Preservation and sustainability is incredibly important to us at Ionian Kind. Accommodating mass tourism on the Ionian islands potentially threatens local traditions as well as the local environment. In spite of Corfu’s agricultural traditions, the expansion of tourist infrastructure has resulted in an increasing abandonment of productive lands, leading to a greater dependence on food imports. Moreover, making room for more and more arrivals each year has compromised the recreational land available for local use and the health of the islands’ ecosystems. Evidently, this creation of a tourist monoculture is detrimental to the islands’ local culture, traditions, environment and businesses.
One of the less-discussed aspects of the slow fashion movement is cultural sustainability. Simply put, cultural sustainability describes the ‘successful transmission of traditional knowledge to future generations’ (source). Fast fashion poses a threat to cultural preservation in a number of ways; firstly, traditional methods and processes in clothes production are often neglected by the fast fashion industry, in which clothing designs move rapidly from catwalks to stores for mainstream consumption to meet new trends. In addition, patronising fast-fashion conglomerates represents a failure to support and re-invest in the local economy. Thus, as Danica Ratte argues, by buying products instead from sustainable, local brands, whose processes are inextricably tied to the local culture, the consumer can ‘actively help preserve and protect this particular piece of culture’ (source).
One of our main pillars at Ionian Kind is the promotion and preservation of our local Ionian culture. The historical and cultural influences of the Venetians, French and British are evident to this day in the islands’ architecture, cuisine and dialect. Furthermore, being the rainiest region in Greece, their fertile land makes the islands ideal for agriculture; the island of Corfu specifically is renowned for its production of dairy products, wine, citrus fruits, and olive oil. To an international audience, however, the Ionian islands are possibly best known as a tourist destination. The huge influx of visitors throughout the summer months has led to an increasing economic reliance on tourism; the industry now accounts for over 60% of the seven islands’ GDP.
The economic importance of tourism poses a variety of questions and problems to those of us interested in cultural preservation. Accommodating mass tourism on the islands potentially threatens local traditions as well as the local environment. In recent months, this issue has been hotly debated on Corfu, with relation to the development of Erimitis, a predominantly wild area in the north of the island, into a densely-built residential complex. Campaigners against the development have argued that going ahead with these plans will damage the local ecosystem and also permanently affect the way of life of the locals, who have always been able to use this land recreationally and respectfully towards the flora and fauna. Furthermore, in spite of Corfu’s agricultural traditions, the expansion of tourist infrastructure has resulted in an increasing abandonment of productive lands, leading to a greater dependence on food imports. Evidently, this creation of a tourist monoculture is detrimental to the islands’ culture, traditions, environment and local businesses.
With this in mind, as we believe in slow fashion, in which products are designed for quality and longevity, we also believe in slow tourism in Greece. Slow tourism involves travelling to an area for a prolonged period of time in order to better get to know the local culture in an authentic way. Not only does this benefit the visitor, who gains a more unique and memorable experience, but also the locals, who are enabled to profit off, showcase and perpetuate their traditions and culture. Further, the impact on the local environment is far more limited than in mass tourism. In the pandemic and post-pandemic age, we are at a crucial moment; as Constantin Koutsikopoulos, a local of Preveza, was quoted in a recent article, ‘the pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism… as well as local life and culture’ (source). Thus, the promotion of slow tourism in the Ionian, and the subsequent rewards it will yield for local businesses, may be vital to the preservation of our distinct culture.
In order to counteract this threat to cultural preservation, we believe that it’s important to support culturally and environmentally conscious local brands. Our brands are all based in Corfu and have deep roots in our Corfiot culture. Some, like Handmade by Ddora, Patounis Olive Soap, Myrto Zirini Ceramics and The Governor Olive Oil use methods that have been passed down by generations, while others, like Salty Bag and Choe use innovative processes to slow the effects of climate change and minimise waste on our islands. Supporting these brands thus represents a conscious effort to limit our effect on the environment and to preserve our local culture.