Slow fashion, fast fashion, fast clothing, clothes may look fairly similar at arms-length but when you start to look more closely the difference is crystal clear.
So what exactly does slow fashion mean and why is it important?
We interviewed a slow fashion designer to find out.
Sam Tretton is the founder of Jam Boutique, based out of Margate, UK.
What is Slow Fashion?
A Slow Fashion Designer's Take
Sam said: "Slow fashion has a positive impact on people and the planet."
"It’s the direct opposite of Fast Fashion and everything it represents. Collections are small, created with low or zero waste. Design is much more considered in a slow fashion brand, there is a reason for every single garment in the collection.
"Teams are also small (some brands like me are very small - I’m a one woman team!), working conditions are safe, processes are ethical, pay is fair and people are respected in an inclusive environment."
Slow Fashion Vs Fast Fashion: What's the Difference for you?
As Sam points out, slow fashion is something that opposes fast fashion. Instead of churning out new lines for the sake of making huge profits, slow fashion focusses on more mindful ways of creating new clothing.
So why is slow fashion better for people?
There are a whole host of benefits for consumers who choose to buy slow fashion.
In the first place garments are usually created by fabulous small businesses that take time and care over creating their clothing. This usually means clothes are better quality and are better fitting if bespoke and made to order.
Your clothes should therefore last longer and wash better. This is also because many slow fashion brands like Rapanui or Lucy and Yak will only use organic or recycled materials. Organic cotton is usually much softer and has none of the chemical nasties.
In a world of off-the-peg clothing, you can stand out when you choose something that is handcrafted by a individual or small business. In the case of upcycled garments you'll get something that is one-of-a-kind that you'll never bump into on the street!
Your wardrobe will also thank you for it. When you start to slow down and make more thoughtful purchases from sustainable, ethical brands you're much less likely to end up with a big messy wardrobe. Usually these brands won't have those basket-building deals that encourage you to buy more than you actually need.
The Slow Fashion Movement
Now the slow fashion movement is a bit different to slow fashion in a sense. You have the idea of creating fashion more carefully and mindfully. But slow fashion is also about how people consume fashion on the whole.
Slow fashion does not just encompass clothing lines that are created using new materials. Indeed, like Jam Boutique, there are many amazing brands that rework old clothing or use other upcycled materials.
But it also includes things like vintage and preloved clothing. Here, slow fashion is all about keeping things for longer or making use of clothing that has already been loved and worn by someone else. This means forgoing fashion trends and creating your own personal style that lasts beyond the passing seasons.
One step further is the idea of buying nothing new. Sometimes the temptation is to replace your fast fashion shopping habits with buying second-hand clothing in charity shops and second-hand stores. While this is undoubtedly better for people and planet, it still isn't ideal. Instead this part of the movement is about being content with what you have, or even cutting down your wardrobe.
Ways to Slow Down your Fashion in 2023
- Start with small steps, can you limit any new purchases to a realistic number per month?
- Or take on a challenge! Project 333 is a good one where you can only wear 33 items of clothing (there's exceptions...) for 3 months
- Unfollow fast fashion brands on social media so you don't get tempted. If an ad pops up, block it or mark it as "not interested"
- Instead, follow some slow fashion brands - check out Ethical Consumer's A-Z list here!
- We all love having a wardrobe clear out every once in a while, but why not get ahead of the curve by keeping (and sticking to) a capsule wardrobe? Prevention is the best cure.
- If you really need something fancy to wear, why not try renting a garment?
- Repair and mend your clothing to give it an extra lease of life.
- Wash your clothing less so that it lasts longer.
- Only buy quality in the first place. Buy in-person and inspect it closely, are the seams robust, will it last?
- Alter your clothes if they don't fit anymore.
- Try other ways of getting new-to-you clothes like clothes swapping.
Can Slow Fashion be Affordable?
One of the hardest things to realise when you're weaning yourself off fast fashion is just how cheap that clothing is. But it is cheap at the detriment to the producers of the raw materials and to the workers who produce the garments.
It is also damaging to the planet, just through the sheer amount of garments that head to landfill every year.
As many as 11m garments head to landfill every week in the UK, according to an Oxfam study.
Clothes that are made by slow fashion designers and brands are more expensive because they pay their workers fairly and are considerate about the environmental impact their business may have.
So you might have to get more comfortable with buying fewer items. Again in the long run this is much closer to the general slow fashion movement which is all about us needing to buy less stuff.
In the meantime, you could still shop second-hand to make it more affordable. While you still may be buying fast fashion brands in charity shops the money isn't going back to them. It's going to your charity, instead.
Second-hand fashion is definitely something we should strive to keep affordable. The rise of luxury preloved fashion on Vestiaire Collective is really a whole different level of buying used clothing compared to buying some basic second-hand clothing at your local shop. But even those prices are increasing for various reasons. Partly it is because buying preloved is becoming more trendy. In a way, it is good to see interest increasing. At the same time, there is a danger that we carry over our fast fashion habits into the second-hand world, with clothes languishing in wardrobes or being thrown out when trends change.
So let's make sure we keep in mind what slow fashion is all about!
As ever, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Are you a slow fashionista?