What is Slow Fashion? Principles, Benefits & Drawbacks

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Written By Lucy Spencer

Leading by example, Lucy fuses eco-conscious fashion and decor to encourage a sustainable lifestyle.

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In today’s fast-paced world, we often hear about fast fashion and its impact on both people and the planet.

But what is slow fashion?

Is it just the opposite, or is there more to it?

In this article, we’ll unravel the essence of slow fashion, explore its roots, and delve into its key principles.

We’ll also examine how it intersects with other fashion philosophies and what it means for a sustainable future.

Get ready for a comprehensive understanding of what slow fashion is—and just as importantly, what it isn’t!

What Slow Fashion Is (and Is Not)

Shopping in a Slow Fashion Boutique

Wondering what slow fashion really means?

It’s all about choosing clothes that not only look great but are also good for the planet and the people who make them.

Think quality over quantity, ethical practices, and eco friendly materials.

It’s a game-changer in the world of fashion, pushing back against the fast-paced, throwaway culture we’re used to.

At its core, slow fashion is a more mindful, intentional approach to clothing.

But let’s clear up a misconception—slow fashion isn’t about limiting yourself to a tiny wardrobe or giving up shopping.

It’s about making smarter choices, valuing the skill that goes into each piece, and knowing the story behind your clothes from start to finish.

The Birth of Slow Fashion

Slow Fashion 101

Curious about how the slow fashion movement got its start?

It all kicked off in response to the fast fashion craze of the late 20th century.

The phrase “Slow Fashion” started making waves in the early 2000s, thanks to professor Kate Fletcher. She drew inspiration from the Slow Food Movement, pushing for a greater focus on quality, ethics, and sustainability in fashion.

As the years rolled by, slow fashion hit some major milestones.

Clothing brands specializing in ethical and sustainable practices came into the spotlight, and certifications like Fair Trade and GOTS started to matter more to consumers.

Fast forward to today, slow fashion is more than just a trend—it’s a movement gaining steam.

It’s not without challenges, like changing consumer habits and industry norms, but it’s making headway as people become more conscious of the fashion choices they make.

Unique Principles of Slow Fashion

Principles of Slow Fashion
Slow Fashion Principles

Wondering what makes slow fashion stand out in the world of conscious couture? While there’s a lot of overlap with its ethical and sustainable cousins, slow fashion marches to its own beat. Let’s dive into what sets it apart.

  1. Timeless Design
    Forget about fast fashion’s obsession with fleeting trends. Slow fashion loves those timeless pieces that you’ll wear year after year.
  2. Craftsmanship
    This is where the magic happens—the hands that weave the fabric, stitch the seams, and add those unique touches. Slow fashion is a celebration of craftsmanship and handmade garments.
  3. Conscious Consumption
    Think before you buy. Ask yourself: Will I wear it often? Is it versatile? Does it spark joy? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re on the right track.
  4. Quality Materials
    Slow fashion is big on materials that are not just sustainable but are also durable and high-quality. We’re talking organic cotton, hemp, or Tencel—materials made to last.
  5. Repairability
    Don’t just toss something because it has a minor tear or a missing button. In the world of slow fashion, repair is the new black. Many brands even offer repair services to extend your clothing’s life. Recycling, upcycling and repairing garments is a staple of slow fashion.
  6. Community Engagement
    This goes beyond a simple buyer-seller relationship. It’s about connecting with the artisans who make your clothes and the community that supports the brand.
  7. Mindfulness and Intention
    In slow fashion, every choice is a conscious one. From the design phase to the moment you hit ‘buy,’ mindfulness and social impact is key.

By understanding these unique principles, you’ll get a clearer picture of what slow fashion really means. It’s not just another buzzword; it’s a different way of looking at our wardrobes and our world.

Benefits of Slow Fashion

Slow Fashion - Unique, Timeless Designs
Unique, high quality and timeless pieces.

