Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion Explained

So by now, you’ve probably heard the term ‘Fast Fashion’ being thrown around but what does it actually mean? Fast fashion refers to the mass production of clothing that is brought to the market as fast as possible. It is an imitation of trends seen on the runway by high-end designers but is priced at a fraction of the cost to appeal to the mass market. To keep up with the ever-fleeting trends, the fast fashion industry produces around 11 new clothing collections annually compared to designer fashion houses which produce only 2. 

Say you’re in a store looking to buy a t-shirt and you look at the price tag to find that its only £2. You think to yourself: how is this only £2? It’s an absolute steal, surely it must be too good to be true. And that’s because it is. Low-cost items come at an incredibly high ecological and ethical cost. You may only be paying a small price, but think of the true cost of what went into making that t-shirt. It’s no secret that large retailers exploit their workers to be able to sell clothing for such a low price. The majority of sweatshops are located in areas where companies take advantage of cheap labour such as Bangladesh, India and Vietnam. The average sweatshop worker in Bangladesh earns just £25 a month working up to 16 hour days, 7 days a week. On top of that, the workers have to endure unsafe and overcrowded working conditions. 

Image via: The Safia Blog

The driving force behind fast fashion is the desire to buy more and spend more than what you actually need. This results in the extremely wasteful habit of only wearing an item of clothing once or a few times and never wearing it again because it’s not ‘on trend’ anymore or because it broke. This is a major contributing factor as to why fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry. Around 40% of clothing remains unworn and eventually gets disposed of after around 2 years, contributing to the 350,000 tones of clothing ending up in landfill in the UK each year.

Thankfully, as bleak as the negative environmental and ethical impacts of the fast fashion industry might have, not all hope is lost. The solution? Slow fashion. To put it simply, slow fashion is the complete opposite of fast fashion. Slow fashion is a movement towards conscious shopping by making an active decision to shop sustainably and less often to reduce the social and environmental impacts of clothing production. The focus is on quality over quantity to extend the lifespan of clothing. 

Image via: The Green Hub Online

Slow fashion is also concerned with the choice of materials used in clothing production. High quality and organically made fabrics such as cotton are often favoured as they are biodegradable and do not contribute to water pollution. The key to a good quality item of clothing is ensuring the fabric it is made from is built to last. Slow fashion is also dedicated to social responsibility by ensuring fair treatment and pay for the workers who make the clothing. Sustainable clothing is often produced locally to further reduce the ecological footprint of the production process. 

The first step you should take towards being more sustainable is learning to love what you already have in your wardrobe as the best consumption is no consumption at all. However, if you must buy something new, shop sustainably and ethically.