For the past year, I’ve discovered the term slow fashion and have been more active in promoting slow fashion. If you are reading this you may be asking “what is slow fashion?” You may have heard it but if not, let’s start with the opposite of slow fashion- fast fashion
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is a term that retailers use to explain how quickly fashion trends go from the catwalk to the racks. They focus on keeping clothing items trendy and are low in price. Think of stores like Forever21, H&M, Zara, and Target. Is fast fashion a bad thing?
Although it is easy to fall for the pretty clothes and the low prices (I have fallen for it most of my adult, working life) the cost of trendy and cheap clothes is much greater than we think.
Laura McAndrew talks about four aspects of fast fashion in her interview on Adam Conover’s podcast series, Adam Ruins Everything (yes that is the same Adam from the TV show with the same name). The four aspects of fast fashion are cheap materials, the method and timeline are fast, the product is disposable, and clothing is trendy.
Here are the issues with these aspects:
- The treatment of factory workers are not good
- It plays an impact on the environment
- We are left with clothes that are bad
Let me break down the four aspects in two parts
Cheap and Disposable
Fast fashion is made of cheap materials, made from cheap machinery, the location of the factories are unsafe- therefore cheap, the wages of the factory workers are low, and in some cases, forced labor has been reported. McAndrew worked for Gap and it allowed her to see the clothing factories overseas and she did say that the company was looking for fabrics that were “lower/lowest quality fabric.”
McAndrew shared a story about how she visited one factory and ask where the bathroom was and a factory worker told her that it was “getting fixed.” McAndrew could tell it was a lie and said she never saw bathrooms in other factories. The cost of materials and location is not also poor but the wages these factory workers are earning is an average of $2 an hour. To earn enough money, many of the sweatshop workers put in long hours and most companies don’t provide benefits.
Time and Trend
Because of the fast rate of trends coming in and out, there is a demand for factory workers to put in long hours and do it fast. Fashion used to have four seasons (autumn, winter, spring, and summer) and after every season, stores will receive new clothing items to match that season. There are now 11 to 15 seasons making the demand to produce more clothes to go up.
Companies are marketing clothes to catch the consumers eyes quickly. Consumers are drawn to the items and the hope is when the trend is over and the clothing item wears out, they will be caught in a trap of throwing away the item and getting a new one. This creates the cycle of buy, throw away, and buy more. This makes the factory workers put in the extra long hours for our demand to buy the latest trend.
The fast fashion model is pulling a toll on these factory workers and because of the low-quality material these articles of clothing are made out of, the environment suffers from discarded clothing items in the landfill as we the consumers go and buy more new trendy items.
This is where slow fashion comes to change the pace.
Slow fashion starts with the mindset of wanting to buy clothing that will last. We consider the material and think through if we’re going to wear that item for the long haul. We don’t always get what is trendy because you pick clothing pieces that are classy and will be stylish for many years.
Slow fashion recognizes the people behind the clothing. From the method of growing the materials to who ends up making the clothing. Slow fashion cares to use materials that are better for the environment. Some companies use organic cotton and others use recycled materials. The treatment of the employee and care for the environment is the most important value.
Ways to Participate.
Some ways you can start your slow fashion journey is to first study your closet. What clothes do you own that you wear and don’t wear? Donate those clothes you don’t wear to a local thrift store, swap with a friend or if you’re crafty, refashion those items! If you have any clothing items you wear, take care of it. Wear what you have first. If you feel you need a new item, buy from a local thrift store, or look for clothing companies that are fighting against fast fashion. You may have to spend extra but only buy the bare minimum and keep it. You may save money, in the long run, depending on how often you feel the need shop.
If you don’t have the option to buy secondhand or have the money to buy ethical clothing, try to find a clothing piece that you believe is better quality than the cheaper retailers and be mindful to buy it to last a while.
Lastly, we have a responsibility to keep companies accountable for the ethical practices. Gap has been called out since the 90’s and Nike is remembered for their lack ethical practices overseas.
We can not change fashion alone. We need companies to know we the consumers care who makes our products and we call those companies out andsupport other companies that are already practicing ethical principles. We must be mindful of our products, do research and care for our clothes. This is the start to change the way we do fashion.
11 Facts about Sweatshops- https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-sweatshops
Income in US dollar-http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/modern_day_slavery_facts/sweatshops_condition
Why Fast Fashion Fails Us- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC3jVZneuns