Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion
If you’ve been just a little involved in the environmental discourse over the past years, you have probably heard debates about fast and slow fashion. But what exactly do these two terms mean?
Fast fashion is a term for clothing that is mass produced, low-priced and therefore often lower quality. The fast fashion industry often uses influencers to promote their items which are usually based on current trends and often sold at ridiculously low prices. Since the quality of fast fashion is lower and based on trends, these garments usually end up in landfills pretty quickly, and thereby impact our environment drastically, as many of the garments are not made from natural fibers and take longer to decompose.
Slow fashion on the other hand is closely connected to ethical fashion which is associated with animal and human rights. Many slow fashion garments are not only made from high-quality and sustainable, decomposable materials, but the slow fashion industry also stands for fair wages and working conditions while opposing child labor and animal testing. Whereas fast fashion puts emphasis on quantity, slow fashion puts emphasis on quality. Because the garments are higher quality, they will remain comfortable and good even after many washes.
Fact 1: PollutionThe fashion industry is the third highest-polluting industry in the world and together with the footwear industry is responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, three-fifths of all clothing items end up on landfills or in incinerators within a year of production, according to a 2016 McKinsey report. By 2030, fashion waste will increase to about an estimated 148 million tons if we keep going the way that we are.
Fact 2: Social ImpactAccording to Fashion Checker, “93% of surveyed brands aren’t paying garment workers a living wage.” The United Nations recognize earning a living wage as a human right that should afford the worker a decent standard of living. On the contrary to minimum wages, living wages must include enough money to pay for “food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing and some discretionary earnings, including savings for unexpected events.”
Fact 3: Disposability
In 2018, the Saturday Evening Post estimated that the average American disposes of around 81 pounds of clothing every year. Because advertising, current trends, and influencer culture trigger our consumer behaviors, we tend to buy more clothing than we need at lower prices. However, it is important to understand that slow fashion is not an option for everyone. Sustainable fashion is often not affordable for people who earn lower wages and need to spend money on food, rent, health care etc. as well.
Ask yourself how you might be contributing to wasteful consumption patterns. Make garments an investment, rather than a short-term solution. Not all fast fashion products are low quality, and they can last you years, too. By changing your own consumption patterns and buying only what you need and actually know you’re going to wear for the upcoming years, you are already making a huge impact regardless of whether you can afford slow fashion or not.
By considering the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion in this blog post, we have only addressed the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to fast fashion many more topics, such as that of gender equality, recycling, or water pollution, play an important role and should be considered with every purchase made. If you can afford slow and ethical fashion, consider making decided investments instead of buying short-term garments at cheaper prices. If you can only afford fast fashion, that’s okay! Still, you can consider before every purchase: is this a piece I really want and will I still wear it in a year?
As consumers, it is in our hands to challenge brands to become more sustainable, pay their workers fair wages and create a working environment that does not expose garment workers to toxic waste and long, exhausting hours. Let’s make our purchases meaningful to make a positive impact. If you want to learn more facts, check out the sources listed below that helped us write this article.
Aishwariya, S. "Fast vs Slow Fashion." Fibre2Fashion, November 2019, https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/8460/fast-vs-slow-fashion#:~:text=Fast%20fashion%20denotes%20lower%2Dquality,quality%20and%20are%20priced%20higher.
Darmo, Jennifer. "20 Hard Facts and Statistics About Fast Fashion." good on you, 27 July 2020, https://goodonyou.eco/fast-fashion-facts/.
Fashion Checker. "Are the people who make your clothes paid enough to live on?" Fashion Checker, fashionchecker.org.
Igini, Martina. "11 Fast Fashion Facts You Might Not Know." Earth.org, 21 June 2022, https://earth.org/fast-fashion-facts/.
Koonin, Amy. "14 Facts About Sustainable Fashion." Rubicon, 14 January 2019, https://www.rubicon.com/blog/14-sustainable-fashion-facts/.
Quantis. "Measuring Fashion. Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study." Quantis, 2018, https://quantis.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/measuringfashion_globalimpactstudy_full-report_quantis_cwf_2018a.pdf.
Strange, MacKenna. "Clean, Green, Cute: Why sustainable fashion is the future." Bossier Magazine, 27 November 2017, http://bossiermag.com/blog/2017/11/26/clean-green-cute-why-sustainable-fashion-is-the-future.