Kámen Road and Slow Fashion from the Beginning -- Realizing a Lifestyle

Hello Sustainable Fashion Thinkers,

Based on my interests in sustainable fashion and community engagement, I am writing a series of blogs for Kámen Road. I will explore how Kámen Road is working to achieve sustainable fashion with a commitment to Slow Fashion.

First, let’s look at the origins of Slow Fashion, which starts with a look at Slow Food.

The Slow Food movement fits into the broader Slow movement, which is elaborated in journalist Carl Honoré’s book In Praise of Slow. Slow Food originated in Italy during the 1980s. Slow Food developed in response to Fast Food. The movement asks us to take time to reflect on consumption, make decisions that can improve quality of life, and question the status quo. The Slow Food movement aims to conserve traditional, localized, and natural production in support of environmental, social, and economic well-being. It encourages biodiversity for the creation of healthy ecosystems that we co-exist with.

Slow Fashion developed in response to Fast Fashion, which is a speed to market approach for rapid cycles of consumption. Slow Fashion was first introduced by Dr. Kate Fletcher in a 2007 essay for The Ecologist. Dr. Fletcher explains, “Slow is a different approach, a shift from quantity to quality. It links the pleasure of fashion with more awareness and fairer treatment of workers and planet.” Over the past 10 years, many designers have taken distinct Slow Fashion approaches. Let’s consider Kámen Road’s Slow Fashion vision.

Biomimicry is a core design philosophy of Slow Fashion and is a leading model for Kámen Road. Kathleen Murphy, Founder of Kámen Road, is deeply inspired by the work of Biomimicry leader Janine Benyus.

Inspired by patterns in nature, the closed-loop Biomimicry approach means that natural materials can continuously circulate as valuable nutrients in a system. From an ecological perspective, natural materials such as leaves, fruits, and even natural fibers such as hemp and cotton, can decompose in the earth’s soil to become food for microorganisms. From a design perspective, using natural materials can be part of a closed-loop system. The non-profit Fibershed refers to this closed-loop system for design as a “soil-to-soil” model. As consumers, we can support “closed-loop” design practices through thoughtful consumption of products that align with this philosophy.

Kathleen shares her business perspective: “Slow Fashion was a given and the goal from the beginning. Every decision we make is leading to more and more alignment with the principles and practices of Biomimicry and Slow Fashion. We have a long way to go, but we must take the time to research, reject, test, and start again.”

The use of natural materials is the foundation of Kámen Road’s Slow Fashion plan. Kathleen explains, “I am worried about the environmental impact of synthetics, plastic-based materials, and micro-plastics. I choose natural materials first because of the process of their breakdown and their ability to retain both beauty and strength over time.”

A strong, natural material that lends itself to beautiful aging is leather. Kámen Road has been working on developing the most natural leather and top finish with the Hudson Valley New York tannery Pergamena. Pergamena uses a vegetable tan process and purchases most of its hides from the Northeast from small, non-industrial farms. This American tannery has a historical legacy in leather and tanning dating back to the 16th century in Germany. Stephen Meyer of Pergamena explains their environmental approach and commitment: “One benefit this [localized, non-industrial sourcing] provides over leather from other producers is a significantly lower environmental impact, not only in the tanning itself with our vegetable process, but also a reduced carbon footprint from significantly smaller transportation distances.”

Kámen Road also uses hemp as a primary material over cotton because it is a high yielding crop that does not require pesticides to grow. Hemp is also a strong natural fiber that uses significantly less water compared to cotton. Kámen Road’s lining material is a recycled hemp/organic cotton blend that meets the  Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification -- a third-party verification of established environmental and social standards.

Kámen Road’s ultimate goals are to prove the high performance value of natural materials, establish a reuse and/or reclaimed sourcing method for all-natural materials, and a no-waste system from its own production material. Kathleen explains, “We work to identify and implement solutions that may seem like little victories now, but I believe that our small actions will eventually achieve the big “closed loop” and biomimetic vision in time. Sometimes, my research can hit a wall, but I’ll never stop. I am very grateful for the growing community of innovators out there working to ensure Slow Fashion brands succeed. One of my recent sourcing breakthroughs was the discovery of the company Queen of Raw. You can’t imagine the excitement when we get closer and closer to our vision.”

Kámen Road bags are currently made in Oregon, and follow a “bench made” approach, which means one person makes one bag. Ongoing efforts are focused on connecting with artisans and experts who are working in natural dyes, natural finishes, reclaimed natural textiles, and reclaimed metal work. A step-by-step, reflective approach is the nature of the Slow Fashion commitment.

I’ll explore the minimalist approach in Slow Fashion and the role that Kámen Road is taking in my next post!

Dr. Helen Trejo, Guest Blogger for Sustainable Research & Education, Kámen Road                                                                                                      

Helen Trejo Author Bio

My interests in fashion began by watching my grandmother sew clothing for my twin sister and I in Los Angeles. She learned how to sew in El Salvador and worked in LA clothing factories. I drew hundreds of designs and learned how to sew when I was 16. I attended Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles, UC Davis (BA), and Cornell University (MA, PhD) to pursue my interests in design, sustainability, and research. Inspired by Slow Fashion and Fibershed movements, I devoted the past five years to explore the intersections of fashion and agriculture in New York. I conducted survey and interview research with fiber farmers, fiber mill owners, and designers. This led me to gain a deeper understanding of the farm-to-fashion value chain, and entrepreneurs’ commitments to sustainable economic development. I am excited to be a guest blogger for Kámen Road and share my perspective!

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