Most likely, you’ve heard the term “fast fashion,” right? But what is slow fashion? This eco-friendly trend is on the rise, with more brands using sustainable fabrics and techniques to produce clothing such as a hemp bra or high waisted underwear. Keep reading to learn what slow fashion is, as well as my best tips on how to jump into the slow fashion movement if you want to join me!
WHAT IS SLOW FASHION? THE SIMPLE ANSWER.
Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. Slow fashion aims to globally reduce both the production and consumption of clothing so that people, animals, and the earth can benefit. That's because the slow fashion movement started as a reaction to the negatives of the fast fashion industry—like environmental pollution, humanitarian issues, and waste.
By slowing down production and the demand for fashion, big brands and shoppers like you and I can make a huge difference! And when you embrace slow fashion, you experience a few other perks along the way (cha-ching, hello there bank account).
THE SLOW FASHION MOVEMENT: THE ORIGINS
Author, professor, and activist, Kate Fletcher coined the term “slow fashion” back in 2007, labeling the fast fashion industry not by its speed but by its “greed.” She made the point that growing, spinning, cleaning, dyeing, and weaving any clothing fibers takes the same amount of time. So fashion is only fast because brands make more and sell more, often ignoring the humanitarian and environmental consequences. (This point got me—fast fashion is fast because it exploits, and I don’t want to add to that!)
But if you’re new to the fast-fashion dilemma, get ready for some surprising info. In 2014, shoppers bought 60% more clothing than they did in 2000 but only kept their garments for half as long. Can you relate? In part, this is because you can buy new clothes far more often than in the past. Not only are trendy clothes cheaper, but brands release them more often, tempting you into buying more—sneaky!
Remember when you’d walk into the mall to stock up for the season? There used to be just two fashion seasons (spring/summer and fall/winter). But now, many stores and brands release numerous new collections throughout the year. According to the European Parliament, the fast-fashion brand Zara releases 24 collections in a year, and H&M offers between 12 and 16 fashion “seasons.”
THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAST FASHION
Think about the temptation of 24 collections a year and what that means for you, workers, and the environment. Fast fashion encourages overconsumption, which results in severe waste. Each year, 85% of textiles end up in landfills. And when we wash our clothes, we collectively release 500,000 tons of microplastics into our oceans and waterways!
In total, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions—that’s more than international travel and maritime shipping combined. I told you this statistical journey would be surprising—and I’m not done!
Besides environmental concerns, those making your clothes often suffer, working long hours for little pay. According to one study, over 16% of worldwide workers have jobs in the fashion industry, and only 2% of them earn a living wage. They often perform their duties in unsafe conditions that lead to tragedies, like the devastating 2012 fire in a Bangladesh factory that killed over 100 people.
WHAT IS SLOW FASHION FOR BUSINESSES?
All this info definitely got me feeling down, but there is hope. Back in that 2007 article, Kate Fletcher described the slow fashion movement as an entire industry shift focusing on quality rather than quantity. When a business doesn’t concentrate on quantity, there’s less pressure on time, allowing it to simultaneously respect workers, consumers, and the environment.
To strike this balance, slow fashion embraces high-quality, durable, and fairly-produced clothing that you can wear proudly. You get to be the conscious consumer and the brand is taking care of the workers and environment. Brands do this in many ways, like using low impact dyes, GOTS certified materials, and/or hemp fabric.
Shifting to slow fashion might sound easy enough, but we need to band together to make the change last. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if our favorite brands keep producing (and we keep consuming) fashion at its current rate, the industry will account for 26% of carbon emissions by the year 2050. Remember when that 10% statistic seemed crazy?!
SIX WAYS TO GET INVOLVED IN THE SLOW FASHION MOVEMENT
But you can make a difference, even with just a few tweaks to your lifestyle or shopping habits. What is slow fashion for a shopper like you? Slow fashion simply means slowing down how much clothing, shoes, and accessories you buy. It also means supporting more sustainable fabrics, technologies, and methods. You could take either route or a combination of the two!
If you’re a fashionista, you may feel the impact of slow fashion more than others. But when replacing your clothing with more sustainable alternatives, you can still look trendy and feel even better about your purchases. There are many ways to jump on board the slow fashion movement and help make a difference.
