What's the difference between slow fashion vs fast fashion, and does it matter? We live in a society where you can spot a trendy outfit on a celebrity and immediately purchase a copy of their entire getup for a fraction of the price.
Our wardrobes are overflowing with cheap pieces we wear once or twice and throw away. While the availability of cheap clothing is great for the fashionistas out there, the negative effects of over-consumption far outweigh the benefits.
There is an alternative to this type of consumerism, though. It’s called slow fashion, and both corporations and individuals can play a role in producing and shopping for more sustainable items.
If you’re interested in the slow fashion movement, here’s how you can help play your part in reducing the harmful impact fast fashion has on our world.
What exactly is slow fashion?
Coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, slow fashion is the antithesis of fast fashion. It focuses on quality materials, local manufacturing, and more sustainable production.
Consumers who join the slow fashion movement don’t participate in excessive consumption or consumerism. Instead, the movement focuses on minimalism, purchasing sustainable items, and only buying what you need. Essentially, it means, slow shopping.
Slow fashion vs fast fashion: The differences
Below are some of the key differences between slow fashion vs fast fashion. While not every brand will meet each of these markers, fast fashion vs slow fashion can generally be broken down as follows:
Fast fashion brands rely on synthetic, petroleum-based materials that are harmful to the environment. These companies use cheap fabrics made from non-renewable fossil fuels. On the other hand, slow fashion incorporates locally-sourced, organic, natural, recycled, and repurposed items.
Fast fashion is designed to last for a couple of wears or one or two seasons, at most. Instead of having four seasons, there are fifty-two seasons for fast fashion – one every week.
This incentivizes companies to produce more clothes as quickly as possible, and quality suffers. Slow fashion has a much slower cycle and instead is focused on the quality of its garments, which are meant to last years or even a lifetime.
Fast fashion manufacturing tends to have a negative environmental impact, including pollution and excessive waste. Slow fashion employs more eco-friendly production methods and, when a consumer is ready to dispose of the clothing, it is usually recyclable.
Fast fashion pays workers low wages and provides extremely poor working conditions. Most companies outsource production to developing countries where the labor laws are favorable to companies but unfavorable to workers. Slow fashion workers receive higher wages and better working conditions.
Fast fashion uses such cheap materials and pays its workers' such low wages which, in turn, allows them to charge extremely low prices for their items.
The tradeoff, of course, is the quality. Slow fashion is more expensive due to the use of higher quality materials, more sustainable manufacturing processes, and more ethical labor.
Why should you care about slow fashion vs fast fashion?
So why should you care about slow fashion vs fast fashion? Well, the choices you make in your clothing have a huge impact on the world – and your wallet. The negative impacts of fast fashion are extensive and include:
1. Impact on the environment
The rise of fast fashion has caused a devastating impact on the environment. As prices fall and consumers become more influenced by things like clothing haul videos, clothing consumption has skyrocketed.
The environmental impacts of fast fashion include excessive usage of water, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and the discharge of toxic substances into the ocean.
2. Human rights violations
Developing countries produce most of the world’s fast fashion, and they are the places that feel its negative effects most personally. The fast fashion world has long been accused of human rights abuses.
Workers in clothing factories face abuse, including earning unlivable wages, harassment, and poor working conditions. Some of these conditions have caused deadly fires and accidents.
3. Effects on your wallet
Lastly, fast fashion has personal consequences, too. Even if each individual item is cheap, excessive shopping and over-consumption can really add up to significant costs.
When you build a fast fashion wardrobe, you have to constantly replace it because nothing is of good quality. If for no other reason, you should avoid fast fashion if you want to save your hard-earned money.
4 Ways to participate in slow fashion vs fast fashion
So you’ve heard of all the reasons why not to participate in fast fashion. But how can you be more mindful of what you purchase and participate in the slow fashion movement? Here are some easy ways:
1. Consider a capsule wardrobe
One of the best ways to join the slow fashion movement is by building a small but well-curated capsule wardrobe. By definition, capsule wardrobes have fewer items in them. Instead of relying on fast fashion clothing that you discard after a season, capsule wardrobes consist of pieces that last for years.