Ready to dive into the benefits of slow fashion? While it’s a transformative approach that’s reshaping the fashion industry, there’s a lot more to love about it than you might think.

Let’s unpack the perks!

  1. Quality Over Quantity
    When you go slow, you’re basically saying yes to longevity and durability and no to disposable culture. These clothes are built to last.
  2. Ethical and Sustainable
    Good for the planet, good for the workers. Slow fashion often goes hand-in-hand with ethical labor and sustainable materials.
  3. Unique Style
    Say goodbye to ‘Who wore it better?’ moments. Slow fashion items often have unique designs or custom touches.
  4. Mindful Spending
    Slow fashion encourages you to think before you buy, potentially saving you money in the long run.
  5. Closer Connection
    Many slow fashion brands are transparent about their processes, giving you a closer connection to the people and story behind your clothes.

Drawbacks of Slow Fashion

Recycled fabric garment
Slow fashion choices are often limited

Hey, no one said slow fashion was all rainbows and unicorns. While it’s a game-changer in many ways, there are some downsides worth mentioning.

  1. Price Tag
    High-quality materials and ethical labor don’t come cheap. Slow fashion can be more expensive upfront.
  2. Limited Choices
    You won’t find the endless variety you see in fast fashion stores, which might feel limiting. Slow fashion collections often feature a select number of products that closely align with the companies ethos.
  3. Time-Intensive
    Whether it’s waiting for a handmade or custom-made piece or for restocks, slow fashion is, well, slow.
  4. Accessibility
    Not everyone has easy access to slow fashion brands, especially those in remote areas or countries with fewer options.
  5. Information Overload
    With so many factors to consider—like materials, labor, and sustainability credentials—it can get overwhelming.

Like anything in life, slow fashion has its pros and cons. The key is to weigh them in light of your own values and lifestyle.

Remember, it’s not an all-or-nothing game.

Even adopting a few slow fashion principles can make a big difference and there are a ton of compelling reasons to do so.

Common Ground: Overlapping Principles with Other Fashion Styles

Jumpers made from organic fabric

So, you get that slow fashion has its own vibe, but you might be wondering if it plays well with other responsible fashion philosophies.

Good news—it’s not an island!

Slow fashion shares some core principles with ethical, sustainable, and eco fashion, among others.

  1. Ethical Production
    Like ethical fashion, slow fashion gives a big thumbs-up to fair wages and safe working conditions. It’s all about respecting the people behind the threads and considering every aspect of the supply chain.
  2. Sustainability
    Sustainable and eco fashion are also on the same page here. The goal is to love our planet as much as we love looking good. Think organic materials and low-impact dyes.
  3. Transparency
    Whether it’s slow or ethical fashion, knowing the who, what, and where of your clothes is a game-changer. It’s about demanding transparency from seed to shirt.
  4. Local Sourcing and Production
    This principle rings true for eco and even some avant-garde fashion styles. Less travel equals less carbon footprint. It’s math even a fashionista can love.
  5. Consumer Responsibility
    No matter the fashion philosophy, the ball’s in your court too. Make thoughtful choices and foster awareness in others. Use, reuse, and recycle.
  6. Circularity
    Got an old dress? Don’t trash it—upcycle or recycle. This principle, often associated with circular fashion, is something slow fashion can get behind. No more wasting away in landfills for your used garments.
  7. Versatility
    If you’re into minimalist fashion, you’ll love this. Slow fashion also embraces the idea of versatile, mix-and-match pieces that work hard for your wardrobe.

Understanding these common grounds can make your journey into responsible fashion a whole lot easier. You can mix, match, and merge different philosophies to create your unique blend of conscious fashion.

How Do Slow Fashion and Other Responsible Fashion Styles Diverge?

A boutique selling slow fashion and accessories

So, we’ve covered the similarities, but let’s talk differences. While slow fashion shares some core values with other responsible fashion philosophies, it isn’t a carbon copy of any. Here’s how it sets itself apart.

