Fast Fashion - Why We are Slow

Fast Fashion - Why We are Slow


When we were developing Butterfly we had a few ‘must have/do’ ideas that we set out from the start.

Probably the most important of those was the commitment to manufacturing in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Once that decision had been made, we set out finding partners to work with to bring our dream to life.  Firstly, we researched the manufacturing industry in Aotearoa – it made for depressing reading.  We already knew that our clothing manufacturing industry had been in a state of decline for several decades but reading the facts was scary. In the 1980s, New Zealand had a thriving clothing manufacturing industry, with many factories and businesses operating throughout the country. According to data from Statistics New Zealand, the number of people employed in the clothing and footwear manufacturing industry has declined from around 14,000 in the early 2000s to just over 4,000 in 2020.

‘Fast fashion’ took the fashion industry by storm in recent years. It refers to clothing that is designed and produced quickly and cheaply in response to the latest trends. While fast fashion has made it possible for consumers to keep up with the latest trends without breaking the bank, it has also brought about a host of problems, including environmental degradation, labour exploitation, and poor quality clothing.

Outsourcing of manufacture to countries with lower labour costs, such as China and Bangladesh has decimated many manufacturing industries in Aotearoa. It is very challenging for local  manufacturers to compete with the low wages and lower health and safety and environmental standards of overseas factories. As a result, many local manufacturers have been forced to close their doors or downsize, resulting in job losses and a decline in local manufacturing industries.

The fashion store Zara was probably one of the first and most successful international chains to really drive fast fashion forward with their ever-changing ranges of limited collection styles – not just in spring and autumn but all year round. Here in Aotearoa our very own Glassons was an early adopter of a similarly successful model, with buyers heading overseas to check out the latest collections and bring them back here ready for our season which handily is six months behind the northern hemisphere.  With the latest styles, affordable pricing and generous return policies it’s no wonder that fast fashion stores have all but obliterated more traditional local stores who relied on local manufacture or more expensive designer imports. Next time you’re in a clothing store have a look at the labels to see how much you can find that is ‘Made in New Zealand’. Even the top end labels often have the ‘Designed in New Zealand’ label which on closer examination reveals manufacture in a cheaper off shore location. Unsurprisingly, cheap manufacture doesn’t seem to get reflected in the pricing of exclusive designer clothes!

However, as with anything, nothing stays the same and after peak fast fashion which has seen clothing being viewed as virtually single use, customers are beginning to look for more sustainability in their favoured brands which can be anything from using fabrics made from recycled materials, to stores having a recycle bin for customers to drop off their old and unwanted garments for further recycling.

Keeping clothing out of landfills is something that many countries are battling. Back in 2019 Stuff reported that the clothing filling our landfills is one of the fastest growing causes of waste in Aotearoa. At Auckland's four landfills, textile waste accounted for four per cent of the waste in 2010, and in 2040, that is expected to increase to six per cent. In recent years, many businesses have popped up offering various services to recycle textiles beyond the older option of simply shipping it offshore to poorer countries which was used by many countries. If you want to read more about this (and you may need a stiff drink and a sit down afterwards) there is a link below to an excellent ABC report of the clothing trade in Ghana. It makes for grim reading and, for us, it emphasises our responsibility as clothing manufacturers to hold ourselves to high ethical and sustainability standards.

The decision to be SLOW fashion was a no-brainer. We want our garments to be treasured and worn for a long time. We aim to develop a closed loop return system for items that are no longer wanted or worn out where we can resell, repair, and repurpose.

Today, many factories have closed, and the number of people employed in the wider industry has decreased significantly.  Despite that there are still some manufacturers operating here and we were lucky to come across a fantastic local manufacturer in our hometown of Otautahi, Christchurch. Our partner has staff with decades of experience and manufactures for several big brand labels so we were thrilled when they agreed to take us on. We absolutely love that we can pop in and see the clothes being made, that the people making them are experts in their fields who live in our community and have the protections of our employment and health and safety laws.


As understanding of the environmental and other impacts of fast fashion become more visible, there has been a growing movement in Aotearoa to support local manufacturing and promote the use of locally made products. This has included initiatives to promote local manufacturing and encourage consumers to buy locally made clothing. There has also been a renewed focus on sustainability and ethical production practices, which is helping to drive demand for locally made, environmentally friendly products.

Our commitment to our customers is that we will manufacture everything we can right here at home. We support local fabric wholesalers and other suppliers. When something is made offshore we will be totally transparent about that and the reason why we are comfortable offering that item for sale. Some things are simply no longer made in Aotearoa. We need to feel good about what we stock, what we make and how we make it. Of course, that ethical decision comes at a price. A price to the customer, but also to us. One of our business Values is Inclusivity which extends to Affordability. So, we settle for a fair profit but not an excessive one.  We need to grow our fledgling business and to pay our bills on time - to be good customers as well as being good to our customers. People we have talked to, who understand these things better than we do, have warned us that manufacturing in Aotearoa is very, very challenging; but we are not easily put off. Ballet, like all of the arts, demands dedication and commitment and that’s exactly the attitude we have at Butterfly.

Thank you for reading this blog, as you can probably tell this is something we feel very strongly about. Linked below are a couple of extras for background reading / viewing if you would like to know a little more.


Stuff Article

ABC Report



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