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Slow Fashion: What does it mean and how to be part of it

In an era full of movements, each with a different catchy name, it’s hard to know which ones are here to stay and improve the world we live in. We’re here to say that the slow fashion movement has withstood the test of time and continues to gain momentum in an effort to truly transform the fashion industry. 

What is slow fashion?

You may have heard a lot of different terms around fashion and trying to change the negative effects the industry has on both an environmental and a human level – the sustainable fashion movement, the ethical fashion movement, and the slow fashion movement are all sisters with similar goals and methodologies. 

At its most basic level, slow fashion is simply the opposite of fast fashion. But this doesn’t really encompass the nuances of the movement. Embracing slow fashion means slowing down the process of purchasing and wearing clothing. It means maintaining an awareness of the resources that go into producing each garment you wear and reducing consumption and waste through creating a thoughtful wardrobe. Slow fashion is based on quality and responsibility, rather than time or money. 

The antithesis of slow fashion: what is fast fashion?

Where slow fashion is rooted in quality and responsibility, fast fashion is based on speed and money. Fast fashion is ingrained in the textile industry today and it has led to a downward spiral in quality and sustainability. 

Creating more clothing, faster, to get it into the hands of more paying customers is the business model that many (if not most) clothing retailers follow these days. They stay on top of the latest trends, producing whole new collections of cheaply made, inexpensive clothing every season. While this may sound like a dream come true to a budget-minded shopper, this process comes with a plethora of issues. 

Cheap labor in third world countries is utilized to produce fabrics and clothing in the cheapest and fastest way possible. But these garment factory workers are being exploited in their need for an income – they work in terrible conditions and are not compensated fairly. 

Unsustainable, low-quality, synthetic fabrics are produced at a rapid pace to keep up with demand for the latest trends. The process of creating these fabrics leads to pollution that can damage the environment. In addition, most synthetic fabrics are non-biodegradable – so when they inevitably end up in a landfill when the next season’s collections come out, they’ll stay in those landfills for hundreds of years without breaking down. 

The origins of slow fashion

Slow fashion has emerged as a way to fight the fast fashion, money-grabbing side of the industry. The term “slow fashion” was originally coined by Kate Fletcher, who is a professor of sustainability, design, and fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. 

In 2007, Fletcher wrote a moving piece in The Ecologist to call for a slower approach to fashion. In her article, she describes how the inspiration for the slow fashion movement came from the slow food movement, which was founded in 1986 as a way to bring to attention the need to slow down and focus on awareness and responsibility within the food industry. 

Fletcher saw that same need in the fashion industry. She described slow fashion as a “quality-based” approach that focuses on responsibility and thoughtfulness. It’s a system under which brands can still create an income producing fashionable clothing, while treating workers fairly and respecting the environment. 

She explains that with a slow fashion approach, each garment will cost more – because it was produced with conscientious methods that are more costly and time-consuming – but the quality and style will make it a garment that lasts a lifetime. This means we can buy fewer pieces of clothing at higher prices, knowing they are durable, timeless pieces.  

Slow fashion today: changing the fashion industry

In the past few years, support for both the slow fashion movement, and its sister, the sustainable fashion movement, has grown exponentially. Consumers are becoming more aware of the impacts that fast fashion has on the environment and the unethical ways garment workers are being treated. 

These changing consumer demands create a space for sustainable, slow fashion brands to bring ethical, environmentally friendly, conscientious garments to the market in a profitable way. 

 

Slow fashion brands

With the increased desire for more sustainable fashion and more awareness of the environmental and human rights impacts of the fashion industry, many independent designers are bringing slow fashion brands into the marketplace.

What makes a brand “slow fashion”

There are many ways a brand can create fashion in a more sustainable and thoughtful manner, making them a slow fashion brand. Check out the websites of brands that you like to see what they are doing to improve sustainability. 