  1. Pace and Patience
    Slow fashion isn’t just a name; it’s a tempo. Unlike fast fashion or even some sustainable brands, slow fashion takes its time—from design to production.
  2. Craft Over Scale
    While sustainable fashion might focus on greener practices at scale, slow fashion is more about the artisan touch. Think small batches, handmade garments, durable fabrics and unique designs.
  3. Quality Over Quantity
    Minimalism loves a capsule wardrobe, but it doesn’t always focus on how those few items are made. Slow fashion insists on quality at every step.
  4. Narrative and Connection
    Ethical fashion might ensure the fair treatment of workers, but slow fashion takes it further by fostering a connection between consumers, creators and designers.
  5. Holistic Approach
    Circular fashion is keen on the lifecycle of a product, but slow fashion extends this concern to the raw materials the fabrics are made from, making sure they’re responsibly sourced.
  6. Consumer’s Role
    While many philosophies encourage responsible consumption, slow fashion places this as a central tenet. It’s not just about buying better but buying less.
  7. Longevity and Repairability
    Sustainable fashion might offer durable options, but slow fashion often comes with the added feature of being repairable, emphasizing the long-term relationship you have with your clothes.

Distinguishing these differences can help you navigate the sea of responsible fashion options out there. Whether you’re a slow fashion purist or love dabbling in different styles, knowing the unique aspects of each can help you create a wardrobe that’s as unique as you are.

Can You Blend Slow Fashion with Other Responsible Styles?

Mixing fashion styles

By now, you’re probably wondering if you can be a jack-of-all-trades in the world of responsible fashion.

Can you be a slow fashion devotee while also dipping your toes into sustainable or ethical fashion waters?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Here’s how you can strike that balance.

  1. Dual Tagging
    Don’t be afraid to wear a slow fashion top with sustainably made jeans. It’s all part of a larger, more responsible fashion ecosystem.
  2. Capsule Cornucopia
    Mix some minimalist staples with slow fashion statements to create a versatile capsule wardrobe that’s both chic and conscious.
  3. Ethical Accessories
    Pair your slow fashion outfits with ethical accessories. Think fair-trade jewelry or a cruelty-free belt.
  4. Circular Meets Slow
    Upcycle a slow fashion item when it’s nearing the end of its life. It’s the circular way to extend your wardrobe’s longevity.
  5. Mindfulness in Mixing
    Remember, the idea is to be intentional in your choices. Know why you’re mixing and what each piece brings to the table.
  6. Quality and Care
    Regardless of the label—be it slow, sustainable, or ethical—the key is to take good care of your items. Proper care extends lifespan, whatever the fashion philosophy.
  7. Consumer Power
    Your buying choices speak volumes. Supporting brands that align with multiple responsible fashion philosophies can encourage others to follow suit.

Being versatile in your responsible fashion choices doesn’t mean you’re diluting the impact. In fact, it amplifies it. You’re not just adhering to one school of thought; you’re taking a multi-faceted approach to being a responsible consumer, and that’s something to be proud of.

Mindful Consumerism Beyond Clothing

Slow Fashion - Mindful Consumerism Beyond Clothing

So, you’re already into slow fashion—that’s fantastic! But how does this fit into your larger quest for sustainable living and positive social impact?

The great news is, it aligns perfectly.

When you opt for slow fashion, you’re not just making a wardrobe statement; you’re making a lifestyle choice that ripples across various dimensions of sustainability.

You conserve resources by choosing durable, high-quality clothes, promoting less waste and less frequent production cycles.

This mindful consumerism spills over into other areas like food shopping or home decor choices.

By prioritizing ethical labor practices and quality, you pave the way for making ethical choices in other aspects of your life too.

Localism gets a boost, as many slow fashion brands are small-scale and community-focused.

Plus, let’s not overlook the economic angle—initial investments in slow fashion can lead to long-term savings, allowing you to allocate funds to other sustainable initiatives.

