What is Slow Fashion?

Fashion trends come and go, but we’ve consistently been hearing the importance of shopping sustainably, ethically, and slowly. Many people think slow fashion means taking your time shopping and not participating in over-consumerism, and while that does include some of it, the term is so much more. Slow fashion is a complete mind-shift away from over-consumerism.


Let’s break it down. 

>>> Related: 50 Ethical Children’s Brands to Know 

What is the meaning of slow fashion? What is the slow fashion trend? 

Slow fashion aims to slow down fashion consumption and allow brands to have a slower pace. “We have a society which is structured so that social esteem or value is connected to what we can consume,” explained Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor. We need to find a way to break that structure and find our way back to buying more responsibly.

When researching where consumerism originated, some experts think it started in the 1920s when factories could mass produce items; then it slowed down with the Great Depression and was full steam ahead after WW2. However, many sociologists and experts think consumerism started long before the roaring 20s.

Slow fashion is taking back a slower, bespoke process, with some brands like Silly Silas utilizing traditional factories and old-school production methods. Other brands pay artisans to handcraft items in sewing circles. Slow fashion is a more timeless take on the fashion industry without aiming to hit every trend with fast fashion garments.

What are the characteristics of slow fashion?

There are several things to consider when looking for a slow fashion brand to support.

  • Sustainably and ethically sourced materials (raw to final product)
  • Transparency on their website and social media channels
  • Full supply chain transparency and regulation
  • Certifications, if applicable like GOTS and Oeko-Tex
  • Timeless style versus trendy pieces

Is slow fashion better than fast? What is the difference between fast fashion and slow fashion?  

Slow fashion is hands down better than fast fashion in terms of garment quality, sustainability, and fair and ethical working conditions. Fast fashion is the process of rapidly producing large amounts of cheap and trendy clothing to match the current trends. The fast fashion industry harms the environment, exploits workers, and fuels consumer culture. 

Fast fashion began in the mid-2000s when fashion brands launched micro-trends multiple times throughout the season. Coupled with the internet boom and fast and free shipping, consumers could get items rapidly, creating a slippery slope. 

Slow fashion aims to be methodical in how brands produce their garments where they do not rapidly produce new products just for something new. More time is taken from seed to garment to ensure quality materials are used, with thought given to all people and animals involved in the supply chain. Slow fashion brands are ethical fashion brands.

Is slow fashion popular? 

Slow fashion has been gaining popularity over the past several years. It aligns nicely with sustainable and ethical brands, with many of the same values and principles across the three beliefs. 

Gen-Z and Millenials are particularly leaning into the idea of slow fashion. In a 2019 poll, 62% of Gen Z prefers to buy from sustainable brands and are willing to pay more for ethically made products. Gen Z and Millenials can see the genuine threats of climate change, ethical dilemmas, and plastic pollution and are willing to pay extra for garments that address those concerns.

When did slow fashion become popular? 

People have been participating in slow fashion since the beginning of time, but it has recently gained mainstream attention after the term was coined in 2007. 

There are likely people we know who are frugal, shop for high-quality items, and have a more minimalist approach to their wardrobe. Perhaps your grandma has a high-quality wool coat that she’s had for decades and doesn’t see the need to replace because it’s still in good condition. Maybe your dad has a bespoke suit that he’s had since he graduated college and still wears to events. The point is not to complicate things with fads; buy sustainably-sourced items, and focus on timeless, high-quality pieces. A timeless and well-fitting garment will last you for years.

Who started the slow fashion movement?

Kate Fletcher coined the term ‘slow fashion’ in an article for the Ecologist in 2007. She stated, “Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming and living better. Slow fashion is not time-based but quality-based.”

Is thrifting slow fashion? 

It can be, but it depends on what items are being thrifted and why. Most items donated to thrift stores get trashed. Studies suggest up to 84% of the garments you unload at thrift stores wind up in landfills. There’s a glut of over-buying and of over-donating fashion. 

