to work and sell. Instead of wanting to work in a big factory, people like to work independently.”
Compagno’s father was one of the many tradesman of the area to follow suit and create his own business that specialised in crafting a single product. “It was after the war that Veneto became the main district of production. There became many groups in a small area and there was this richness; shoes, leather, jewellery and a denim district. The countryside was quite poor so it was interesting to see people setting up little factories. The culture was to take risks and there’s a real strong entrepreneurial mindset”.
Slowear emerged from this mindset and the notion that fashion doesn’t have to be fast and that quality and design shouldn’t be compromised for the sake of producing more than is truly needed. Compagno explained how Slowear wasn’t planned. It was “a natural evolution” that grew from the steady foundations of Incotex, before becoming its own brand in 2003.
The company is built upon the idea that “one brand does one thing and does it very well”. Over the past decade it has developed a unique business model that reflects the clusters of specialist artisans who continue to cultivate their trade in the Veneto region.
Slowear forms the umbrella over a group of factories “that are the best at what they do” and who collectively form the brand.
Having already founded Incotex and its trousers, they went on to buy Montedor, a company who specialise in outerwear before procuring Glanshirt and knitwear experts Zanone. The latest addition to the Slowear family are sartorial experts RED, an enterprise dedicated to “bringing new fits, treatments and materials to the most demanding of contemporary consumers”.
Roberto Compagno believes that when it comes to producing luxury slow fashion, fabric is “the starting point of design”. From the organic cotton they select in the beginning, to the Italian factory in which it is woven, Slowear are conscious of “using factories that are delicate in terms of technology”.
In our interview Roberto points out how “quality is not just about what you see, it’s also about what’s behind" and that nowadays, "you don’t pay the true cost when you pay for fast fashion. You don’t pay for the water or the forests that were destroyed to make it”.
Slowear is completely unique in the sense that the brand tells a story from start to finish. From their starting point of Italian specialisation, their focus on producing the finest materials to the their ultimate goal of producing perfection; quality garments that possess “real value and outlive their market”.
Their stores are meticulously thought out and incorporate Compagno’s, and his Slowear business partner Carlo Donati’s, fascination with Scandinavian furniture from the 1940s and 50s. The conceptual boutiques are devised to “feel like the apartment of a good friend. With a very large wardrobe”.
Compagno is communicating the concept of slow fashion in a pioneering way. When it comes to retail marketing he specified how he didn’t want Slowear “to be a part of the big circus. The stores are designed to explain to the public what we are doing”.
Slowear is as much about mindset as it is about good quality, timeless design. It is about adopting slow-thinking and acknowledging slow change and slow time. Fast fashion has conditioned us to expect immediacy, but what’s the rush? We’re not going to start rolling backwards if we take the slow route because, as Roberto Compagno says, “it’s the way forward”.