What do the philosophies of slow living mean to you and how would you describe the term to someone who’s not familiar with it?
H-A: To me, slow living is all about focusing on quality rather than quantity. It is actually paying close attention to what you're doing, without losing the goal. It's all about embracing life's little moments and the process itself. I think we should all fear waking up one day when we've been working, say, for 30 years, only to realise, what's the outcome? What have I done so far? What have I achieved?
We may, by that time, have the money and security, but we should ask ourselves, did we really enjoy the process? It's actually about creating a more meaningful path for yourself and enjoying the process, whatever you might be doing.
The key to slow living philosophy is embracing the process itself rather than the end result. I have faced people, who are questioning it, and they often think that [slow living] equates to aimless floating. Actually, it has nothing to do with moving at a snail's pace; rather it is to do with knowing what your priorities are and setting a pace for yourself to reach the end result. I also think that it's a natural backlash culture that follows suit the digitalisation of life’s every aspect, and all those fancy applications that we're so keen on using. It's about slowing down this speed culture that has exhausted us all.
That's actually is true, because when I was talking about slow living with my friends, they thought that it's about like doing everything at a slow pace. Like physically slow and being lazy.
H-A: [laughter]. Let’s just say that’s a common misconception. It's not about speeding up, it's not about slowing down, but just everyone should know what's the goal they want to reach. [It’s about] doing everything at the pace that's necessary for reaching it.
How did you become interested in slow living and when did you first come across the slow lifestyle?
H-A: Actually, I've been more interested in it from the time Kinfolk, the magazine, has been around, so roughly from 2011. But to reflect back, I also came across the concept when I used to live in Paris — the French have this term called joie de vivre, which means enjoying the cheerfulness of the everyday, taking time to enjoy life’s little moments. You see people sitting on those pavement terraces after long work hours, observing their surroundings with a hot or cold beverage, and doing absolutely nothing, like people watching. Because they really embrace absorbing these tiny little moments, rather than just running around, doing their eat-sleep-work-repeat [laughs].
Around the time, when I was researching slow living for my Final Major Project, I was stuck because what I felt when flicking through all those glossy magazines was that - aghhh! it's just all geared forward by consumerism. I also saw more and more young creatives turning to sustainability. It was like a wave bursting out on its own. These practitioners are really standing out, I feel like they’re not overshadowed by fast fashion producers anymore, or at least they don’t allow themselves to be. I quickly connected the dots between sustainability and fashion, and also gave more thought to the overwhelming blinking, blinding speed culture that has exhausted us all. Eventually everything - my love for slow living and slow fashion - connected. Or perhaps, to summarise, [people are] in general looking to move to a more slower pace of living, because that’s, in essence, our most natural way of being.
We yearn to go back to natural, authentic life as it should be. It's not a utopia anymore, we are really communicating with each other too often in digital worlds. Perhaps, it loops back to the backlash culture again — it’s just that, somewhere deep inside, we feel very isolated and we're looking for human connection again. Also, there's a book called In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré that very much inspired me. I don't know if you've heard of it, but it collects all of them, slow philosophies. It's a very interesting read as well, which I recommend to all wanting to become connoisseurs of slow living.
"I think we should all fear waking up one day when we've been working, say, for 30 years, only to realise, what's the outcome? What have I done so far? What have I achieved?"
What does your typical day look like and what do you like to do to unwind, when you've had a particularly stressful day?
H-A: After familiarising myself with slow living principles, I'm not very receptive to stress anymore. Of course, we all experience stress, but every morning, when I wake up I just try to think about my priorities and set the direction for the day. I'm always setting it actually before I start with my day. As long as I accomplish the small things that I've set for myself in the morning, then I have no reason to feel stressed, so that's like a good tip to follow.
I'm also a very impulsive person and creative person, there are no two days that look the same for me. If I am really in London and it's my typical working day then I wake up roughly at 11:00. It may sound very late to someone, but I'm more like a night person. I do my emails for two hours from my bed and I just drink endless amounts of coffee, of course!
Then I make my way to my local coffee shop around one o’clock. I do proper research, I manage my team. I have very few people working for me, but I just give them directions, then I focus on the articles that need to be done. I can also get stressed, even from writing only. I experience some anxiety sometimes, because it's very difficult to just sit in one place and focus on writing for three hours.
When I experience this stress, I just write something on my personal blog quickly to unwind. In the evenings I usually go to some events and I finish quite late. I get home around midnight or one o'clock at night and then I actually continue on with writing until 3am, but it's a way to relax for me. I'm just writing constantly and then when things do get stressful, then I just have a nice glass of red wine. That's what you call slowing down the pace of ‘slow living.’
I would say that I'm a good example of that slow living practice, because I always make sure that I actually do enjoy what I'm doing. I don't wake up the next day and think that, “Oh, I don't like what I'm doing, I want to change,” That's why maybe also stress is not really bulking up in me as well.
"[People] often think that [slow living] equates to aimless floating. Actually, it has nothing to do with moving at a snail's pace; rather it is to do with knowing what your priorities are and setting a pace for yourself to reach the end result."
You write a lot about fashion and culture. They tend to have a stereotype of being very fast in nature in terms of trends. When you're coming up with the concept for Savant, did you find it hard to overcome the stereotypes?
H-A: Surely. I would say that at least 90% of the magazines out there are still focusing on this idea of glamour. But developing slow lifestyle principles is more oriented to the niche market, which makes marketing it more tricky. I was able to be at the right place at the right time and discovered that attitudes are changing, and there's actually hunger for a new kind of medium that celebrates the slow culture and sustainability, too.
I actually found that no slow lifestyle magazine is celebrating fashion very boldly. Perhaps, due to clichéd or outdated views that it may not be as glamorous. I would say it's always more complicated to market something that might not be as glamorous and requires a more niche audience for it. Especially when it comes to younger audiences, then they often get hooked by this term of glamour, or anything that's related to it.
I could sense that there's also this more intellectual audience growing out of this ‘bubble’, who want to familiarise themselves with the consequences of the fashion industry and what it does to our planet. I think we should always ask ourselves, is there a more meaningful way to living and what's behind the glamour?