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Slowly But Surely

Memphis hops on the slow fashion bandwagon.

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When it comes to fashion trends this season, mass-produced is out. Handmade, vintage, and eco-friendly is in.

From local crafters on Etsy to consignment shops and thrift stores, Memphis seems to have embraced the slow fashion movement.

"I think internally we have a craving for things that are unique and things that are special," said Tonya Tate, captain of the Memphis Melange Etsy Team. She leads a group of more than 90 local "Etsypreneurs" who sell their handmade crafts on Etsy.com, a website specializing in handmade merchandise.

"Slow fashion feeds into that need we have to say, This is something different. There's something different about this than the other 20,000 items sold across the world at Target or at Walmart."

Tate and her fellow crafters are gearing up for the first Indie Style Market on May 7th. The event will take place at the Tennessee Flea Market in Hickory Hill, which, appropriately enough, is housed in a former Kmart store.

In addition to the sale of handmade goods, Tate said there will be workshops, a make-and-take session, and a screening of Handmade Nation, Faythe Levine's 2009 documentary about the rise of do-it-yourself crafts.

"The idea is to start a national crafts event here in the Mid-South," Tate said. "There are a lot of makers here, but we're not as networked a community as, say, Austin or Brooklyn or Chicago or L.A. Those communities have a diverse, independent, productive community of people making things. They diversify an area. They add another flavor of locality, something that causes people to come to your area." 

Knowing the artisan is a large part of the slow fashion movement, which champions making conscientious choices about what to wear. More generally, "slow fashionistas" support quality over quantity and choose local or recycled clothing over mass-produced, dispensable items.

"The fashions change every six weeks and we're expected to keep up with them," said Amy Hoyt, founder of Blues City Thrift. "But we can't afford to keep up with them by buying well-made, long-lasting clothing, so we support these retailers which are essentially the McDonald's of fashion. Even though it's cheap, it's expensive because we have to continually buy."

Hoyt is working on garnering inventory and settling on a location for her Blues City Thrift store, which she hopes to open by the end of this year.

"One considerable way to combat fast fashion is to buy secondhand," Hoyt said, "because at least then you're lessening your environmental impact."

Consignment stores, like Melissa Dixon's Sugar Plum Consignments, are an important part of the equation. Dixon opened her store on Primacy Parkway in East Memphis four months ago.

"I wanted to open a consignment store to change the way people view consignment," Dixon said. "There are a lot of stigmas out there. We're able to provide women with exceptional clothing at affordable prices. I know it sounds corny, but we're giving clothes another chance. We're rescuing beautiful things."

Dixon's store is set up like a specialty boutique, with a mix of vintage and new items and designer brands. She stocks local artisans' work as well as unsold inventory from other boutiques. After a few months, the clothing she doesn't sell is donated to Dress for Success of Memphis.

Whatever stigmas Dixon perceived when she opened, shoppers and resellers don't seem to be deterred.

"We have over 300 consigners," Dixon said.

"What I see now," Tate continued, "is that economics are forcing people to rethink a lot of things. And they're rethinking, Okay, if I spend this dollar, what is it going to do for my local community? What is it going to do for my local economy? I think we're beginning to connect the dots that our spending decisions have an impact on our area."

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