Now that our lives are documented on social media every day, we’ve developed a huge appetite for cheap, affordable, fashionable clothes. To meet this demand the modern fashion industry relies on mass production where clothes move from the design stage to the retail floor in weeks. As a result, in 2014 people bought 60% more garments than in 2000, but they only kept clothes for half as long.
Sadly, our insatiable appetite to flex our new clothes on Instagram is straining our planet. The fashion industry has become responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions -- that is more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping COMBINED.
Consumers and the fashion industry itself is realizing that their current trajectory is ecologically unsustainable (literally). There has been a major push over the past year to embrace a new form of fashion in response to the fast-fashion world pioneered by outlets such as Zara + H&M. This new movement in fashion is called slow fashion. In this primer, we outline…
- What is Slow Fashion
- How Fashion Brands Are Incorporating Slow Fashion
- Eco-Friendly Fashion Certifications to Look Out For
- How You Can Incorporate Slow Fashion in Your Life
What Is Slow Fashion?
The term slow fashion was coined by Kate Fletcher, professor of Sustainability, Design, and Fashion at the University of the Arts London’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion and according to her “slow [fashion] is not the opposite of fast – there is no dualism – but a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers, and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities, and ecosystems”.
In short, slow fashion is about centering production around sustainable practices for consumers, workers, and the planet. It focuses on producing classic, versatile styles that will stand the test of time. In contrast, according to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry’s 2018 report, "much of today’s production is designed neither for longevity nor recycling, but rather for short life cycles to encourage consumers to buy anew.”
To produce clothes under slow fashion, it means rethinking the fashion supply chain from fabric to labor.
For example, a brand focused on slow fashion means using more sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp and ditching fabrics such as polyester which is a plastic, releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton, and does not breakdown in the ocean. It also means providing garment workers a fair wage and slowing the production schedule down to create safe working conditions and secure disposal of waste.
Slow fashion also means making use of older clothes or thrifting. Oftentimes we will toss perfectly good clothes to a landfill because they are “out of style” or we’re just tired of them.
However, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Slow fashion encourages donating or reselling older clothes to give them a new life with another owner. This significantly extends the lifespan of clothing and reduces the demand to use the earth’s resources to make new clothes.
The other important aspect of slow fashion is very simple -- fix your damaged clothes. Clothes that with a little wear and tear often get sent straight to a landfill, but simply going to a tailor or a cobbler can extend the life of your clothes and make them feel like new. Getting your clothes fixed prevents wasting resources and emissions on creating new clothes and will likely save you money.
In summary, slow fashion aims to:
- Leave a lower carbon footprint
- Slow production schedules
- Conscious creation of clothing items
- Encourage zero waste
- Promote fair wages
- Extend the life and usage of your clothes
How You Can Incorporate Slow Fashion In Your Life?
To ensure businesses orient as consumers we also need to do our part to set the culture and reward shops that are producing clothes ethically and sustainably. Apart from that, there are some practices you can implement in your daily life to be part of this movement.
Here are some ways to incorporate slow fashion into your daily life.
#1. Eco-Friendly Certifications to Look Out For
An easy way to find sustainable clothing without having to do a significant amount of research is to look out for the right certifications. Here are some certifications to look out for so you can make fashion choices that are better for our environment.
The OEXO-TEX MADE IN GREEN label is made exclusively for textiles and it gives you the certainty of knowing that the product is made:
- with materials that have been tested for harmful substances
- in environmentally friendly facilities
- in safe and socially responsible workplaces.
MADE IN GREEN aims to guarantee the traceability of products. The label gives information on the production facilities in which the product was produced.
All kinds of textiles and leather goods can receive the MADE IN GREEN label. This includes garments, home textiles, fabrics, non-wovens, textile accessories, and non-textile components, leather fiber materials, leather clothing, leather accessories such as leather gloves, leather bags, and leather shoes, and also some skins (e.g. sheepskin, lambskin, cowskin).
You can learn more about OEXO-TEX MADE IN GREEN here.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
The standard aims to define world-wide recognized requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.
You can learn more about GOTS here.
Cradle to Cradle
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a globally recognized measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy.
