What Is Slow Fashion? Definition, Progress, and Tips

Slow fashion calls for consumers and brands to slow down and focus on quality.

Hanging shirts on open wardrove
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The general understanding of slow fashion is that it is sustainable fashion with a slightly different focus—speed, or the lack thereof. In 2007, when author and activist Kate Fletcher coined the term "slow fashion" in an article for The Ecologist, she outlined the need to reevaluate the way we look at the clothing industry. She didn't see slow fashion as time-based, per se, but quality-based. Fletcher stated in the article that "fast fashion isn’t really about speed, but greed: selling more, making more money." She made a call for not only consumers but also designers and brands to slow down and focus on quality—a concept that continues to be the foundation on which slow fashion stands.

Sustainable Fashion vs. Slow Fashion

Sustainable fashion and slow fashion are terms for very similar concepts. The basic idea is to change the complex systems that are inherent in the current fashion model for the good of the planet and people.

Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable clothing continues to grow in popularity as more people notice the flaws of increased consumption and throw-away culture. This, in turn, has prompted brands to be more mindful of what they create and advertise. Natural clothing materials and low-impact manufacturing are large parts of the sustainable fashion push. This movement has invited a closer look into what sustainability looks like and how a shift in thinking and practices could impact the fashion industry.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is considered to be a continuation of sustainable fashion. Today, it is distinguished by quality, locally manufactured clothing, produced on a smaller scale and with slower production times. Mindfulness is paid to workers, the environment, and cultural connections. Slow fashion is more than the antithesis of fast fashion; it is a reimagining of what the clothes-making industry could be.

Evolution of Slow Fashion

The slow fashion movement was a reaction to the rapid expansion of the fast fashion industry. People had begun to notice the instability of the fast fashion model—from the exploitation of garment workers to pollution. However, fashion wasn't always like this, and slow fashion aims to take us back to where it began, before the Industrial Revolution.

When Kate Fletcher first described her ideal fashion paradigm, it mirrored the Slow Food Movement, which was started in 1986 by Carlo Petrini and focused on a mix of pleasure, awareness, and responsibility. As a result, Fletcher wanted slow fashion to focus on quality versus quantity, in addition to the environmental ideals that were associated with sustainable fashion.

Though Fletcher presented slow fashion as an opportunity to create a synergistic relationship between designer, production, and consumer, it has evolved over time to encompass even more. No longer is slow fashion only a theory on connection and better products; now, it involves consumer lifestyles and ethical production.

As conscientious shoppers learn more about the troublesome practices within the fashion industry, the circles of sustainability are growing closer. These days, the terms "sustainable", "slow", "ethical", and "eco-fashion" are used synonymously as the world grows more aware of how interconnected these movements are. Social media has only helped slow fashion brands, such as Sezen Musa or Cultural Fibers, reach more consumers.

Treehugger Tip

Use the hashtag #slowfashionbrand when searching through Instagram or a similar search for other social media platforms. You're more likely to find smaller brands that have amazing products and could use your support.

How to Apply Slow Fashion Principles to Your Life

Adopting a slow-fashion way of living may seem intimidating if you are new to the movement; however, it doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some ways to incorporate these principles into your life.

Buy Less

The foundation of slow fashion is the practice of consuming less. You can do this by focusing on what is already in your closet. From social media to the red carpet, we are inundated with the concept of wearing our clothing only once—and it is important that we fight this urge.

Participating in social media challenges is a great way to get your feet wet. Challenges such as the 30 wears challenge or creating a capsule wardrobe will help train your mind to see the many ways you can wear the pieces you already have.

Choose Well

When buying new clothing, choose good-quality pieces made with sustainable materials. More expensive doesn't always equal better quality; however, cheap clothing is an indicator that the garments were not made to last. Making higher-cost investments in your wardrobe will also help you to buy less.

However, if you need to be more financially conservative, you can circumvent the high cost by shopping secondhand. Shop your local thrift stores or resale shops. Consignment shops are also great places to find curated items. Looking to shop from home? There are a plethora of apps and online shops that have quality garments at a fraction of the cost.

Make It Last

Learning how to care for your clothing is one of the most important things you can do. An often overlooked practice is paying attention to the care instructions on the label. Washing and drying your clothing at the proper temperatures and using the appropriate cycles will go a long way to keeping your garments in good shape.

You should also invest in a small sewing kit to mend small holes and replace buttons. Find a local shoe repair shop to make your footwear last longer. Look for a tailor or alterations place you are comfortable with. Custom alterations can make you feel more comfortable in your clothing. Places like Hidden Opulence or the Rejewel Collective will also upcycle your clothing and jewelry for you.

Find Your Community

When you find people who you can learn from on your environmental journey, things get much easier. Search for people locally or online that share your interest in slow fashion. Join the Slow Fashion Challenge and get ideas from people around the world. Check out what people in different Facebook groups like Slow Fashion World are saying. Finding people that support you will help you stick with slow fashion for the long run.