1. ADOPT A MINIMALIST CLOTHING STYLE
If you’re not a big shopper (or you want to go all-in on slow fashion), you can adopt a minimalist clothing attitude and simply buy less. There are tons of resources and support groups out there to help you work toward a more minimalist wardrobe! This lifestyle encourages things like:
- Building a Capsule Wardrobe: Create a small wardrobe consisting of 20 or fewer garments that easily mix and match. Not only will this limit what you buy, but it’s also so much easier to get dressed in the morning!
- Following the 333 Project: I loved trying this challenge a few years ago. You own just 33 items of clothing and shop only three times a year. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and it was super rewarding in the end!
- Shopping at Thrift Stores: Remember all that textile waste I mentioned? Reduce it by thrifting. This strategy keeps clothing out of landfills and waterways and stops you from buying new. Win-win!
I currently live out of a suitcase, so I’m forced into this lifestyle—but I don’t regret it! Having less means that each purchase can be meaningful. While visiting Budapest with my mom, we bought matching t-shirts from the Hungarian National Museum in honor of the Frida Kahlo exhibit. I love the tee, but I love the memory even more!
2. CHOOSE NATURAL FABRICS
If you love to shop and just can’t reduce what you buy (hey, no judgment here!), opt for natural fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, linen, and bamboo. These are better for the environment because they tend to use less water, fertilizer, and chemicals. By wearing more natural fabrics, your clothes use less water, require less land, and produce less pollution.
If you’re like me, you grew up thinking cotton was the best. But in the hemp vs cotton, hemp vs linen, or hemp vs wool debates, hemp always comes out on top! It uses 50% less water than conventional cotton—one conventional cotton t-shirt requires 700 gallons of water and jeans need 2,000 gallons. Yes, that’s right, gallons. It’s no surprise that fashion is the world’s second-largest water polluter!
3. WEAR YOUR CLOTHES LONGER
Slow fashion emphasizes more durable fabrics so that your clothes don’t fall apart after a few washes or wears. Anyone else learn that lesson the hard way with a faulty H&M tee disintegrating in the wash? Yea, you’re not the only one! But even if you buy conventional clothing, you can still find ways to wear it longer.
Do you know how to hand wash underwear or how to hand wash bras? Taking care of your delicate clothing can extend the life of your favorite pair of hipster panties or your go-to triangle bralette. Caring for your clothes allows you to wear them longer. And instead of tossing garments with holes or tears, consider channeling that 6th-grade Home Ec class and bust out those basic sewing skills!
4. SUPPORT ETHICAL CLOTHING BRANDS
Sustainable fashion blogs are everywhere, so the slow fashion movement is definitely taking hold! You’ll find numerous vegan clothing brands, hemp clothing brands, and others that pledge to produce ethical clothing. These brands are a great choice if you want to follow Kate’s lead and support companies that balance the health of the consumer, worker, and environment.
5. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Just because a store advertises sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean it practices what it preaches. When you look up a company, dive in a little deeper to truly understand its manufacturing practices. If they’re legitimate, they won’t be shy in telling you so!
For example, WAMA manufactures all hemp in China, the world leader in hemp production, and makes garments there. Keeping everything in one place reduces carbon emissions. And with the reputation that garment factories have, WAMA works with fair-pay facilities and provides safe working environments through a supplier code of conduct.
6. BE AN ADVOCATE
Clothing companies and fast fashion brands won’t slow down until you and I advocate for that change. Joining the slow fashion movement means talking with your dollars, but you can take it one step further and be an outspoken advocate. In today’s social media and email-friendly world, contacting brands about their unethical or environmentally damaging practices has never been easier.
WILL SLOW FASHION BE THE FUTURE?
I hope so! Slow fashion can revolutionize the fashion industry and bring fair, kind, and ethical practices back into the clothes you and I love to wear. From the growing process to the hands that make your clothes, slow fashion is the answer to humanitarian and environmental changes that the fashion industry needs.
Are you interested in the slow fashion movement? If so, let me know in the comments how you’ll get involved!