A Beginner's Guide to Slow Fashion: Making the Switch to Sustainable Style
Updated: Aug 17
Logically, slow fashion is the complete opposite of fast fashion. The term was initially coined by Kate Fletcher in her article "Slow fashion," published in The Ecologist in 2007.
Slow fashion can have a broad and narrow definition.
Don't feel like reading? Watch it instead!
A broad explanation of the slow fashion says we have to use what we already have to cut as much as possible the production of new items to eventually prevent landfills from filling.
For example, you have a pair of jeans you do not wear anymore because they are too short, but you need new shorts. Therefore, you turn the old pair into the new one. And, along the way, you make yourself a cool jeans bag out of the leftovers. (Internet is an endless source of inspiration for this kind of stuff.) Also, if you come across a hole on a piece of garment, you sew it up. Or take it to the tailor for a repair. So many pieces are thrown away because of something that can be fixed in a couple of minutes; all you need is a needle, thread, and a skill that can be quickly learned. Finally, if it is a cotton piece, and it cannot be repaired or repurposed in any way, you can always turn it into a cleaning cloth.
This broad explanation of slow fashion includes swapping unwanted pieces with friends and buying in second-hand or thrift shops. Altogether, according to this definition, you rarely buy entirely new items and reuse the already produced items to the fullest.
From the ecological perspective, this is the best approach since absolutely no harm is done to the environment. Recycling clothes in recycling facilities is a complicated and expensive process, and it should be avoided at any cost.
Of course, the worst option is to throw unwanted clothes in the trash.
Collecting unwanted clothes and sending them to third-world countries destroys their local producers and economies. We think that we will do good if we send our old (but still useful clothes to, for example, Africa), but, actually, we are ruining their domestic manufacturers. Those clothes are being resold on markets for close to nothing, and no one is buying clothes made in their communities; in this way, we are destroying independent manufacturers. Not to mention the transportation costs and carbon dioxide footprint, a by-product of this.
Therefore, the best approach to clothes-issue is to buy it as little as possible, only when we actually need it. And from the environmental side, you should buy pre-loved items as they have the lowest impact on nature. Those of you with crafty hands can make your own clothes, primarily if you resourcefully source materials!
If you need new items, for example, undergarments and socks, you will buy them, of course. Only, nowadays, you have a choice: you can buy from a sustainable, eco-friendly brand or a fast-fashion one.
And this is where the narrow definition of slow fashion comes: local, sustainable businesses that consider both what is fashionable and what is the best for the people and the world at large. Yes, they do produce new items, but they bear in mind almost everything fast fashion does not: decent salaries for workers producing materials and clothes, low impact on the environment when it comes to sourcing materials, transportation costs and packaging, and most importantly, the quality and durability of a particular item. Some of them even take back the items you bought from them when you do not want it anymore!
Over the past decade, many people realized how much harm fast fashion is doing to the workers producing it and the environment and are turning towards slow fashion.
Slow fashion, in its narrow sense, is a concept which comprises many approaches, including ensuring quality manufacturing to lengthen the life of the garment. Moreover, when the buyers are aware by whom the garment is made, they make an emotional connection with it, and they will keep an article of clothing longer than just a season or a year. This also means that slow fashion items are almost always classic or basic pieces that can simply be combined by adding a piece of accessories or jewelry, easily worn for years (maybe even decades). Very often, the producers pay special attention to the quality of the material and the material itself.
Slow fashion garments are made of organic cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, and other eco-friendly materials. All of those are carefully selected for their quality, so they can last a more prolonged period. Not to mention that when being washed, those materials do not produce microplastics, therefore, not polluting the oceans. Moreover, many manufactures use recycled or repurposed materials as well to reduce the carbon footprint even more.
In the end, and probably most importantly, many slow fashion producers focus on the local market for several reasons. Firstly, they participate in the community's life, building a solid relationship with the local buyers. In this way, the buyers make an emotional connection with a garment, take better care of it, and use it longer. It is a proven fact that when people are aware of how and precisely where something is made, they value it more. Secondly, they employ the local people, providing the community with decent salaries. Thirdly, transportation costs are significantly lower, and the package is usually plastic-free.
Finally, in my opinion, the best thing about slow fashion is that you do not look like everyone else out there. This is because slow fashion collections are usually small and limited and, once sold out, rarely repeated. And, in some cases, the buyers can even ask for custom adaptations to the garment because the factory is right around the corner.
Whether in the broad or narrow sense, slow fashion is growing steadily over the last years, mainly because the consumers got aware of the harm fast fashion does to the people and the world in so many ways.
Also, low waste and minimalism are being more popular, forcing people to think about the amount of stuff they keep in their homes, literally suffocating them. It also made people thinking hard about what is really important in life: health, family, and friends, not the amount of stuff you own (and do not use).