All in all, embracing slow fashion isn’t just a ‘closet makeover’; it’s a lifestyle overhaul that harmonizes with broader sustainability goals.

Practical Tips for Adopting Slow Fashion

Learn to Upcycle & Repair
Learn to upcycle and repair

So you’re sold on the idea of slow fashion—awesome! Now, let’s talk about how to actually make it a part of your life without breaking a sweat or the bank.

  1. Start Small
    Don’t feel the need to overhaul your entire wardrobe in one go. Start by introducing a few key pieces that are ethically made and built to last.
  2. Quality Over Quantity
    Instead of grabbing five fast fashion tees, invest in one or two quality tops made from durable textiles. The initial cost may be higher, but they’ll last longer and look better.
  3. Know Your Brands
    Do a bit of homework to find brands that align with your values. Look for certifications like Fair Trade or GOTS to ensure you’re making an ethical choice.
  4. Upcycle and Repair
    Before tossing out a garment, consider if it can be repaired or is a good candidate for upcycling. This is a creative and cost-effective way to extend the life of your clothes.
  5. Be a Conscious Consumer
    Think twice before you buy. Ask yourself if you really need an item, how often you’ll wear it, and what its environmental impact might be.
  6. Educate Yourself
    The more you know, the better choices you’ll make. There are tons of resources out there to help you become a savvy slow fashion adopter if you are willing to do the research. For a deeper dive into making the transition, check out our article on how to transition to sustainable fashion, the advice found there can be applied to slow fashion.

There you go, six practical steps to kickstart your slow fashion journey. Remember, it’s not about perfection; it’s about making more mindful choices one step at a time.

A boutique full of colorful upcycled clothing
A boutique full of colorful upcycled clothing


What is the Environmental Impact of Slow Fashion Compared to Fast Fashion?

Slow fashion is generally easier on the environment than fast fashion. While fast fashion usually involves mass production, which ramps up pollution and uses a lot of water, slow fashion is more mindful.

It opts for sustainable materials and ethical ways of making clothes, which leads to less waste and lower energy use. That said, it’s important to remember that the scale of production can still have an environmental impact. So, while slow fashion is a better choice, it’s not completely without its own footprint.

Why is Slow Fashion so Expensive, Is it Worth the Cost?

Slow fashion usually comes with a higher price tag, and there’s good reason for it. The costs go towards ethical labor, better materials, and greener production methods. Each item typically gets more time and attention to detail, making it more of a crafted piece than a mass-produced one.

While you might pay more upfront, you’re investing in quality and ethics. Over time, having a few durable, high-quality items can actually save you more than constantly replacing cheaper, fast fashion alternatives.

Are There Affordable Slow Fashion Options?

Absolutely, affordable slow fashion choices do exist. More brands are coming out with reasonably priced sustainable options for those just getting started.

Another strategy is to buy fewer but better-quality pieces, which can actually save you money over time.
You can also go for second-hand slow fashion items, either from thrift stores or specialized online platforms that focus on reselling quality, eco-friendly clothing.

Is Thrifting a Form of Slow Fashion?

Thrifting is a Form of Slow Fashion

Thrifting definitely vibes with the slow fashion ethos. It’s all about giving clothes a second life and cutting down on waste.
But be smart about it—buy stuff you’ll actually wear, not just because it’s a bargain. When you thrift with purpose, it’s a win-win: you save money and still stay true to the principles of slow fashion.

The Final Stitch: Making Slow Fashion Your New Normal

In a world drowning in fast fashion and disposable trends, slow fashion offers a refreshing alternative.

It’s not just about clothes; it’s a lifestyle choice that respects both people and the planet.

Yes, it might cost a bit more upfront, but the quality and ethics are worth it.

From exploring affordable options to embracing thrifting, slow fashion is adaptable to different budgets and tastes.

So why not take the first step?

Your closet—and the earth—will thank you.

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