The terms Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion are everywhere at the moment. But what does Fast Fashion really mean? And what do Slow Fashion brands do so differently? We take a look at the most obvious differences and compare Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion…
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast Fashion describes a business model where as many fashion collections as possible are brought to market as quickly as possible. The collections are based on the latest trends, fuelled by what’s in vogue with celebrities and designers. These trends are then imitated in the shortest possible time, produced in low quality and at a very low price to shift the items as quickly as possible until the next trend arrives.
Fast Fashion production
When it comes to production, the Fast Fashion industry is often criticised. So much is produced in such a short time – often at the expense of the environment and workers. And due to constantly changing trends, there has been an enormous increase in collections per year: with the worldwide textile production doubling from 2000 to 2014 (and not slowing down since). The environmental effects are huge: chemical fibres, such as polyester, are often used in Fast Fashion production. These are bad for the environment, for sure, because these fibres are made from crude oil, which emits significant amounts of CO2 during production. But it doesn’t end there: chemical substances are also responsible for water pollution. When clothes are washed in the washing machine, these small fibres are released into the oceans as micro-plastics in huge numbers.
Due to ever-shorter production cycles and increasingly demanding delivery times, workers are under enormous pressure too. Massive violations of labour laws are the order of the day. Price competition, and limited room for negotiation on margins and delivery times, intensifies the problems. Production companies often have no choice but to take illegal risks – otherwise they would lose competitiveness, their customers and their factories.
Fast Fashion consumption
Customers in western countries have become accustomed to extremely low prices for textiles. This also means people tend to buy more than if they were buying high quality clothes at a higher price. Constantly changing trends also impact the clothes that people want to buy and wear, so it’s not surprising that on average up to 40% of our clothes remain unworn and land in the garbage after 3 years on average.
Note: If you want to know more you can read our other blog post and infographic on The Environmental impact of Fast Fashion.
But there is hope!
Because a contrary movement is establishing itself with growing momentum…
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow Fashion is a term that describes a sustainable and conscious approach to fashion production and consumption. Garments are mostly made from environmentally friendly materials or even recycled textiles. Clothes are typically more durable and of higher quality. Attention is also paid to environmentally friendly production.
Slow Fashion production
Slow Fashion attaches importance to high-quality materials and environmentally friendly production. Slow Fashion items are usually made of natural fibres, such as cotton. These fibres are biodegradable and therefore do not pollute rivers and seas. In addition, closed water systems are often used in production so that water is reused and colours do not get into the waste water.
Production is often carried out with local manufacturers to shorten supply chains. These local manufacturing partners (typically located in developed countries) offer significantly better salaries and working conditions for their employees than factories in developing countries.
Slow Fashion consumption
Slow Fashion is getting people’s attention due to growing awareness of the impact of the fashion industry. Climate change is a big part of this: and more and more labels are appearing that take the Slow Fashion approach. Value is placed on clothing produced to a high standard, which will last for a long time and loses neither shape nor colour after a few washes. Often designs are simpler and less trendy, so they don’t fall out of fashion so quickly. In these ways consumption decreases.
But Slow Fashion doesn’t just describe new sustainably produced clothes – it can also apply to second-hand clothes that are exchanged or sold requiring no production at all.
Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion
Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion are two concepts that are polar opposites. The goal of Fast Fashion is to produce (and sell) as many items as possible in the shortest possible time in order to make as much profit as possible; typically with little to no emphasis on environmental aspects or human rights. Slow Fashion tries to counteract these aspects and to produce fashion fairly, in a way that results in less harm to the environment and workers being treated fairly.
You could compare the two concepts with fast food and healthier food, where the differences become even clearer. Fast food is quick to make in bulk (and often tasty) but it’s widely known that fast food is unhealthy. Fast Fashion is the equivalent when it comes to clothes: very fashionable, giving that quick-fix, and often extremely cheap, but it is not healthy for the environment and a major contributor to climate change. On the other hand, Slow Fashion is the equivalent of healthier eating: often more complex in the production and therefore usually more expensive, but (like healthier food is better for the body) it’s far more climate-friendly and healthier for the environment.
But when comparing Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion, it’s not so simple when it comes to price or cheap vs. expensive. You should also consider that you can wear Slow Fashion garments far longer – due to their high quality. Therefore, Slow Fashion is actually not necessarily more expensive in the long term because you don’t have to replace items as often. It’s also worth noting that clothes from sustainable brands are typically cheaper than designer clothes, which can be worse quality despite the prestige of designer labels.
The differences between Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion at a glance:
Table: Comparison of Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion
Why not buy Slow Fashion?
In summary, although Fast Fashion can score points with stylish looks and inexpensive prices, the damage that Fast Fashion causes to the environment and working conditions has to be considered. So, in order to make fashion fairer again and mitigate climate change, more and more people should consider buying from so-called Slow Fashion brands. SANVT, for example, offers high-quality and durable basics – in timeless styles that you can wear year after year.
You can read more about this topic here.
Table: Pros and cons of Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion