As the world quickens its pace and consumers demand instant satisfaction, many industries have become “fast,” emphasizing cheap products and disposability. The same is true for clothing, which used to be made by highly qualified artisans and kept for a lifetime. Now, people throw away literally tons of garments per year — and businesses are even worse.
That’s why slow fashion is the new, sustainable approach to the garment industry. Rather than quickly — and unethically — making clothing for mass consumption and discard, the slow fashion model emphasizes the production of high-quality clothing, ethical labor, and eco-friendly materials. Here’s why slow fashion should define the future of the industry.
Slow Fashion = Sustainable Processes and Materials
In the past, garments were designed by skilled artisans, or people constructed their own from well-made textiles. By contrast, many contemporary clothes are made from synthetic blends that are essentially plastic. These materials involve toxic manufacturing processes with a large carbon footprint. Moreover, they’re made in lower-income countries with cheap labor (which is another problem we’ll discuss in a moment), which means that there’s a heavy environmental cost in shipping the garments around the world.
In the slow fashion model, clothes are made from sustainable textile sources, such as hemp, and are distributed locally or within limited geographic ranges. This helps reduce the overall carbon footprint of the manufacturing and distribution processes.
Slow Fashion = Ethical Labor Practices
The top clothing brands in the world tend to use low-wage labor, even child labor, to maximize their profits. As people have become more aware of the dismal working conditions and exploitative practices in these factories, there has been an outcry that’s finally changing the situation. Many brands are now shifting to higher-paid labor and ethically-run workplaces, using experienced stitchers, cutters, and dyers to create durable clothing.
These improved practices produce clothing that’s made to last, and many slow fashion brands are also less able to produce an infinite variety of clothing. Instead, they release just a few styles per collection, which ensures more sustainable distribution. Plus, it helps rid consumers of the idea that a garment is “last-season” and needs to be discarded.
The Impact of Slow Fashion
As slow fashion becomes more common, consumers will likely see a smaller variety of inexpensive garments in big-box stores. However, this opens the door for smaller shops and independent artisans to thrive. Meanwhile, consumers will not face a key problem that accompanies cheaply available products: too much stuff. Research shows that when people don’t spend much on a product, they tend to devalue it and are more likely to toss it. This contributes to landfill waste and further perpetuates the cycle of fast fashion.
When slow fashion is in action, consumers will be forced to take more care with garment options, spending more on clothing that also lasts longer. Plus, consumer purchases will have a smaller carbon footprint, and local economies will thrive as funds flow directly to local artisans and distributors.
To solve the problem of un-sustainable, un-ethical garments spreading around the world, we need to emphasize local, artisan-made clothing. We need to break the cycle of consumption and discard, and instead shift consumers to a mindset that treasures high-quality garments. By doing this, we can promote more eco-friendly, labor-friendly production processes, and stimulate our local economies. It’s time for all major fashion brands to shift to the slow fashion model.