Sailor Suits and Slow Fashion

As one whose first calling is as an officer in the Coast Guard, your blogger begs your pardon for being a bit late to the party in talking about the subject of “slow fashion.” He is not an apparel industry insider. When the concept—or at least the name—emerged several years ago this blogger was completely aloof to it. Nonetheless he has ostensibly found himself a maker of slow fashion, a term preferable to slow maker of fashion, which he hopes is not descriptive of his work.

From what this blogger gathers, the slow fashion movement is a rejection of the “here today, gone tomorrow” model that drives so much of the retail apparel world. The children’s sailor suit is a natural fit for the slow fashion—it was introduced first in the 1850’s by Queen Victoria and has managed to have a continuing place in dressing children right up to this very moment.

The term slow fashion, as it is used by those who advocate it, is not merely a descriptor of stylistic endurance of the design. Rather, it describes a slower process. Chandler Small & Co. and its kids’ sailor suits also fit this part of the slow fashion concept. Chandler Small & Co. worked out it’s children’s sailor suit patterns in a slow, iterative process that resulted in items that were not merely copies of a pattern already out there done in a new color or with different trim. No, its sailor suits were designed from the sketch pad up.

The slow fashion movement also has a focus on production that meets the highest standards of fair treatment. In this regard, Chandler Small & Co. excels. Its cutting and sewing is done by a three-person family business about an hour away from Portland. The proprietor frequently meets with the cutter and sewers to discuss the constructions of the kids’ sailor suits. In all candor, your blogger, the hapless proprietor of Chandler Small & Co. would never had succeeded in producing the children’s sailor suits that he has without the decades of experience of his sewers.

Nevertheless, your blogger feels that there are tenets of the slow fashion movement his company rejects. One such aspect of the slow fashion movement is that the garment is so expensive that the buyer won’t be able to afford another one anytime soon even if he or she wanted to. On the contrary, despite the temptation to drive home the sense of value associated with its children’s sailor suits by making them memorably expensive, Chandler Small is committed to making their product available as widely as possible by not inflating the price beyond that dictated by its costs.

Lastly, Chandler Small & Co is reluctant to describe what it does as “fashion” at all. The very term imparts something ephemeral and passing. Chandler Small aims for permanent design, taking its inspiration from the sailor suits of our parents and grandparents that look just as smart today as they did in 1880, 1920, 1940, 1960, and yes even the 1970s. Chandler Small & Co. aspires to be making the same kids’ sailor suits decades from now because the lasting class and style of its garments defy the fleeting pull of fashion.


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