If you're interested in sustainability, you may have heard of the terms fast and slow fashion, but what do these terms mean? Fast fashion refers to brands that produce high volumes of styles and designs of clothing to sell them for a lower price. While this might seem like a great way to allow more people access to affordable clothing – the effects of high-volume garment production are detrimental and long-term.
The fix? Slow fashion. Slow fashion is the act of caring for items that you already own and carefully choosing sustainable options when it is time to buy new. It actively opposes fast fashion by adjusting our purchasing mindset. Slow fashion works to protect and sustain the environment and the people that occupy it.
Why slow fashion?
The slow fashion movement was created to counter the negative impacts of fast fashion on the environment. Brands that work within a fast fashion structure roll out new collections every single day. These items are often poorly made and unsustainable, usually involving slavery and unethical working conditions to ensure reduced prices. Millions of clothing items end up in landfills each year as a result of fast fashion. In Australia alone, this amounts to approximately 800,000 tonnes of clothing. Such high volumes of garment production damage the environment and the human beings involved in their creation. This is why we need to look for a slower, more considerate alternative to how we purchase clothing.
How can I support slow fashion?
Transitioning into slow fashion is not difficult, but it does require a shift in how we look at and think about fashion. Here are some ways you can engage in slow fashion, as well as things to look out for:Avoid fast fashion:
This one seems a little obvious, but how can we know which brands are producing fast fashion and which brands are practicing in a truly sustainable way? Fast fashion requires your engagement to survive. Many brands use forms of greenwashing to overshadow unsuitable and unethical practices to keep you buying products. It's important to be cautious to not fall victim to shady advertising. Good On You: Ethical Fashion is a great resource to find brands you can trust and feel good about the purchases that you're making.
With social media the way it is and new trends popping up every day, repeating an outfit doesn't always feel like an option. This type of mentality is a massive factor in why we buy more clothing than we really need. Slow fashion entails buying less and caring for the items you already have. Now is the time to open your wardrobe and dig into the clothing you own. Try to view repetition as an act of defiance against wasteful purchasing practices. Embrace repetition and enjoy the clothing you own and love!
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the huge impact that our purchases can have. We have a choice, and that choice holds power. Our individual responsibility is to support brands that share our values, value the planet, and value other people. Before purchasing a new item, it's good to ask, 'Do I need this?' and 'Will it bring me joy for years to come?.' By questioning our purchases, we can drastically reduce our impulse buys. Over time you'll find yourself purchasing less and surrounding yourself with more of the things you love – things that you'll really want around you.
Another thing to look out for when choosing slow fashion is the clothing materials that make up the garments. Clothing material should not only be eco-friendly but also sustainably sourced. Look for brands that make clothes from recycled materials or natural fibres like hemp to ensure that your laundry days don't involve sending microplastics into our precious waterways!
Thinking about new ways to style your clothing will also help you fight the urge to buy new ones. Spicing up your outfits can make them feel brand new! The dopamine hit of saving money and knowing that you're doing your bit to reduce garment waste makes it all worthwhile.
Quality over quantity:
Fast fashion pieces are often poorly designed and are sold at cheap prices to attract more buyers. It's so easy to fall into the trap of buying clothing for small prices because we view it as a financial saving - but this shouldn't be the case.
Choosing quality pieces means investing in the clothing we buy. Often, cheaper clothes can shrink, fade or tear after one or two wears. Try to buy essential, quality pieces. Dishing out a little extra money can save yourself and the planet a lot more in the long run.
Say no to trends:
Trends are another magnet that fast fashion brands use to attract people. A lot of us are guilty of, or even a little obsessed with, staying on-trend. While you may feel that your clothes have gone out of style, those garments are much better off being given a second life instead of being donated straight to landfill.
Slow fashion means saying no to passing trends or styles just to look extra. Take time to discover quality pieces that accentuate your unique sense of style that won't go "out of fashion" and into the bin.
Don't throw away:
Throwaway culture has a firm grip on our current society. If something doesn't work, we trash it. The same response applies to our clothing and other fashion accessories. In slow fashion, the bin doesn't even come into the picture because, in reality, the bin is our environment. What goes into the bin gets spat out into landfills. Torn clothes can be mended. Clothes you no longer need can be given away to loved ones, charity, or sold as thrift!
Take a Marxist perspective:
When making a purchase, research the brand you are buying from. Ask questions about their working conditions. Are workers overworked and underpaid? Social media is an excellent tool to receive information like this. Check hashtags, follow slow fashion educators, and engage with your online community to learn more about brands. This may sound like a lot of effort, but it's a small way to ensure you are not supporting slave labour or unfair working conditions. Careful purchasing is a form of activism. A brand that acts ethically will always be transparent and open about its labour practices.
New information is released every day about fashion and its effects on the environment. Commit to learning new information and unlearning damaging habits and thought patterns. Reading articles, blogs, newsletters, and using social media as an educative tool to keep yourself updated and informed.
The truth is, we're all guilty of supporting fast fashion, whether intentionally or not. Time, budget restraints, and social pressures mean we view this type of fashion as a viable option. Informing ourselves about the consequences of fast fashion can be overwhelming. Still, a move toward slow fashion is a practical way to take a stand towards environmental protection and advocate for better working conditions for others.