Fast & Slow Fashion: The Fallacy and Our Saving Grace
Remember when shopping used to be a seasonal event-- back to school shopping, winter shopping, summer shopping, and the sometimes dreaded but seriously refreshing spring cleaning? As clothing gets cheaper and trend cycles quicken to match the pace of our fleeting attention spans, gone are the days when shopping was an occasional event.
The Hidden Beast: Fast Fashion
Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “it’s so cheap I can toss it when it breaks and buy a new one.” We’ve all been there-- at the front gates of fast fashion. But how do you know? The telltale sign of fast fashion is when it seems too good to be true. How is it possible that all the latest trends, knockoffs of your favorite celeb’s new look, and witty t-shirts from the latest blockbuster are all instantly available, 365 days a year, for less than the cost of an Uber to the mall? This, my friends, is the seductive trap of fast fashion.
According to Good On You, the world’s leading source for fashion brand ratings, “Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed.” Think H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and TopShop. Fast fashion is a product of: (1) the Industrial Revolution’s technological advances (hello sewing machines and sweatshops), (2) the emergence of clothing and style as a means of personal expression and revolution in the 1960s and 70s, and (3) the explosion of online shopping in the 1990s and 2000s (Rauturier 2018).
An industry that thrives on producing cheap clothing that will inevitably breakdown and create a perceived need for more spending, the fast fashion industry’s rapid turnover rate has lead to our consumption of nearly 80 billion pieces of clothing per year-- an amount that is undoubtedly putting a strain on our planet (Young 2019).
What’s the Impact?
Fast fashion takes a staggering toll on the planet. Second only to agriculture, the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of clean water globally. The constant pressure to reduce costs and shorten production time means there is ever-increasing stress on land clearing, biodiversity, soil quality, and the waste epidemic. A recent Pulse of the Fashion Industry report stated that each year the fashion industry generates 4% of the world’s waste, or 92 million tons (Bird 2018). At the rate we are currently moving, by 2050 the fashion industry is anticipated to use up 25% of the world’s carbon budget, making it one of the most polluting industries, second only to oil (Pandey 2018).
And what about the human costs? The fast fashion industry is notorious for supporting low wages and minimal human rights for garment workers-- not to mention further down the supply chain where farmers are forced to work with toxic and potentially debilitating chemicals. According to the World Health Organization, 20,000 individuals in developing countries die of cancer and miscarriages each year as a result of the chemicals sprayed on conventional cotton (Young 2019).
And what about the animals, who are at risk of consuming toxic dye polluted waters and carelessly discarded microfibers and plastics. The fast fashion industry is responsible for millions of animal deaths each year. A recent scandal revealed that real fur (including cat fur) is actually being passed off as faux fur to unknowing shoppers in the UK. The scary truth is that the abundance of animal fur being produced under horrible conditions in fur farms is making real fur cheaper to produce than faux fur (Raturier 2018).
The Savior: Slow Fashion
Photo: Chromade Co.
In opposition to the explosion of fast fashion a savior emerges, Slow Fashion-- “an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet” (Good on You 2018).
When it comes to slow fashion less is more! The slow fashion movement is a return to pre-industrial revolution principles where long-lasting durable clothing is the standard. Some additional characteristics of slow fashion brands include (1) boutique local stores rather than huge chain enterprises, (2) few and specific styles of clothing, and (3) new collections released two or three times a year. Slow fashion is a much needed return to the art of clothes making and a celebration of true craftspeople (Hill 2018).
While slow fashion makes so much sense in so many ways, a common deterrent for many is price. Slow fashion pieces are often more expensive than than their fast fashion counterparts. Sure, from a technical standpoint slow fashion items are more expensive than your standard pair of fast fashion leggings, but what costs are we valuing here? What about the hidden costs associated with how a product is sourced, produced, and distributed? If a pair of leggings cost $9.99, what does that say about how they were made? To us it says corners were cut-- materials were not carefully selected, workers weren’t paid fair wages, the cheapest packaging and shipping methods were used. A primary value behind slow fashion is investing in well-made pieces that are built to last-- and if this is done successfully less time, energy, and money will be squandered in the long run.
We are a small (but growing!) company doing our best to make the most sustainable choices without cutting corners. Our workers, materials, and distribution processes are all consciously chosen with both people and the planet at heart. In the words of Margaret J. Wheatley, "There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." We care about this planet, and we care about the health and wellbeing of all it’s beings. Ignorance isn’t bliss and our choices matter! We honor and celebrate you for taking the time to educate yourself on both the hard truths behind the fashion industry and how to be a more sustainable human upon this planet :) Together we can inspire the shift!
Bird, Jon. “Fashion’s Dirty Little Secret and How It’s Coming Clean” (2018). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonbird1/2018/09/09/fashions-dirty-little-secret-and-how-its-coming-clean/#1f1850fb1771
Hill, Madeleine. “What is Slow Fashion” (2018). https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-slow-fashion/
Pandey, Kiran. “Fashion Industry May Use Quarter of World’s Carbon Budget by 2050” (2018).
Rauturier, Solene. “What is Fast Fashion” (2018). https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/
Young, Sara. “The Real Cost of Your Clothes: These are Fabrics with the Best and Worst Environmental Impact” (2019). https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/fabrics-environment-fast-fashion-eco-friendly-pollution-waste-polyester-cotton-fur-recycle-a8963921.html