What Is Slow Fashion?
Slow living trends have dominated social media in recent years and ‘slow’ has generally been adopted to mean ‘better, sustainable, ethical, conscious’. If this is the case, what is slow fashion and how, if at all, does it differ from ethical fashion, sustainable fashion and conscious trends?
What is slow fashion?
The term ‘slow fashion’ was coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. In response to the fast fashion phenomenon, Kate Fletcher identified a need for slower processes, longevity and quality in garments and conscious consumerism to counter the environmental and human costs of the fashion industry.
Slow fashion describes an approach that takes myriad impacts into account – from resources, supply chains and living wages to environmental impact, pollution and animal life.
To shop slowly and consciously is to buy less, choose well and invest in quality items that will stand the test of time from brands that advocate for fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.
What’s the difference between slow fashion and ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion is often concerned with human and animal rights. As it relates to humans, ethical fashion applies to working conditions, fair wages and treatment, and no child labour.
Sustainable fashion is often concerned with the environmental impact. Opting for fibers and materials that are organic, recycled, or repurposed, limiting harmful chemicals/dyes, reducing energy/water usage and waste, and overall choosing low-impact options wherever possible.
Slow fashion is essentially a catch-all term that describes both ethical fashion and sustainable fashion. But it also makes reference to the intention of our shopping experiences, how we care for our clothes, how long we help them to last and how we dispose of or recycle them.
The movement exists in opposition to fast fashion, a rapid practice of clothing production, seasonal sales and clothing disposal that emerged 20 years ago and now exists as the default model for many fashion brands.
Fast fashion requires a rapid turn around and puts enormous pressure on designers, textile workers and entire supply chains. Many online trend-lend brands offer insta-worthy styles at the lowest possible prices, dropping hundreds of new styles a week and encouraging customers to wear an item once and then throw it away.
When it comes to luxury fashion, many designers have expressed dissatisfaction, suggesting that previewing collections during huge shows at Fashion Week, after collections previewed the year before have only just become available, is not conducive to creativity in design or appreciation of garments. And it’s certainly not sustainable either.
Gucci announced this week that it will be cutting shows from five to two each year and declared the fashion calendar ‘obsolete’. The Italian heritage brand’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele has predicted that many major brands will follow suit.
“Above all, we understand we went way too far” wrote Michele, “Our reckless actions have burned the house we live in. We conceived of ourselves as separated from nature, we felt cunning and almighty.”
A huge luxury player like Gucci making moves towards slow, seasonless fashion that doesn’t go out of style is a step in the right direction.
Longer lifespans, less waste
It’s true that you can’t make clothes last forever. Everything has an expiration date. However, with the average lifetime for an item of clothing in the UK estimated to be 2.2 years, it’s clear that our throwaway attitudes to clothing and the poor quality of many cheap fast fashion brands aren’t helping the situation.
It’s possible to invest in pieces that last and that enable a slower lifestyle. It’s possible to support ethical and sustainable brands and designers, and it’s possible to take care of clothing, recycle it effectively and look good without feeling guilty. Remove throwaway fashion from ethically and sustainably dubious brands and you remove pollution, ocean deterioration, human rights abuses and poverty from the equation.
How to shop slow
Use resources and tools to find brands that create quality made-to-last pieces that are verified as sustainable and ethical.
Shop with intention. Buy less, choose well and think about how much you’ll wear something, how versatile it might be and how much you’re in love with the way it looks. Does it spark joy? Will it still spark joy in next month?
Hold brands accountable. The easiest way to make a statement about the world you want to live in versus the world you’re in is to protest with your purchases. Simply investing in brands that do good and boycotting brands that impact people and planet negatively makes you an activist.
Take care of garments. If you love your clothes they’ll love you back. Washing delicate things by hand, brushing and air drying knitwear, mending, polishing, keeping things safe and dry keeps items looking good, which makes you look good every time you wear them.
Recycle and reuse. Instead of throwing old clothes in the bin, check the care label to find out what they’re made from. If something can be recycled, take it to a clothing recycling bank or drop it off at a mobile bank. Reuse or upcycle worn out or damaged clothing – turn tees into dust bags, underwear into cloths for the car or the bathroom floor and printed fabrics into totes, wrap skirts, handkerchiefs and face masks.
If something can’t be recycled or reused but is still in good condition, drop it off at your local charity shop or take it to a swap shop. What’s important when opting for slow fashion over fast fashion is being mindful and doing the best you can do.