To receive certification, products are assessed for environmental and social performance across five critical sustainability categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product is assigned an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for each category. A product’s lowest category achievement also represents its overall certification level.
You can learn more about Cradle to Cradle here.
Bluesign monitors the journey of materials from factories to the final product. The Bluesign team includes experts in chemistry and textile production, as well as specialists who oversee a robust system of factory auditing and certification.
Bluesign is involved in every stage of production. Specifically, they look for...
Resource use: By consulting with them about better chemicals and manufacturing processes, Bluesign helps factories operate more efficiently, which reduces overall water, energy, and chemical use.
Occupational health and safety: By working with manufacturers to eliminate hazardous chemicals and to put in place safety features like ventilation systems, bluesign® helps protect workers from exposure to chemicals.
Water and air emissions: Bluesign-approved factories must meet stringent standards for pollution control.
Consumer safety: The Bluesign system also features the world’s strictest chemical safety requirements for textiles.
You can learn more about Bluesign here.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade is a designation developed to help consumers support products that come from farms that have been certified to provide fair wages and safe working conditions (forced child labor is prohibited). Also, producers on certified farms are paid a premium to apply to projects such as healthcare, women’s leadership initiatives, and micro-finance programs, as voted on by the farmers and workers themselves.
Fair Trade Certified also ensures that farmers obey internationally monitored environmental standards while empowering farmers and farm workers with financial incentives and resources for organic conversion, reforestation, water conservation, and environmental education.
Fashion brands with fair trade labels include Patagonia, prAna, Pact, J Crew.
For more on eco-certification checkout our Official Eco-Friendly Shopping Guide.
#2. Thoughtful Buying
Fast fashion is built on impulsive buying. The products play with our emotions and make us feel that the clothes that we bought just a few months ago are out of fashion.
Fast fashion often entices us to buy a lot of things we don’t need.
Before making an impulse purchase that can harm the environment we should ask ourselves a few questions:
How will this garment add value to my life?
- Will I need it in the long-run?
- Will it work with other things that I own?
- Is there a better alternative that will give me more use?
- Is the product a necessity?
Asking these types of questions before you make a purchase can ultimately save you money and put less strain on our resources and the environment.
I NEED IT ALL NOW!!! or...maybe not...
#3. Capsule Wardrobes/Thrifting/Renting
A capsule wardrobe is a method of curating a minimal wardrobe that can last a long time that reflects your style. The wardrobe should cover your basis for a range of situations and it will save you the time of making a decision when it comes to what to wear. Buy a small collection of accessories, shoes, jewelry, and bags that all go well with each other and see how minimal and easy your life becomes!
Fast fashion has led us to believe that we need to purchase and own everything. However, that is not true. It is better to have a few things that you use all the time rather than have a lot of things that you barely use, take up closet space, and unnecessarily deplete our environment’s resources.
A capsule wardrobe is all about buying fewer yet high-quality garments.
Hollywood star Joaquin Phoenix made a statement at a few award shows this year by wearing the same outfit at multiple shows.
Joaquin Phoenix the slow fashion OG...
Another good alternative is to purchase “new” clothes from thrift stores. This gives old garments a new life and decreases the demand to take fresh resources from the Earth to make a brand new garment.
Finally, if you need clothing but only need it for a special event or a few wears, you should highly consider renting new clothes. Renting clothes like tuxedos, ball gowns, or other super fancy outfits save money and reduce environmental stress.
Here are 8 clothing rental services recommended by the Today Show:
- Rent the Runway Unlimited
- Gwynnie Bee
- New York & Company Closet
- Rainey's Closet
- Infinite Style by Ann Taylor
- Express Style Trial
- American Eagle Style Drop
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world and our insatiable desire to purchase new clothes in the era of social media is driving the demand.
Slow fashion is ultimately focused on ensuring that our clothing is made with fabrics and methods that are better for our environment and the workers that make them. It also means increasing the quality of our clothing for customers so that they can last longer. The longer our clothes last the less we need to draw fresh resources from our environment.
Slow fashion is on the rise and likely here to stay -- not because it is the latest fashion trend -- but because it is essential for the health of our climate and our environment.