In our last post we talked about the true cost of fast fashion and its harmful impacts on the environment, human health, and our wallets. This week we’re going to discuss the relatively new movement that is flipping the fast fashion model on its head—slow fashion.
Powered by the revelation of the true cost of fast fashion, a wave of change has started rolling through the fashion world. The growing movement of ethical consumerism has demanded that goods be made in ways that do not harm the environment or the people making them. And an increasing number of brands are now rejecting the fast fashion model that emerged 20 years ago in favor of its opposite, slow fashion.
“Slow fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity.”
- Study NY
There are two main facets to slow fashion.
One of the main tenets of slow fashion is to decrease the speed of consumption in order to reduce the textile waste clogging our landfills and polluting our oceans. The “less-is-more” ethos hits the brakes on excessive production, mindless consumption, and immediate gratification, encouraging people to place greater value on fewer but better garments. The movement aims to change the mentality and lifestyle of consumers, inspiring them to buy less and value more.
Rather than chasing fleeting trends, slow fashion emphasizes timeless style that will remain classic for decades even as fashion trends fluctuate around it. Clothing is designed to be worn all year round, layered for versatility in changing weather. Because of the emphasis on enduring styles, brands only need a few garments per collection, and collections only need to be released a couple of times a year. Even with a minimal wardrobe, you can create almost infinite combinations of looks. This is the basis of a capsule wardrobe, which we’ll talk about in a later post.
Slow fashion infuses value into every stitch, seam, and cuff. It highlights the art of making clothes, and celebrates the skills of the craftspeople and designers. The idea is to create emotional durability and connection—someone carefully designed and crafted this garment, and wearing it connects you to them. These items are made by real people rather than homogenized, mass-production corporations. There’s something great about that.
When it comes to production, slow fashion is not necessarily about being “slow.” At its core, the slow fashion model is about thoughtful, holistic design that is mindful of its impact on workers, consumers, and the environment. It aims to produce, design, and consume better. This approach takes time to implement well, which is why production ends up being slow.
Designers often work within the cradle to cradle concept, envisioning a product with all stages of its lifecycle in mind, to make sure that it does not create negative impacts during its design, manufacture, or disposal. They place emphasis on environmentally sustainable processes and resources, using materials like linen, cotton, and Tencel, which are sturdy enough to last and gentle enough to keep their environmental impact low.
The approach takes into account how the garment is made and who is making it, championing fair wages and labor conditions. Clothing is often locally sourced, produced, and sold, allowing for full control of supply chains and labor conditions. The brands aim for transparency, so that consumers can know what they are buying and who produced it in order to make more ethical choices.
And, of course, these timeless styles require high-quality materials and durable construction to actually last. Quality workmanship is paramount, such as skillful weaving, sturdy stitching, and durable dyes, to make high-quality clothing that will serve you for a long time.
Slow Fashion Brands
Need new clothes and not sure where to start? Here are some characteristics to help you identify slow fashion brands:
- Clothing made from high-quality, sustainable materials
- Enduring, classic, and versatile styles
- Small batch collections released only a few times a year
- Emphasis on local resources and economies
- Focus on fair labor conditions and transparent supply chains
- Small brands rather than huge chain enterprises
And here are a few brand suggestions to start you off.
Kowtow engages a slow production chain that takes 18 months from design to delivery, ensuring workers’ rights and environmental protection. They use organic, fair-trade cotton and non-toxic dyes to create timeless, classic womenswear.
Hackwith Design House makes everyday, timeless basics in small, limited edition collections or piece-by-piece made to order.
Encircled uses sustainable fabrics to make high-quality, thoughtfully-designed modern basics that are versatile, multi-way clothing perfect for capsule wardrobes.
Whimsy + Row produces casual, chic clothes out of local deadstock fabrics in small collections that are designed to stay stylish and last for years.
TWOTHIRDS works on a pre-order system that estimates how many pieces will sell, so that they can produce only what they will actually sell without any waste.
RAFA shoes are handmade by second- and third-generation shoemakers out of recycled vegan leathers and reclaimed wood. Each pair of shoes is made to order, avoiding all necessary waste.
Study NY focuses on transparent supply chains, sustainable techniques, and educating consumers about the craft of making clothes so that they can understand what goes into producing a well-made garment.
Pookulangara, Sanjukta and Arlesa Shephard. “Slow fashion movement: Understanding consumer perceptions—An exploratory study.” Journal of Retailing and Consumers Services 20.2 (2013): 200-206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2012.12.002