2. Take a gradual approach to transforming your wardrobe
It doesn’t have to be entirely fast fashion vs slow fashion or vice versa. Instead, take a gradual approach to transformation. If you have been relying on fast fashion for a long time, it might take time to break the habit.
Vow to stop buying from certain retailers or cut back on your purchases while you slowly replace your clothing with more sustainable and timeless choices. You don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to make a difference.
3. Sell, donate, and recycle your old clothes
Resist the urge to throw old clothes in the garbage during a purge. Depending on the condition of your clothing, take the extra time to upcycle, sell, donate, or recycle your old items because this can help prevent your old clothing from ending up in the landfill and polluting the earth even more!
4. Do your homework and purchase from sustainable brands
When you purchase new clothes, do your homework first and make sure to buy from sustainable brands. One of the best ways to check if a brand is sustainable is if it is a “Certified B Corp.”
These are corporations that have met the highest standards of inclusivity and sustainability. Popular fashion brands that have achieved B Corp status include Athleta and Patagonia.
Get inspiration from slow fashion blogs and YouTube channels
Interested in joining the slow fashion movement? Any type of lifestyle change can be hard. If you’ve been purchasing new clothes from places like Forever21 for years, moving away from fast fashion can be difficult. One of the best ways to join the slow fashion world is by following blogs and YouTube channels for inspiration.
These blogs and channels provide advice on sustainable brands, where to find vintage and used clothes, and how to dispose of your old fast fashion items, among tons of other tips.
Not only that, these bloggers are some of the most fashionable people around, proving that you don’t need fast fashion to look fabulous!
Here are some of our favorite slow fashion blogs and YouTube channels:
Use less by Signe Hansen Glud
One of our top favorite slow fashion blogs is Use Less by Signe Hansen Glud. Signe is a style coach with a blog, YouTube channel, and has masterclasses on building a sustainable wardrobe.
You can also book a consultation with her about how to build your own stylish, sustainable wardrobe, or simply read her blog and watch her videos for inspiration.
Alyssa Beltempo, Slow Fashion & Mindful Style
Alyssa is a slow fashion expert and stylist. She offers advice on her blog Slow Fashion and Mindful style about creating a stylish wardrobe while being a conscious consumer. She also runs one of the most popular and prolific YouTube channels on the topic.
On Sustainably Chic, Natalie blogs about sustainable fashion, green beauty, and living an eco-lifestyle. If you are looking for guidance on which are the best brands to buy from, check out her extensive directory of sustainable brands.
Cynthia shares blog posts, style guides, and YouTube videos on how to dress sustainably without sacrificing style. Inspiroue's guide to shopping sustainably is a great place to start if you’re just beginning your slow fashion journey.
Her site is especially inspiring for those interested in minimalism and building a minimalist wardrobe. You know how much we love capsule wardrobes, so this is definitely one of our favorite slow fashion blogs to read!
On Imperfect Idealist, Lily shares posts and YouTube videos on sustainable living, including slow fashion. Her site is unique in that she reviews brands and offers research-based insights into whether they are as sustainable or ethical as they seem. She takes deep dives into brands like Zara and recommends alternative, more sustainable brands.
Be sure to check out these slow fashion blogs to help you work towards your goal of participating in the slow fashion movement!
Try slow fashion vs fast fashion today!
Fast fashion and its negative effects don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. But, you can do your part to reduce its impact by joining the slow fashion movement.
Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired by the bloggers and YouTubers who show how fashionable slow fashion can be and by its many benefits to you and the rest of the world. You can also check out our favorite quotes on sustainable living for further motivation!
So use your knowledge on fast fashion vs slow fashion to make a better impact on the environment and your wallet!