So, what's the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion, and why should you care? In this blog post, we’ll look at the impact of these two models on people and our planet.
Fast fashion is generally understood as mass-produced fashion that works to produce cheap and fast versions of the latest trends. While it has made fashion more accessible, the introduction of fast fashion has created a world in which our wardrobes are overflowing with clothes we hardly wear, and yet, we are constantly craving more. While the availability of cheap clothing and never-ending trends might seem fun and exciting, it comes at a great cost to the environment.
The good news is that there is an alternative way to shop, and it’s called slow fashion.
The concept for slow fashion was first coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. It is a sustainable and conscious approach to fashion production and consumption. Garments are typically made from all-natural or environmentally friendly materials such as cotton, linen and hemp, as well as recycled or upcycled textiles. Clothes are typically more durable and of higher quality. For newly produced clothes, production is often carried out with local manufacturers, and there is a focus on environmentally friendly production at every stage of the supply chain. Slow Fashion doesn’t just describe newly produced clothes – it can also apply to vintage, second-hand and upcycled clothes.
Slow Fashion has been gaining traction due to the growing awareness of the impact of the fashion industry, and we’re seeing more and more brands taking the Slow Fashion approach. Value is placed on producing clothing that will last for a long time, with designs often following a classic and timeless look, so they don’t fall out of trend so quickly.
Fast fashion and slow fashion describe different methods of producing and manufacturing garments and accessories. Here are some of the key differences.
One of the big differences between fast fashion and slow fashion is the materials used. While fast fashion brands may use some natural materials, typically, their collections are made from synthetic materials such as polyester, spandex, acrylic, and nylon, which are made from non-renewable fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment.
Whereas slow fashion brands will use organic, locally-sourced, all-natural materials such as organic cotton, linen, and hemp, as well as recycled and upcycled materials. Whether the materials are organically grown from chemical-free farming, use recycled materials, circular manufacturing processes, or have sustainable end-of-life disposal, the way they are produced aims to reduce their impact on the environment.
One of the obvious biggest differences between fast and slow fashion is the quality. As fast fashion is focused on producing fashion quickly and cheaply, keeping up with trends and operating with 52 seasons per year, the quality suffers. As a result, clothes tend to develop rips, holes, or loose stitches due to the poor quality of fabric and manufacturing.
Slow fashion operates on a slow model, focusing on the quality of its garments. Fabrics used in slow fashion are made from natural techniques that are more durable, which means they’ll last years and even a lifetime. Plus, it also means that should you get a rip, they’re easily mendable and repairable.
While it's undeniable that fast fashion is cheaper than slow fashion, it comes at a cost to people and the planet. The cost of cheap labour comes down to human exploitation. Fast fashion pays workers low wages and provides extremely poor working conditions. While slow fashion may have a higher upfront cost, you can rest assured that the workers receive higher wages and better working conditions.
Along with the impact on garment workers, the rise of fast fashion has caused a devastating impact on the environment. The environmental impacts of the fast fashion industry include polluting our waterways, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, releasing microplastics into the ocean as well as the abundance of discarded clothes ending up as textile waste in our landfills. Slow fashion seeks to use eco-friendly production methods, and when a consumer is ready to dispose of the clothing, as it’s of high-quality materials, it is able to be reused, recycled or upcycled.
As the fashion industry thrives on consumption, it uses relentless marketing tactics to drive its agenda. Fast fashion has created a culture where the standards of fashion and beauty move so quickly that if you don’t keep up, you’re behind - it exploits our anxieties and desires to look the part. The allure of cheap clothes, paired with the pressure to chase trends, creates a fear of missing out that can be mentally exhausting.
Slowing down and embracing slow fashion can have a positive impact on our mental health. Slow fashion allows us to thoughtfully craft our wardrobes and appreciate and fall in love with the items that we buy. Slowing gives us the freedom to embrace individual style - wearing clothes that suit our bodies and represent our personalities. Slow fashion encourages us to take control of our wardrobes and embrace a healthier, more creative and more sustainable approach to fashion.
Slow fashion is more than just a way of shopping. It’s a lifestyle and a philosophy that acknowledges the real value of clothing and the process involved - from materials, the planet, and the people.
7th March 2023