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The Hell's That: Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion

Haley Martin

We know as well as anyone; in the sustainable marketplace, there is quite a bit of jargon getting thrown around. Though consumers often use terms like they’re interchangeable, much of this vocabulary isn’t––so it can get kind of confusing! Well, we’re going to make it easy for you with our new series: “The Dictionary of Faire: The Hell’s that?” We informally debuted this series a few weeks ago with sustainability. Now, we’re moving on to Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion. At this point, we likely all understand Fast Fashion. But, if you are new, here’s a refresher!

Fast Fashion

/fast/ˈfaSHən/

Noun

  1. the cyclical, uber-trendy, market for clothes that are pushed from the design board, into factories, malls, closets—–and, all too often into the trash––in a matter of months.

The word may as well be synonymous with brands like Zara, H&M, Topshop, and Forever 21. Many of these companies, and brands like them, produce close to one million garments per day. *pause for gasp* Not so coincidentally, these brands are the staple of many Western wardrobes.

Our relationship with fashion has changed drastically throughout history. Whereas we once made our own clothes, and wore hand-me-downs, we now opt for cheap and fleetingly stylish garments made to meet the demands of an arbitrary 52-week-per-year trend cycle. Once we decide that apparel X has run its course across the rapid style radar, we throw it out, and immediately move onto apparels Y and Z (aka whatever’s new).

You might be wondering: If everyone does it, is it really so bad? Yes. Low prices drive us to consume more, but our purchases come at a higher price for garment workers and the environment. According to EcoCult, Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, tied with cow farts (livestock), at number five. The garment industry is responsible for poisoning rivers (literally dyeing them), ravishing farm land and habitats, and producing astronomical amounts of water and solid waste. The same processes that damage our environment can also harm the more than one billion workers across the garment industry’s supply chains. Furthermore, most workers do not earn enough to pay for basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter–-and those unbelievably low wages aren’t a mistake. They’re part of a production strategy that has managed to transform itself into a global, systemic nightmare through maximized consumer spending. That sucks!     

But, like, is there another way? Of course, there is! Introducing–– *drum-roll please*––Slow Fashion.

Slow Fashion

/slō/ˈfaSHən/

Noun

  1. Mindful
    and long-lasting clothing consumption which resists the persistent speed of seasonal fashion trends and cycles.

By changing the qualifier of our mainstream fashion dialogue from fast to slow, designers and consumers are harnessing the power to change the marketplace one brand, one consumer, at a time. We slow down the fashion cycle and demand clothes that resist the persistent speed of tradition retail.

Slow Fashion is not just about the lifespan of your clothing. The concept combines sustainability and ethical standards in the production, use, and disposal of our garments. As much as we would love to take credit for this powerful movement, we did not make this stuff up, y’all. Brands and artists both inside and outside the sustainable industry have paved the way to making this idea the norm.

The term was coined by Kate Fletcher from The Centre for Sustainable Fashion, when garments were compared to food across their supply chains and effects. For instance, when we really think about our food, we would like our farmers to take their time, to ensure quality in production, and to be mindful of the environment––not only because the food we eat affects us, but because how it comes to us does too...hence, the Slow Food movement. And, out of this reasoning, the Slow Fashion concept (and movement) was born.  

Loved Clothes Last is the title of the recent zine published by Fashion Revolution. Its creators dive deep into issues like waste, mass-consumption and their effects on the environment. But, most importantly, the magazine urges its readers to, “buy less, care more, and know how to make the clothes you love last for longer.” Even the big names have caught on. Alessandro Michele, the creative director at Gucci, gives us all a powerful call to action: “Resist the mantra of speed that violently leads to losing oneself. Resist the illusion of something new at any cost.”

We urge you to take this call to heart! We love the Earth, and, even more, we love the people on it. The garment workers, the artisans, and the consumers (you). So, slow down. Consume carefully. Many brands (including ours) offer garments that can empower you to take the first step. So, go ahead—demand clothes to love, and that are made with love. Clothes to cherish. And, most importantly, clothes to last.


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