I never paid much attention to how my clothes were being made until I learned about the disastrous social and environmental impact of fast fashion. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheap and trendy pushed the fashion industry to become the second-largest polluter globally.
Slow fashion is an alternative to fast fashion. It's a movement within the fashion industry where consumers, brands, retailers, and manufacturers do right by the people and the environment. It's a more mindful, ethical, and sustainable approach to fashion.
Fast fashion has huge negative consequences. It's not environmentally friendly. On the other hand, slow fashion is gaining popularity among conscious consumers and key players in the apparel industry.
It's now easier, quicker, and cheaper than ever to shop for fast fashion. Fast fashion is a global phenomenon. It's everywhere from high-street stores to online marketplaces. People choose fast fashion because it's fun, affordable, practical, with a large variety of options.
The global fashion industry is one of the biggest industries in the world and rapidly growing. It was valued at USD 2.5 trillion in 2019 and was expected to grow at a peak rate of about 6.2% in 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic.
The clothing industry employs 300 million people around the world. Most of them work in the manufacturing of textiles for apparel, footwear, and accessories.
As consumers, we should think more about how our purchase decisions impact the lives of other human beings and animals living on the planet. Every piece of clothing we buy makes a difference to transform the wasteful fashion industry into a more regenerative and circular industry.
The massive usage of hazardous chemicals in farming and garment manufacturing, the exploitation of workers in the supply chain, the destruction of ecosystems, the creation of huge textile wastes, the land, air, and water pollution have to stop.
The apparel and footwear industry is responsible for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of the world's wastewater globally. Americans alone generated more than 16.9 million tons of textile waste in 2017.
Large fashion companies must stop prioritizing profits and instead take massive action to reduce pollution, waste, water, and energy consumption.
Here is how slow fashion helps us build a more ethical and sustainable fashion future.
What is slow fashion
Slow fashion is an alternative approach to fashion that aims to be sustainable and ethical to preserve global resources and respect human living conditions.
"Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming and living better. Slow fashion is not time-based but quality-based (which has some time components). Slow is not the opposite of fast – there is no dualism – but a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers, and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities, and ecosystems."
- Kate Fletcher, textiles consultant, in her article on The Ecologist
For consumers, slow fashion provides higher quality, long-lasting, and durable pieces of clothing with a much lower environmental impact.
For workers in the supply chain, slow fashion ensures higher wages, better working and living conditions.
Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It creates clothes consciously, ethically, and sustainably. It's a movement within the fashion community that promotes repairing, repurposing, sharing, recycling, and upcycling.
Instead of considering clothing as disposable commodities like fast fashion does, slow fashion views new clothes as an investment to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on society's shared resources.
It protects the environment, improves lives, contributes to a sustainable, ethical, and circular economy.
“The circular economy provides an unprecedented opportunity to build
restorative and fair approaches in the apparel industry."
- Jeffrey Hogue, C&A Chief Sustainability Officer
Slow fashion is growing in popularity for good reasons. Consumers are asking for more transparency and environmentally friendly clothing produced ethically and fairly.
Slow fashion is the movement within the clothing industry that pushes improvement in the area of social, environmental, and economic sustainability, regarding the design, production, and consumption of apparel and accessories.
Sometimes, less is more. Faster and cheaper aren't always better. We must make a conscious effort to move away from excessive consumerism.
The concept of slow fashion is of course constantly evolving. But its goals remain the same: to put an end to all unethical and environmentally damaging practices in the textile and apparel industry.
Slow fashion and ethical clothing
Shockingly, the fashion industry still employs unethical practices such as child labor and modern slavery to produce new clothes. It's responsible for the loss of thousands of human and animal lives, due to pollution, unsafe work conditions, and abuse.
Many fashion brands and retailers still use sweatshop labor to mass-produce clothing cheaply. They keep driving garment manufacturing and labor costs down, having a disastrous environmental and social impact in the process.
Ethical fashion has deep concerns for human and animal welfare. It respects their rights and guarantees fair treatment to all living beings. No animal-cruelty and living wages for all workers in the supply chain.
Sustainable fashion develops environmental, social, and economic sustainability within the clothing industry. It creates a more socially acceptable and environmentally friendly approach to sourcing materials, designing clothing, and manufacturing garments.
Slow fashion is ethical and sustainable because it improves all aspects of clothing production and consumption to be more respectful of people and the environment. From raw material sourcing to manufacturing, distribution, usage, and disposal.
Slow fashion reduces the impact of clothing production and consumption on communities, workers, and ecosystems. It's very important for the planet, the people, and the animals living on it.
It encourages designers, brands, retailers, and the general public to hold more responsibility toward the environment, and workers in every step of the supply chain.
Slow fashion is a movement that drives consumers to buy less and higher quality, to take better care of their clothes so they last longer. It's a more conscious and mindful approach to purchasing clothing.
How to shop slow fashion
As consumers, we have the power to drive change in the fashion industry. We choose the clothes we buy and who we support with our money. This may seem small but it makes a huge difference.
Slow fashion is about promoting sustainable sourcing of raw materials, fair high-quality clothing production, and responsible consumption. Conscious consumers who follow the slow fashion movement are more mindful of the clothes they buy.
They understand that each of their purchase decisions has a large social and environmental impact. They make thoughtful clothing choices that push fashion designers, brands, and retailers to adopt ethical and sustainable practices.
If you would like to become a more mindful consumer of slow fashion, you can start with the following:
- buy fewer clothes overall
- shop second-hand clothing whenever possible
- learn to repurpose clothing and upcycle
- shop locally to support nearby businesses
- buy clothes made from sustainable materials
- buy from sustainable and ethical clothing brands
- look for eco-certification standards on the labels
- prioritize quality and durability over price and style
This is a more socially responsible and environmentally friendly way of shopping for new clothes. It's conscious consumerism in the fashion world. Buy clothing designed to last over trendy and cheaply made clothes. It makes a big difference.
Instead of shopping from fast fashion brands for mass-produced clothing and replacing it instantly with new trends, buy items with a longer lifespan and higher quality.
Slow fashion articles
Here are some useful resources about slow fashion. Go through them thoroughly to keep consuming and enjoying beautiful fashion more responsibly and sustainably.
- Slow fashion vs fast fashion.
- What does slow fashion mean?
- Why is slow fashion important for the planet today?
- How I became a slow fashion advocate for good.
- The opposite of fast fashion: slow fashion.
- An introduction to slow fashion and why it matters.
The apparel and textile industry puts immense pressure on the planet's natural resources, polluting and degrading the nearby environment and numerous ecosystems. It creates catastrophic environmental and social repercussions at a local, regional, and global level.
Luckily, thousands of people already support slow fashion and environmentally friendly clothing. It's the way to go to protect the planet and save lives. It's a more ethical and sustainable way of living.
Do you think slow fashion has a place in the future of fashion?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.