Slow Fashion : More Than Just a Trend

Lauren Kania
Lauren Kania - Junior Editor
Stack of clothes and planet earth

It’s no surprise that the fashion manufacturing sector has revolutionised modern attire. However, with the emphasis on mass production and overconsumption comes consequences for both the environment and people. Slow fashion manufacturing offers an opportunity to make changes for a more ethical future.

MORE THAN JUST A TREND

The fashion industry is historically one of the most defining and vibrant depictions of self-expression and humanity the world has ever known. 

Centuries of human civilisation and innovation have been characterised by the clothes people wear, influencing everyone from those in the most elite social circles to those in the most isolated of locations. 

There is no denying the behemoth that is the fashion industry, however, despite the sparkle and glamour that has enticed modern society, therein lies a reality far less seductive. 

The true narrative, revealed through buried and devastating figures, illuminates an industry that is simultaneously an astonishment and a threat, where the environmental cost of attaining the illusive status of being fashionable and trendy has become too significant to ignore. 

With the modern-day wardrobe possessing nearly five times more garments than previous generations and an average of 100 billion pieces of clothing produced each year, the fashion industry not only accounts for five to 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but also stands as the second most polluting entity after the oil and gas sector. 

The entirety of the story, however, extends even further beyond the environmental damage. Unethical working conditions, unfair wages, and exposure to hazardous materials exacerbate the human toll, which is equally as distressing. 

Due to the harrowing details that have recently come to the forefront of sustainability conversations, the industry is on a journey towards a more responsible fashion future where garments don’t leave such a negative impact. 

This call to action is paved with creativity and transparency, resulting in a world where style and ethics harmoniously coexist. 

Manufacturers, specifically, are at the forefront of promoting sustainable and ethical practices throughout the entire fashion industry by challenging the notion that it is savvy to create more and haphazardly discard the excess. New ideas and systems are showcasing that less is more when it comes to fashion manufacturing.

Damage caused by The Lifecycle of Fast Fashion.

FAST FASHION AND ITS DIRTY SECRETS

Fast fashion – a phenomenon that has been especially prevalent within the past three decades – is the main culprit of these crimes against the environment and humanity. 

The concept was brought forth due to a rise in population and increased consumer demand, shifting the fashion business model towards the notion of ‘more stuff, more quickly, and more cheaply’. 

Today, fast fashion manufacturing is notorious for being one of the most environmentally damaging industries globally. It is a system in which clothing is produced quickly and cheaply, with the aim of meeting the demands of rapidly changing trends while sacrificing quality and ethical practices in the process. 

Workers in fast fashion factories are subjected to long hours, low wages, unsafe working conditions, and exploitative labour practices such as child and forced labour. The industry also heavily relies upon the use of synthetic materials, most notably polyester, which are derived from non-renewable resources and contribute to pollution and excess waste. 

Fast fashion produces approximately 92 million tonnes of refuse annually, and this demand for a constant supply of new products and shorter turnaround times leads to increased transportation and energy usage, furthering the impact on global climate change. 

The industry has also resulted in a cultural shift in the way society views garments by perpetuating a culture of overconsumption. The constant pressure for new products and the short lifespan of clothing endorses a throwaway mindset, resulting in unhealthy consumerism, soil degradation, deforestation, and GHG emissions. 

Therefore, fast fashion manufacturing has ethical implications that can no longer be kicked under the rug. The dizzying speed of production and consumption of low budget, poorly made clothing comes at a high cost to both the environment and the people involved in the manufacturing process.   

It is time to acknowledge the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion and take responsibility by shifting focus to slow manufacturing – an alternative to the wasteful and ignominious consequences of the industry that highlights a conscious effort to support ethical production practices.

Clothes in plastic bag with tag recycled materials and recyclable. zero waste concept.

THE QUIET REBELLION OF SLOW FASHION

Closely aligned with the increasing global emphasis on renewable energy, environmental sustainability, and ethical production, the slow fashion manufacturing movement is an equal but opposite reaction to the dangerous fashion surplus over the past few decades. 

Coined in 2007 by Kate Fletcher in The Ecologist, slow fashion originally referred to the similarities between the slow food movement and consumers’ new-found awareness of how their clothing was manufactured. 

Today, slow fashion rejects the idea of disposable trends and centres around the conscious creation of garments through ethical production, ensuring that workers are treated fairly and the environment is protected through sustainable practices. 

In contrast to fast fashion, where the motto is quantity over quality, slow fashion manufacturing prioritises clothing built to stand the test of time, meaning that consumers can invest in pieces that will last longer and save money in the long run by reducing the need for constant replacement. 

By producing pieces that will last beyond a single season, the production process becomes slower and more thoughtful. Manufacturers take the time to make each item carefully, allowing for greater control and quality assurance. 

Transparency is also an important aspect of slow fashion. When companies share their manufacturing processes, consumers feel a greater connection to the products they are purchasing and thus begin to recognise the stark differences in quality. Transparency in slow fashion manufacturing also allows for the fair working conditions of the people who produce clothing. 

Ultimately, people want to make a positive impact with their purchases, and slow fashion is gaining momentum because it offers exactly that. 

Manufacturers are at the forefront of promoting sustainable and ethical practices within the industry by turning away from the mindset of rapid consumerism and instead embracing quality, durability, and ethical sourcing of materials. 

While it may sound counterintuitive, the secret to manufacturers incorporating these eco-friendly and humanitarian processes while increasing their bottom line is to produce less and more slowly. 

The fashion industry should not only be about boasting the latest trends but weaving values, ethics, and environmental stewardship into the fabric of everyday life. 

Recycling Products Concept. Organic Cotton Recycled Cloth. Zero

WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER

Slow fashion is the sustainable and ethical alternative to fast fashion manufacturing, and while sustainability may simply be a buzzword for many companies, it carries far-reaching consequences and deserves immediate attention. 

Shifting away from disposable fashion and embracing quality and craftsmanship is no easy task, especially for an industry as historical and prodigious as fashion manufacturing. 

While many companies are recognising the immense importance of this paradigm shift from rapid mass production to ethically produced goods, there is still a long way to go. 

Recently, Burberry came under fire for burning USD$36.5 million of apparel, and while the eco-collections from fast fashion companies such as H&M or Zara may appear as a step in the right direction, they are merely media campaigns acting as Band-Aids over the root of the problem – overconsumption. 

At the core of slow fashion manufacturing is the idea of a circular economy, a transformative approach that reimagines a garment’s entire lifecycle. 

In contrast to the conventional linear economy, where resources are extracted, used, and discarded without care, a circular economy seeks to establish a sustainable loop that minimises waste while maximising value. 

Manufacturers are at the heart of this concept of designing for longevity, which entails creating clothes that are not only stylish but made to last by implementing durable materials able to be easily repaired or recycled. 

The rise of slow fashion has profound implications for the manufacturing industry, changing the cultural mindset around fashion and promoting the advancement of production equipment and technology. 

There is an opportunity to bring the fashion manufacturing sector into a new era, one that is representative of the positive changes consumers want to make with their purchases.  

By balancing production quantity with quality, maintaining sustainable production, and adapting to more ethical materials and demands, the fashion manufacturing industry has the capacity to make a powerful change for a stylish, long-lasting future.

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