When news got around that McDonald’s was opening its first Italian franchise on the famous Piazza di Spagna in Rome in 1986, things got heated. But none of the responses were as delicious as Carlo Petrini’s. As part of a campaign against the fast food giant, he served plates of fresh penne to the crowds who had gathered in protest outside the restaurant. He told TIME magazine later in 1999 that he had been alarmed by the homogenising nature of fast food. The incident led him to establish the international Slow Food movement to champion local and traditional foods.
Slow Food is founded on three principles: good (quality, flavoursome and healthy food), clean (production that doesn’t harm the environment) and fair (accessible prices for consumers and fair working conditions and pay for producers). These three ideas have been the building blocks for an entire slow movement that has infiltrated other industries like fashion and design.
For the last century we’ve had our foot on the accelerator at break-neck speed but we haven’t stopped to consider where we’re going. At its core Slow Design is about taking time to do things properly at every stage of the design process for maximum benefit to the makers, the users and the environment. In a throwaway culture, it’s about making something that lasts.
Slow Design calls for objects to be made locally, shortening the journey a product makes to its end-consumer, saving on fuel consumption and boosting local economies. Emphasis is also put on designers being aware of how things are manufactured and by who. Thanks to the fashion activists at Fashion Revolution the question “Who Made My Clothes?” is being echoed around the world and inspiring designers to take a stand against exploitation in the industry.
Another focus of the movement is on quality; in materials and craftsmanship. To make a statement about the proliferation of ‘five minute logo’ services, and to have a bit of fun, graphic designer Von Glitschka launched the 5ive Minute Logo making ‘craptacular logos for cheap-ass clients worldwide’ going for $5 a pop. While the wild results are charmingly wonderful thanks to Glitschka’s talent and experience, the exercise gets you thinking about the importance of craft in design. Another rule-breaker is Slow and Steady Wins the Race, a conceptual clothing and accessories line that ignores the fashion industry’s convention of releasing entirely new collections every season. Instead, every product they’ve ever designed remains relevant and part of their current offering because they believe good design should timeless.
Bad quality creates waste, and as our monstrous landfills and trash islands get more threatening, Slow Design asks designers to think about the extended life cycle of a product — including where it ends up. Planet-friendly, adventure clothing company Howies design certain ‘Hand me Down’ items that are created to last long enough to be passed down from generation to generation. Another way designers are combatting waste is to create products that appreciate over time. Simon Heiden’s project ‘Broken White’ is a collection of ceramic dishes that evolve over time to slowly reveal intricate floral patterns as they’re used more and more.
Author of In Praise of Slow, Carl Honoré says, “There’s a new revolutionary idea which is that there’s such a thing as good slow, and good slow is taking time to do things as well as possible rather than as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity. It’s about meaning and depth and texture. It’s about connection. It’s about understanding that everything we do, buy, eat, consume, look at, is connected to other people. Everything we make and the way we make it is connected to other people, the environment and the world around us. And that everything that is made has a process, has a story behind it.” Let’s speed up the slow revolution.
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