Skip to Content

Slow Fashion Festival ATX Offers a Sustainable Take on Personal Style

Organizers behind the weekend-long event aim to combat the fashion industry’s contribution to climate change

As New York, Paris and Milan fashion weeks have come to a close, it seems only right that one of the fastest-growing cities in America takes its own approach to fashion’s most influential time of the year. Enter Slow Fashion Festival, a different take on fashion consumption, coming to Austin Oct. 21 to 23 at Factory on 5th, a pink warehouse in the heart of East Austin.

The festival is quintessentially Austin: experimental, community-driven and at its forefront, a conversation that’s alternative to the mainstream. Consider it the anti-fashion fashion-festival the planet has been asking us for.

MORE: Five Stylish Local Brands That Focus on Sustainability

Founder of Sustain The Mag, Reza Cristián, pulling a shopping bag out of Lady Bird Lake at one of the brand’s cleanup events. Photo courtesy of Reza Cristián.

Despite what Kate Sanders from Lizzie Mcguire will tell you, the Slow Fashion Festival is here to say that it’s not only okay to be an outfit repeater, it’s essential. As fashion graveyards are consuming natural ecosystems, the planet is being overrun by Shein clothing hauls and past seasons’ style trends. When will we finally be able to answer the question, when is enough, enough? Will it be when Lady Bird Lake is covered with a thin film of Amazon Fashion shipping bags? It’s an unnerving reality that many are guilty of perpetuating, but Slow Fashion Festival aims to tackle these more daunting conversations through a series of panels on a wide range of topics, from resisting trend cycles to getting involved in environmental policies.

The idea for the festival stemmed from Leah Bury’s desire to cultivate community within the slow fashion movement. Her aspirations and expertise in producing art events around Austin led her to upscale her idea for a slow fashion event into a multi-faceted festival.

“I just wanted a place where all these different people could connect and I thought making it a festival would be a really good way to make that happen,” says Bury. “To reimagine the different ways in which these different players in the industry or the environment or the ecosystem could support one another or get to know one another.”

Reza Cristián, founder of Sustain The Mag, Courtney Keville, of Mutiny Market, and Mikaela Friedman, combined each of their individual expertise to bring the Slow Fashion Festival to life, like the Sustainable Charlie’s Angels.

Photo by Kallie Dawn

“Our hope is to advocate for both the people and the planet and showcase how this movement is about slowing down production, using sustainable materials and caring for the makers of our clothes,” explains the team. “It’s about taking care of those around us and making sure the clothes we wear are long-lasting and do more good than harm to our environment.”

These days, style trends change as fast as the next viral Tik Tok sound bite. It’s important that we, as consumers, don’t get caught up in this indulgence. Think of slow fashion as a rebellion against incessant trend cycles. To “keep up” is to fall for the kind of scarcity mindset the fast fashion industry thrives on. The Slow Fashion Festival intends to counteract this mindset with innovative events such as a slow fashion show, a slow makers market and a style-inspired art gallery that the organizers describes as, “a curated selection of artwork from local artists that showcases elements of personal style and mindful consumption.”

MORE: 13 Can’t-Miss Fall Festivals in Austin Besides ACL

One of the most anticipated events of the festival is a Living Closet clothing swap hosted by GOOD Group ATX, an Austin-based organization whose clothing swap events have kept over 1,700 pieces of clothing out of landfills. The Live Closet will use a punch card system to track swapping and is an inventive new way for Austinites to shop secondhand while mindfully clearing out space in their own wardrobe.

Photo by Hillary Tatone

“We are asking attendees to bring up to 10 clean items in good condition to receive a punch card. Then, they will be allowed to take as many items as they bring to the closet. Your punch card will keep track of this,” explains the team. Any leftover garments from the Living Closet will be donated to the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition.

As vintage and secondhand markets such as Passport Vintage’s Laissez Fair Vintage Market become increasingly popular weekend destinations, one thing that makes Austin Austin is the community’s passing around of clothes — it’s like one big game of telephone. This kind of community-driven spirit is what the team behind the Slow Fashion Festival desires to embody.

Austinites take their individual style seriously by keeping their fashion decidedly unserious. Walk the streets of South Congress or East 6th on the weekend and you’re sure to find a few noteworthy outfits to secretly snap photos of for future inspiration. Slow Fashion Festival aspires to continue fueling those creative juices, while adding to the conversation of a growing sustainable fashion movement that is fighting to combat the fashion industry’s contribution to climate change.

These are overwhelming topics, but the fest founders and participants are here to lend a helping hand, teaching us how to be better consumers, while not having to compromise individual expression. And while you may be struggling to find the perfect Instagrammable fit for the occasion, Slow Fashion Festival is here to remind you that you do have something to wear in your closet already — and you’re going to rock it.