For some, fashion is central to their self-expression, yet that exploration is often overshadowed by the industry’s dark side. Surprisingly, the fashion industry is responsible for approximately 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is similar to that of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined. Yes, that statistic is staggering and perhaps discouraging, but is there a way to enjoy fashion while not hurting our ecosystem?
Dear Reader, I’d like you to meet two key players in this issue: fast fashion and slow fashion. Imagine you're at a party. On one hand, fast fashion is the guest who is obsessed with trends, charges all their devices on the host’s electricity, and shows no respect for others. On the other hand, slow fashion cherishes each conversation they have, rocks a timeless outfit, and offers to help clean up at the end of the night.
Although climate change and global warming seem intimidating to conquer, there are tips and tools to help us do better for Mother Earth. It all starts with education so let’s learn more about fast and slow fashion.
What Is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion refers to a business model of the clothing industry. Essentially, companies will quickly recreate trendy and high-fashion products at a low cost, to meet customer demand when it's at its highest. Examples of fast fashion companies include H&M, Zara, Shein, and ASOS.
On the one hand, fast fashion makes high fashion accessible to those who cannot afford it. Also, these companies do employ many people who need jobs to provide for their families. However, the impact of this kind of business is devastating.
Fast fashion has contributed to the following issues:
- Child labor
- Unsafe working conditions
- Unfair wages
- The creation and lack of treatment of toxic water
- Excessive use of water for things like dying fabric
- Water scarcity
- Greenhouse gasses
- Microfibres and microplastics putting plastic in our food chain
- Use of fossil fuels and coal
- Soil erosion
- Harming endangered rainforests and indigenous communities
- Toxins and chemicals negatively impacting health
Now you may feel completely devastated, but let’s look at the alternative.
What Is Slow Fashion?
In response to fast fashion, slow fashion has emerged as a part of the overall “slow movement.” The slow movement arose in the 1980s with a focus on slowing down one’s life in the areas of food, lifestyle, and more. Motivated by quality of life and sustainability, organizations practicing slow fashion are guided by consideration for the environment, animals, and future generations in every part of the manufacturing process.
Slow fashion sounds great and all, but what exactly does it look like? How can companies slow down fashion? Fashion brands can…
- Steer away from trends and focus on classic, timeless designs.
- Create products of long-lasting quality.
- Prohibit use of harmful chemicals.
- Pay their employees living wages.
- Maintain workplace safety.
- Source sustainable fabrics like Tencel and recycled varieties of cotton, bamboo, and more.
- Use sustainable packaging.
- Fulfill orders as they’re received to avoid excessive production.
- Produce smaller batches of items.
- Curate small, thoughtful collections.
Slow fashion items are generally more expensive than fast fashion options but not when you consider the wider picture and long term spending. Unfortunately, this derails many people from supporting sustainable businesses. It’s a massive undertaking to change the way one shops. It’s no easy feat, so we understand making the shift to slow fashion…well, slowly!
What You Can Do?
Despite how discouraging the world and its many problems may seem, there are countless ways to be more eco-friendly and to bring about positive change. With every small and big effort, we can better our environment and our communities.
- Avoid shopping at fast fashion businesses.
- Buy from slow fashion brands whenever you can.
- Curate a capsule wardrobe of high-quality and lasting pieces.
- Try thrift shopping. Although you’re not supporting slow fashion companies you are helping planet Earth.
- Learn more about fashion and sustainability.
- Talk to others about climate change to keep the awareness growing.
- Volunteer with environmentalist organizations.
- Take care of your clothes by gently washing them and learning how to mend and sew.
Our clothing choices impact more than our moods and impressions. How we shop and dress affects the environment, economic empowerment of workers, and more. By supporting slow fashion, you can rock a new kind of statement piece. Fashion can be fun without destroying habitats or continuing immoral labor practices. We can dress up, all while making the world a better place. Let’s invite Mother Earth to the party and have a good time for all!