Fashion: Fast vs Slow

Zwoice . Dec 18, 2017

A woman with hands full of shopping bags
A ball of wool and knitting needles

Fast fashion

Is a term used to express the quick and inexpensive reproduction of highly fashionable clothes. Characterised by accentuating frequent shifting of very brief trends over classic style, it also puts quantity before quality. 

What toll does the need for cheap, abundant and disposable take?

Slow fashion

The absolute opposite of fast, and in this case, in a good way. It stands for sustainable clothing manufactured in ways gentle to the environment and designed to be reused, repaired and recycled to last a lifetime.

Why and how does slow fashion contribute to our wellbeing?

Everything but organic

The fabrics used are often synthetic, petroleum based or if natural, made of plants cultivated using pesticides and herbicides in an uncontroled manner. To give a few examples, nylon, acrylic, polyester and dyes used for colour are made from petrochemicals. Their microscopic particles pollute our waterways and their production creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.On top of that, for the most part, they are treated with perfluorinated chemicals and formaldehyde to make them softer, wrinkle-free, fire-retardant, moth-repellant, stain and shrinkage resistant. These additives are toxic to the human body, have been linked to health issues and pollute the environment.

Organic is a must

Great amount of attention is given to the origin of raw materials. Slow fashion designers work along the lines of circular economy, which means they apply a so called regenerative design thinking. This method strives for an efficient use of existing resources which reduces the environmental impact while being considerate of life and future generations at all stages of the product lifecycle. The garments are designed not to be wasted, but rather make their way back to the flow by being reused, repaired, remade or recycled.Slow fashion fabrics and dyes are therefore organic and natural, which makes them compostable. They thus aim to contribute to the regeneration of living systems,  instead of polluting and exploiting them.  

Forget about local

The sourcing of raw materials and the production process take place in developing countries and are therefore associated with high carbon impact due to heavily polluting manufacturing processes and long distance transportation.

As local as it gets

Garments are designed and made locally, with cautiously sourced fabrics. Traditional and well controlled manufacturing processes and shorter distances to the final consumer significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment.  

Ethical is a long way to go

By choosing to outsource production exploiting rather than caring is true of fast fashion brands. It is well known that developing countries often lack enforcable regulations on labour and safety standards, as well as apply uncontrolled heavily polluting cultivation methods and manufacturing processes. The reality is nothing but child labour practices, workers working long hours, in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, for wages as low as $3 a day and away from their families combined with polluted waterways and high carbon impact.

Striving for ethical

As mentioned above sustainable methods and practices are an absolute priority in order to not only reduce the negative impact of consumption on the environment, but to turn it positive by nurturing our natural resources. This not only true of the way clothes are designed, raw materials are sourced or garments are manufactured and eventually disposed of. The fundamentals of circular economy also keep in mind the wellbeing of individuals and focus on long-term society-wide benefits by sustaining small businesses. 

Made to last or blast?

It is not only impossible to deliver fast, cheap and abundant while maintaining high quality. It is also not in the interest of fast fashion brands to offer a long lasting product because their main goal is to have customers frequently visiting their stores. So the sooner the garment deteriorates, the better. Aggressive marketing campaigns featuring new styles every couple of weeks are the live proof of it.

Made to last and keep

Long lasting, high quality pieces with a timeless design are the main characteristics of the slow fashion movement. They tend to be more expensive to purchase compared to their fast fashion counterparts, however, well worth the price, given their qualities last longer than just a few washes and are designed to be all-purpose and easily combinable. Remember, "we are not so rich as to buy cheap things".

No taste for zero waste

Frequently changing fashion trends, synthetic fabrics, chemicals based manufacturing processes, long distance transportation, unhealthy working conditions, favouring quantity over quality and the appeal to fast consumerism are the mere opposite of zero waste practices. The final products of such actions do not only carry a heavy carbon footprint luggage by default, but are also very far from being biodegradable or compostable.

All but sustainable, fast fashion leads to overconsumption, exploitation, degradation and eventual loss of our natural resources.

Less is more

Thanks to carefully thought through and timeless design, attention to the origin of source materials, traditional and local methods of textile production, favouring quality over high volumes and focusing on protecting the environment at all stages of the garments lifecycle, the concept of slow fashion is as waste free as it can be.

Slow fashion encourages conscious and informed decision driven consumption which leads to a "buy less buy better" purchase behaviour. This approach significantly reduces our negative impact on the environment.

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