As we already know, consumerism and mass clothing purchases are a dominant factor in many people's lives. However this, like many other aspects of our lives, is slowly but surely changing with the emergence of the slow fashion movement, the counterpart to the infamous fast fashion.
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Recently, this movement seems to be on everyone's lips and both customers and fashion designers are becoming more and more aware of it.
If you still don't know what slow fashion is, in this post, you will find everything you need to know. Even if you already know what it is, don’t close this tab! You're sure to learn a thing or two about this wonderful eco-friendly movement. But first, let's take it one step at a time. What is slow fashion, exactly?
What Is Slow Fashion?
Essentially, slow fashion is thinking before you buy clothes. Not just thinking about whether you really need that tempting mainstream shirt posing behind the counter of some well-known clothing brand's store or not, but thinking about where the garments come from and being aware of how they are created.
It is a new eco-friendly approach to fashion that focuses on sustainability, recycling, or acquiring second-hand clothes and encourages the idea of buying better quality garments that will last longer, making sure that their manufacturing processes have been fair and ethical to people, animals and the environment in general.
How did the slow fashion movement start?
The slow fashion movement started in 2007 when Kate Fletcher, an English activist, writer, designer, and sustainability professor coined the concept as a counterpart and response to fast fashion.
Nevertheless, the movement initially didn’t have much impact until 2013, when a tragedy occurred in a textile factory in Bangladesh.
A building that did not comply with basic safety measures collapsed on top of thousands of workers who had previously denounced the poor conditions of their workstations. It was this devastating event that reignited the debate about all the negative social and environmental aspects of fast fashion, and really put slow fashion on the table.
Why is slow fashion important?
Let’s make it clear right off the bat: slow fashion is very, very important. Why? Well, in a world where fast fashion consumption became the norm for so many years, slow fashion breaks the mold and presents itself as an eco-friendly alternative, at the same time pointing out to us why fast fashion is absolutely harmful to the environment.
Also, slow fashion is about supporting local economies, generating decent work environments and creating higher quality, durable products. Its importance lies in how it opens our eyes to the reality of the textile industry, providing us with solutions to reduce its negative aspects.
How does slow fashion help the environment?
Did you know that the textile industry is the second largest consumer and polluter of water? That’s not very eco-friendly of you, fast fashion.
Slow fashion is, as we stated earlier in this post, the better alternative. It can help the environment in many ways by manufacturing clothes made of organic fabrics, using fewer chemicals, recycling fibers to make new pieces, reducing greenhouse gases by cutting short the production of petroleum-based apparel, and decreasing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills and minimizing water consumption. That’s very eco-friendly of you, slow fashion!
Why is slow fashion so darn expensive?
Short answer: you get what you pay for. We like to pay less and get more, but that doesn’t happen in fast fashion. At least, not in the long run. You see, that t-shirt that you bought for $5 has a way shorter lifespan than a sustainable one. They are mass-produced, have poor quality and aren’t ethical when it comes to the manufacturer’s work environment.
On the other hand, slow fashion can come from local artisans who produce small batches of clothing by hand. Also, ethically run manufacturing facilities pay their employees well. This can make slow fashion expensive, but you can find some pretty good deals out there too.
Thrifting is also part of the slow fashion movement… And it’s quite fun to do!
Okay, so what is fast fashion?
We have already told you what slow fashion means, showing its many advantages over fast fashion, but… What is fast fashion anyway? Well, it is the reflection of modern life: consumerism and mass culture. Fast fashion is based on creating trendy garments quickly, cheaper, and in large quantities to meet “popular demand”. In fact, so much clothing is produced so quickly that more than 50 clothing collections of clothing can be released each year by a single brand.
Why is fast fashion so harmful?
Talking about those 50 clothing collections per year… Most of those clothes end up in landfills after a short time of being bought. Also, there are other typical impacts of the industry on the environment, such as the high consumption of natural resources, chemicals, and the generation of greenhouse gases.
It also encourages the exploitation of the different agents involved in the textile industry. In countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Cambodia, working conditions are deplorable. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What are the worst offending fast fashion brands?
We’ve all heard bad things about fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, and Mango. However, they’ve kind of tried to clean up their names with eco-initiatives. But what about the nastiest brands? The ones that couldn’t care less about ethics? Well, here are the nominees for the worst of the worst:
Boohoo is one of four fashion brands producing clothing in the United Kingdom in sweatshops, where workers are paid less than the minimum wage and even get reprimanded for being 1 minute late, checking the time, or – you won’t believe this, smiling.
Forever 21… Almost everything about this brand is offensive. First of all, they use really cheap fabrics. Petrol-based textiles are a major contributor to environmental pollution, and they don’t seem to care. Second of all, they refused to sign the Bangladesh Accord, which ensures garment workers' safe workspaces and rights. Does it get any worse?