Here are a few characteristics of slow fashion brands: 

  • Fabrics are made from sustainable fibers; the brand avoids synthetic fibers
  • The brand is transparent about their production process
  • The styles they offer are classic, timeless pieces; they avoid trends
  • The brand has few (if any) new collection releases each year
  • They use high-quality materials and construction techniques
  • Their garments are made (at least mostly) locally, rather then shipped overseas for production in factories
  • They have creative ways of reducing waste – for example, zero waste designs or using fabric scraps for small accessories like scrunchies

Some emergent brands that are doing slow fashion right

If you’re looking for some slow fashion inspiration, or transitioning your wardrobe into more sustainable styles, these 5 slow fashion brands are at the forefront of the movement. 

 BIANKALÚ is an Italian slow fashion brand that creates timeless designs in natural, eco-friendly fabrics like linen. 

OM is a sustainable, slow fashion brand that sells environmentally conscious clothing for both men and women. 

Together Segal is a brand designed by petites for petites, providing sustainable, classic wardrobe essentials for petite women.

Consches is an eco-friendly fashion brand that develops stylish, high-quality clothing through environmentally friendly and fair methods. 

A Dutch slow fashion brand, Halsduk provides elegant, timeless, sustainable couture streetwear. 

 

How to be a part of the slow fashion movement

It’s hard to miss the importance of the slow fashion movement in transforming the fashion industry and lessening the impact our wardrobe choices have on the world. Here are a few things you can do to join the slow fashion movement. 

 

Join the slow fashion movement as a consumer

We all wear clothes, and there’s something every one of us can do to more thoughtfully choose each garment we wear.

Practice conscientious living

A thoughtful approach to all areas of your life will help you to slow down and enjoy each day. This allows you to take the time to think through each decision you make and consider the effect it has on you and on the world as a whole. Think about each garment that you put on in the morning and all the hands that have touched that one piece of fabric. Consider how bringing that garment into existence impacted everyone in the production process and the environment. 

Buy sustainable clothing

Going forward, slowly transition your wardrobe to more sustainable options. This could be sustainable fabrics or brands that treat their garment production workers fairly. Don’t just toss all your fast fashion clothing in frustration and buy all new clothing – this creates waste. Make the transition gradual and try to get as much wear as possible out of each piece of clothing.

Buy less, avoid trends

It’s tempting to buy the new trends each season - but avoid that temptation. Purchasing fewer garments in timeless styles made from high-quality fabrics will help you to build a more sustainable and long-lasting wardrobe.

Reuse and recycle

Reusing and recycling old materials has a major effect on reducing waste and environmental harm. Purchase clothing made from recycled or reused materials or creatively reuse the fabric from your old clothing for new applications. 

 

Join the slow fashion movement as a brand

If you have a fashion brand, or are thinking about starting one, now is the time to focus on sustainability and slow fashion. Here are a few tips for joining the slow fashion movement through your own fashion line. 

Source sustainable fabrics

Starting with sustainable fabrics for your designs is a major step toward becoming a slow fashion brand. This means using recycled fabrics, fabric waste, or sustainable fibers like linen or hemp. 

Here at FabricSight, we have a huge selection of sustainable fabrics and vegan fabrics to choose from. We also offer recycled polyester and polyamide fabrics, which are a sustainable alternative to traditional synthetics. Our wide selection of vegan-certified cupro fabrics could be a great starting point for a slow fashion line. This textured cupro-viscose blend twill would make a gorgeous, stand-out suit set. Or try this lightweight cupro fabric for flowy dresses and tops. 

Create a sustainable and ethical production process

The sustainability of your brand shouldn’t stop at the fabric. Try to find creative ways to make your entire production process more sustainable and ethical. Make sure to use methods that reduce waste and pollution. Take a look at your garment production process and ensure that workers are paid fairly. 

Sell quality, timeless pieces

The goal of slow fashion is to reduce waste by producing quality garments that will last. Use high-quality fabrics and construction methods for your pieces. During the design process, consider how classic the design is – you want to avoid anything trendy that won’t stay in your customer’s closet for many years to come.

Find ways to reduce waste

Finally, try to find ways to reduce waste through the production process. This could mean using zero waste designs, which utilize every little bit of fabric. Or you can find ways to use your fabric scraps in other useful applications – like small accessories or patchwork designs.

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