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Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion: How to Tell the Difference

There’s no better time to decide to quit fast fashion than now. Fast fashion may look cute on the surface, but ultimately, it’s a very ugly industry. Learn ways to embrace slow fashion and find value in redefining the norms for fashion. Everyone can help make this shift.

Fashion is complex. A single garment can pass through hundreds of hands before reaching you, the consumer. A zipper can come from Bangladesh, while thread can come from Turkey. The reason? Fast fashion brands often seek the cheapest source as their primary motive.  

Because the various parts of fast fashion clothing is hard to track down, your garments may result from horrible practices like modern day slavery or the destruction of biodiverse ecosystems. 

But this is all avoidable thanks to slow fashion.  

What is Fast Fashion?

What is Fast Fashion?

The reason the adjective “fast” is used to describe the “bad” side of the fashion industry is because the rate of production, design and sales is indeed hyperactive--quicker than ever before.

    • High rate of consumption: Clothing is sold so frequently that consumers have closets filled with far more cheaply produced clothing items than ever. 
    • Short trend season: As many as 51 different fashion lines are produced in a year by fast fashion brands.
    • Quick decision-making: Fast fashion brands wield enormous power and they can quickly grant or take away contracts from manufacturers who compete in a race to the bottom for the lowest price. 

Problems with fast fashion

Fast fashion is “bad”--not because fashion is evil--but because cheap clothing is made in a wasteful, unfair and environmentally damaging way. 

Here are some key problems with fast fashion: 

  • Clothing production is outsourced to cheap manufacturers overseas that exploit workers
  • Environmentally friendly processes aren’t guaranteed
  • Efficient use of resources to make clothes is not common
  • Garment transportation produces a big carbon footprint
  • Brands sell clothes at a low price point for consumers
  • Fashion labels create rapidly changing trends
  • Clothing is considered disposable (by both brands and shoppers) 
  • Fast fashion clothing production creates lots of textile waste

Don’t worry. Fast fashion isn’t the only choice available. Actually, the way we shop can make a huge difference. This is where slow fashion comes in.

Truck with a thrift shop sign for shopping for reused clothing

What is slow fashion? 

Slow fashion means following the principles of sustainable fashion. In that sense, slow fashion solves many of the problems associated with fast fashion. Slow fashion means: 

  • A “traceable” supply chain with clear disclosure of a company’s sources
  • Fair labor standards based on independent verification
  • Environmentally friendly materials such as recycled fabric, organic natural fibers, and clothing reuse (yes, it includes thrift!)
  • Energy and resource efficiency 
  • Local production is prioritized
  • Higher cost reflects the value of higher quality materials and labor standards
  • Fewer pieces bought and sold, so both the consumer and the producer expect the clothes to last longer
  • Clothing can be recycled, reused, resold or repurposed

Woman shopping at a thrift store because slow fashion shopping includes thrift store shopping

How to shop the "slow fashion" way

If you want to practice slow fashion in your own life, here are some ways to start: 

  • Buy clothes that you will love for a long time. 
  • Keep track of how many times you wear a piece of clothing. Aim for wearing a single garment 100 times before letting it go. 
  • Buy pre-loved clothing to extend the life of a garment. 
  • Do research on the brands you shop from. 
  • Normalize wearing clothes for a longer time by gifting thrift, photographing yourself in older clothes and explaining your clothing choices to friends. 

The good thing about thrift is that it's a way to shop affordably (with fast fashion prices) without the environmental impact. Check out our Pre-loved Surprise Bundle of Tees--5 for just $20. 

Article written by Erica Eller

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