Yes, it gets worse. We all know that China isn’t well known for loving its workers in the textile industry – it has one of the worst human rights records in the entire world, and China-based fashion wholesalers like Shein are in the same boat. Not only their workers are paid pittances, but also use child labor too. This is not crossing the line, but skipping it altogether.
There are other awful brands like Urban Outfitters, Primark, and Fashion Nova which are known for promoting worker exploitation and environmental pollution, but the 3 mentioned above take the crown.
Characteristics of Slow Fashion brands
How can we identify a good slow fashion brand? Well, some characteristics are that their clothes are made from high-quality sustainable materials, they are usually offered in small local stores (instead of giant corporate chains), the workers who produce them are well paid and not exploited, and they only have about a couple of specific styles per collection, which are released twice or three times per year at most.
Some staple slow fashion brands
Since we know the worst fast fashion brands, what good slow fashion alternatives are out there?
Patagonia is for sure a staple slow fashion brand. It was an early advocate of environmental ethics in the sportswear industry, and one of the first to use organic cotton and recycled materials on their clothes.
If you want long-lasting super-soft basics, look no further than Pact. Their clothing is eco-friendly, has an affordable price point and high-quality standards. Plus, they promote fair trade. What more could you ask for?
Finally, let us introduce you to Boden. It has been part of the industry for over 25 years and is admired for its elegant clothing pieces and ethics. The brand is committed to responsible sourcing, fair trade, and eco-friendly practices, so much so that they even ship their clothes in recycled (and recyclable) packaging. A true gem.
Make sure you stop by our ethical fashion brands page in our brand directory.
How to Join The Slow Fashion Movement & slow down your Fashion consumption?
Now that you have an idea about slow fashion, are you ready to make the switch but don't know where to start? There are several options, such as buying second-hand clothing, buying clothes made from natural materials, and giving old clothes a purpose. Remember: supporting slow fashion doesn’t need to be a change in style, only a change in practices and purchasing decisions.
Go Secondhand! Shop thrift & consignment shops giving clothes a new home
If you’re on a budget and want to hop on the slow fashion movement, go secondhand! As we mentioned earlier, thrifting can be fun. Slow fashion brands can be expensive, but you can find second-hand shops and consignment shops in almost every city. They offer all kinds of options, ranging from ultra-cheap pieces to brand-name ones, so if you have clothes you no longer wear or want to buy new ones, a thrift store is a place to go. Or you can rent your clothing too.
Stay away from Synthetic fabric! Purchase clothing made from natural materials
In general, natural fibers have many eco advantages over synthetic fibers. One of the main ones is that they are biodegradable and therefore more sustainable, like organic cotton, bamboo fibers, tencel, etc. Synthetic fabric, on the other hand, is made from plastics, coal, and petroleum by-products and is not biodegradable. Plus, natural materials are softer, more comfortable, and more breathable (think Modal) than their synthetic equivalents.
Stop treating clothes as disposable - Give old clothes a purpose when you’re ready to get rid of them
Remember those old bell-bottom jeans that you bought in 2005 and are still hanging at the back of your closet? Don’t just throw them away, give them another chance: cut the legs off, and voilà! New shorts. You can also make tote bags out of pants, bed linen out of cotton shirts, the DIY projects are endless, so there is no excuse when it comes to giving old clothes a purpose.
How to stop fast fashion & push back by demanding change?
Not only can we make personal choices in our lifestyle and shopping habits to stop fast fashion, we can also directly demand change. It would all be easier if each of us could shut down every single factory and clothing brand that supports fast fashion, but since we don't have that power, we can still do our parts to push for fair fashion by using our voice.
Email fast fashion brands asking them to consider slow fashion
Are you a fan of emails? You can send one to any brand! Ask them specifically (in a polite way, even though some brands don't even deserve that) how their garments are made and if they ensure the protection of people and the environment. Don’t be shy - the more people asking questions, the more likely the brand will listen.
Use Social Media to get fast fashion manufacturers attention
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great platforms to demand change and ask fast fashion brands about their production practices. You can send them a DM, write a comment on a post or even tag them using the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes. If brands don’t hear from customers, they have no reason to change their practices.
Slow Fashion is more than a movement it’s a way of life!
Every action has a consequence, even an act as seemingly simple as getting dressed can impact the environment in which we live and our community. Slow fashion is about choice, information, cultural diversity, and identity – it is a natural and ethical way of life.
Of course, there is no magic wand that will make our entire lifestyle and shopping habits change overnight, but every little action counts.
Slow fashion is a glimpse of a different and more sustainable future for the textile industry. It gives an opportunity for business to be done in a way that respects workers, the environment and consumers. And you know what? That future is just one garment away. And whether is sustainable socks or ethical jewellery, we've got you covered here on The Eco Hub.
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