Today’s fashion industry’s reliance on fast mass production is inherently unsustainable. Slow and sustainable fashion was born out of the need to meet the sustainability challenge of the fashion industry. Slow fashion is seen as the direct counter to fast fashion. It may be considered a revolt against the movement. Where fast fashion production is fast, cheap, and trend-focused, sustainable fashion production forsakes retail schedules with high turnover and focus on quality. Focusing on quality manufacturing helps lengthen the lifespan of clothes. Furthermore, slow fashion practices grounds the manufacturing of clothes in the context of local communities by using traditional textiles. This has the potential to have great cultural significant. Producing clothes with cultural and emotional connections could help propagate the message of slow fashion: consumers tend to keep clothes for longer than one fashion cycle if they feel sentimental and connected to the article of clothing.
Slow fashion first emerged in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Materials used in slow fashion generally include naturally-occurring cellulose fibres like wool, bamboo, silk or cashmere. Recycled fibres are also commonly used, like recycled nylon or recycled polyester or even recycled plastics.
A pioneer of the slow fashion movement is the brand Patagonia. Patagonia provides outdoor clothes made from organic and recycled fibres, using materials like hemp, recycled nylon, recycled polyester and Tencel.
One significant initiative by Patagonia was Common Threads Initiative to reduce environmental impact. Patagonia essentially encourages consumers to purchase used Patagonia products instead of new releases. Patagonia even paired up with ebay to endorse this initiative, given ebay’s reputation as one of the largest secondhand clothing sellers. The company acknowledges while all businesses will inevitably leave an environmental footprint, they can take steps to minimise the negative impact by reducing waste and recycling used clothes.
Companies such as Patagonia do not only use environmentally-friendly materials. They also promote the idea of simply buying what you need.