Most of us are familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’. As the name implies, fast fashion is when new collections of low cost clothes are released in a store every few weeks. Fun and exciting for both shoppers and stores, but there is another side to this seemingly frivolous practice.
This endless cycle of ‘newness’ encourages a shopping behaviour and mindset that makes it seem acceptable to buy an outfit to wear once, to be quickly disposed of, or donated to charity (more of this later).
Impact of Fast Fashion
There’s no denying the thrill of buying a new outfit can be addictive. That little rush of excitement you get from buying new clothes, it has implications far beyond the credit card bill.
Our unconscious drive to constantly seek out the latest fashions has fostered a throw away culture which is creating a mountain of excess clothing. The volume of discarded clothes is so great that over half of all donations sent to charities ends up in landfill, is incinerated or shipped overseas where it may have been produced under questionable conditions in the first place.
The other often overlooked downside to fast fashion is the use of mostly synthetic materials such as polyester. Simply washing synthetic fabrics creates ocean pollution through shedding of microplastic into waste water. When polyester winds up as landfill it doesn’t biodegrade so it stays around forever polluting the planet. If polyester and other synthetics are so damaging, then why do brands use it in such vast quantities?
This is where we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and our wardrobes...it comes down to convenience and cost. Convenience because polyester can mimic any other material and is cheap. Think of those moments when you’ve wanted the sensuous feel of a silk dress or top but the budget whispered polyester.
What can we do?
The obvious thing to do is jump off the fast fashion hamster wheel and slow down our consumption of cheap disposable clothing. Embracing Slow Fashion not only helps reduce waste, credit card bills, but helps save the planet and perhaps our self esteem.
Slow Fashion is the antithesis of fast fashion. It’s primarily about being aware of the human and environmental resources required to make garments, looking for sustainable manufacturing methods and ultimately changing our relationship to our wardrobes.
See Slow Fashion as rekindling or igniting a love affair with well crafted statement pieces, valuing artisan craftsmanship and appreciating other people, the planet and ourselves. It’s also about standing firm and knowing your self worth is not defined by what you wear, but by values and actions.
Slow Fashion is Our Best Friend
Because Slow Fashion is the opposite to fast fashion doesn’t mean it’s dull! Far from it.
Slow Fashion can be just as playful, fun, gorgeous, practical and fabulous without the harmful impact on people and planet.
It encourages us to buy less pieces but of higher quality, made with sustainable practices. Slow Fashion includes celebrating the craftsmanship and skills required to create beautiful garments.
Slow Fashion is the trusted, enduring friend versus the sketchy fair weathered friend who flits here, there and everywhere. Slow Fashion is the friend that’s with us for the long haul, not just the good times. Slow Fashion is the friend we can rely on, and not fall apart at the seams when the going gets tough.
Slow Fashion is a true friend. She teaches us to appreciate the beauty in a garment that is original, timeless and makes a statement. Whether the statement is about fashion or self worth. Slow Fashion shows us how the ‘art of standing still’ can be more powerful than chasing the latest trend. Slow Fashion is the steady consistent tortoise to the impatient hare.
How to Choose Slow Fashion Brands
Slow Fashion encompasses many different elements so it can be challenging to know which brands are truly part of the Slow Fashion Movement.
A simple way to know is how many collections they launch a year. Is it 2, 4, 8 or 32 collections? The higher the number of new collections, the less likely the brand is embracing Slow Fashion. Typically slow fashion brands launch only 2-3 collections a year.
The garments in each Slow Fashion collection tend to be produced in small numbers using high quality sustainable textiles and trimmings where ever possible.
Another indication of a slow fashion brand is the materials and clothes tend to be sourced, produced (and sold) locally.
How to Transition from Fast to Slow Fashion
The first step is to take stock - literally. Do a simple wardrobe audit. Divide your clothes, shoes and accessories into two piles:
- Clothes, shoes and accessories I wear often
- Clothes, shoes and accessories I’ve worn once, rarely wear (or haven’t even worn yet!)
Count how many items are in the second pile ‘things I rarely wear or have yet to wear’.
Multiply that number by the average cost of each garment. If you’re not sure, use £10 | €10 | $10 as a starting point. Write down the total number, remember it and ask if you got value from the pile of rarely or unworn clothes.
If you’re brave enough, now imagine that monetary amount as a pile of real banknotes in front of you. Next visualise each of those banknotes causing pain and suffering to the people who made them. See half those banknotes being set on fire and the other half dumped in landfill, polluting the earth.
It’s a sobering and powerful exercise.
When I did it a few years ago, I felt sick my impulsive and seemingly harmless fast fashion habit could create so much waste (and pain)
After that experience, I took further but easy to implement steps to wean myself off my careless fickle fast fashion cycle and revisit my long forgotten but real friend - Slow Fashion.
There ends the fashionable tale of why choosing the tortoise’s slow but steady ways is more fulfilling and life affirming, than chasing the quick and thoughtless hare.
For more practical and easy ways to adopt slow fashion, you can download our Falling in Love with Slow Fashion: Practical Guide to Ditching Fast Fashion here