If you take the time to sustainably source high-quality, timeless garments, then thrifting can be a form of slow fashion. The issue arises when people thrift 40 shirts that are byproducts of fast fashion and end up in the landfill when you’re done with them. 

You’re inadvertently supporting fast fashion if you buy fast fashion pieces (even secondhand). It is also popular to do “Thrifting Hauls” on social media, where people will showcase their finds which can be nothing short of excessive. Just because you’re buying secondhand does not mean you’re doing it in a slow, ethical or sustainable way. 

Thrifting can also take away from clothing that people genuinely need to buy because secondhand is all they can afford. This can create more demand for secondhand products, and thrift stores may raise prices – for the garments that do make it to the merchandise floor.

This can push out lower-income individuals who rely on secondhand for their wardrobes for school or work. In an article by Popular Science, Anna Fitzpatrick, a Ph.D. student at the London College of Fashion Centre for Sustainable Fashion, said, “They aren’t shopping in second-hand shops to be aspirational or sustainable or cool –they’re doing it out of necessity.” Thrifting secondhand items responsibly is just as important as shopping for new items.  

Is crocheting slow fashion? 

Yes! Crocheting is an excellent example of slow fashion. Since slow fashion is rooted in taking time with the designs, materials, craftsmanship, manufacturing, and wearing, crocheting fits in beautifully with this methodology. Crocheting takes time, practice, and patience, which lends well to slow fashion and the roots of traditional craftsmanship of previous generations.

One crucial distinction would be to ensure you are using high-quality natural yarns, such as wool, cotton, linen, and silk, to create long-lasting and sustainable garments that will last for generations.  

Is slow fashion more expensive?  

Typically, yes. Sustainable fabrics and manufacturing are more costly on average than fast fashion. “The prices of sustainable fabrics are, on average, two and a half to four times more expensive in comparison to more commonly used fabrics.” This, combined with ethical factory practices and paying their workers a livable wage, can increase the prices of the garments.

Many companies do not shy away from the fact that quality pieces cost more money. Misha & Puff is passionate about fair trade, which includes paying fair wages. To ensure fair labor wages are paid to workers, the items’ prices reflect the pieces’ quality and craftsmanship. 

The childrenswear brand Mini Rodini has a “Living Wage Project,” which gives extra money to workers to provide a living wage to their workers, not just a minimum wage. Mini Rodini researches living wage estimates in the factories they source to work out a system to fill the gaps. The extra money given to factory workers is not transferred to the end as a consumer price increase.

Is slow fashion on the rise? 

Absolutely! Millennials and Gen-Z are taking a stand against climate change, unethical fashion practices, and more. The majority of Gen Z, 54%, state they are willing to spend more on sustainable products that align with their ethics. Conversely, only 23% of Baby Boomers say the same. The quest for sustainability appears to strengthen with each subsequent generation.

What are some slow fashion brands for kids? 

Slow fashion has such a wonderful place in the kids’ clothing space. In a world of rushing with our kids from one activity to the next, slow fashion is a breath of fresh air.

Slow fashion gives pause to our children’s childhood and a nod to a slower pace of life. When viewing slow fashion clothing brands, you can almost feel a wave of calmness over the images and mission of the companies. Some slow fashion brands for kids that I’ve personally reviewed or purchased are:

One unique thing about Misha & Puff is that they release smaller batches of drops throughout the year to keep their knitters employed year-round. Instead of doing two huge drops throughout the year, they release their collections as they become available from their knitters. Their knitters choose how often they work and have a say in their pay. This allows them to be paid consistently and fairly, which is not the norm in the fashion industry. 

Let’s Slowly Wrap this Up

Slow fashion is a great choice to make when looking to revamp your consumerism choices. Many sustainable and ethical brands also practice slow fashion, but not always. If slow fashion is a priority for you, make sure and research the companies and email them if you have questions. I have found all slow, sustainable, and ethical companies to be highly transparent when I have had questions about their business practices, sourcing, and more.

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