Fast fashion vs slow fashion is a discussion that we all should talk about. Have you ever thought about who produces your clothes and how? Or did you even question yourself one time about the fashion industry’s environmental impacts? Well, in this post there’s all the information you need to know about fast fashion, why is better slow fashion and what you can do to start changing your fashion consumer habits to a more responsible and conscious one.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is the mass-production of cheap and disposable clothing. It uses trends replication and low-quality materials in order to bring affordable and trendy styles to the public. Indeed the United Nations established fashion as an environmental and social emergency.
Fast fashion’s enviromental impacts
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry. And as long as the costumer has access to cheap clothes, the planet suffers the cost. Let’s see some numbers:
- We are buying more clothes than ever. Now we consume about 80 billion new garments every year. In particular, this is a 400% more than the amount it was consumed 20 years ago. And the average lifetime of a garment today is of 3 years.
- Every single second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textils is burning or throwing to a landfill. Most of the garments are made of synthetic fibers (like polyester) that are plastic fibers. Furthermore they’re non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose.
- What if I tell you that it requires 10,000 litres of water to manufacture a single pair of jeans? Or that it takes 20,000 liters of water to produce just 1kg of cotton? The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of the total waste of water globally. This is the equivalent of the amount of water that 5 million people need to survive.
- The apparel industry emits 10% of the global carbon emissions. That’s more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined. And this is due the energy used during its production, manufacturing and transportation of all the million pieces each year.
- 23% of all chemicals produced worldwide are used for the textile industry. It needs 1kg of chemicals to produce 1kg of textile. And 20,000 people die of cancer and miserriages every years as a result of chemicals sprayed on cotton.
Fast fashion working conditions
If you thought that this matter cannot get worse, well, let me tell you that it is. Nearly all of our clothes are made in countries where workers rights are nonexistent. Garment workers are exploited because they are forced to work from about 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and just gaining $3 per day in terrible conditions. Indeed this thing was revealed to the public when it happened the incident at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh. At least 1,138 workers died when the fashion factory collapsed.
A report from 2018 published that forced labor and child labor exist in the fashion industry in different contries like Argentina, India, Brazil, China, and more. You can see the report here.
Moreover, as time goes by more and more brands are sharing lists and details about their workers and wages. But it’s not enough because there’s still forced labor and the 80% of garment workers are women.
What is slow fashion?
Basically slow fashion is a movement focused on taking a more ethical and sustainable approach to fashion. And this is for both retailers and consumers. As the industry continues to accelerate, the slow fashion proposes a stop and makes us rethink our relationship with fashion. It includes buying quality garments and values fair treatment of animals, people and the planet.
As you can see, there is a need to radically change our way of fashion consumption to ensure the survival of the planet and also a better quality life for the people who produce clothes. Slow fashion is the answer.
Slow fashion environmental impacts
Everything in the production chain of the fashion industry has a negative environmental impact: from the cultivation of the raw material, or the production of the synthetic fibers, to the main production of the cloth and its distribution. And slow fashion garments have a lower environmental impact than the fast fashion ones. And this is because of some points that are key to obtain garments that have low environmental impacts:
- This movement supports buying second hand and vintage clothes, for example. And this is a great way to give another opportunity to a garment because all the production chain of a new cloth was not needed.
- There are some eco-friendly fashion brands that produce their clothes with fibers that have low environmental impacts because they were recycled or their production chain is more sustainable than others.
- Redesigning or recycling old clothes are other alternatives to continue the life of a garment and no need to buy new ones.
- Also buying quality garments is a good thing to do because they are going to last more than the average of fast fashion clothes.
What you need to know about fibers
Reading the clothes labels is very important if you want to be a more responsible fashion consumer. Even though it matters because you need to know about the material your garment was made of.
Fibers you should use on clothes
These fibers are eco-friendly because their production process has a low environmental impact than others. They need less water, are made of wasted materials, they are biodegradable and they don’t generate soil erosion.
|Made from wasted materials||Bio-degradable||Low environmental impact||Soil erosion|
If you can’t see this table click here.
Furthermore, it is important to know some more numbers to realize how better recycled and organic fibers are than virgin ones:
|Carbon dioxide emissions||Water consumption||Energy consumption|
|Recycled polyester||75% less than polyester||90% less than polyester||70% less than polyester|
|Recycled nylon||50% less than nylon||No info||50% less than nylon|
|Recycled cotton||35% less than cotton||55% less than cotton||66% less than cotton|
|Recycled wool||No need||No need||Higher than wool|
|Organic cotton||60% less than cotton||88% less than cotton||62% less than cotton|
|Linen||No info||60% less than cotton||Higher than cotton|
|Hemp||No info||50% less than cotton||50% less than cotton|
If you can’t see this table click here.
As you can see, the recycled and organic raw materials consume much less water and energy and emmit less carbon dioxide than the common fibers like cotton, polyester and nylon. And also I want to be clear that all this information is relative. Everything depends on the place it is made the fiber and the method they use.
Fibers you should avoid on clothes
There are some fibers that you should avoid because they have a notably negative environmental impact. Like high energy need, soil erosion, they use GMOs (Genetically modified organisms) and harmful chemicals, rainforest destruction, animal cruelty, non-biodegradable and more…
|Harmful chemicals||High water need||High energy need||Use of GMOs||Soil erosion||Animal cruelty||Non-biodegradable||Non-renewable|
|NATURAL AND ANIMAL-BASED FIBERS|
|SYNTHETIC AND SEMI-SYNTHETIC FIBERS|
|Rayon, viscose, modal||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
If you can’t see this table click here.
Slow fashion working conditions
In contrast to fast fashion, the slow fashion working conditions are much better. Because the movement supports shopping from smaller producers and designers. So this is a way to value their extraordinary and handmade job. And it gives them the opportunity to keep working in good conditions, which is how it would have to happen in all other cases.
Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion
Let’s see the differences between Slow fashion and Fast fashion:
|Fast Fashion||Slow fashion|
|Definition||The mass-production of cheap and disposable clothing that uses trends replication and low-quality materials in order to bring affordable and trendy styles to the public.||A movement focused on taking a more ethical and sustainable approach to fashion that supports buying vintage clothes, redesigning or recycling old garments and shopping from smaller producers and designers.|
|Costumers||They follow trends and purchase a large quantity of items that are not worn for long because of their terrible quality and trend expiration.||They follow their personal style and prefer buying good quality clothes that will last longer and unique pieces from vintage and designer clothes.|
|Environmental impacts||Is the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry.||Is trying to revert the environmental impact by encouraging retailers and consumers in taking a more ethical and sustainable approach to fashion by using eco-friendly fibers and reusing and recycling the clothes.|
|Water consumption||This industry is responsible for 20% of the total waste of water globally. This is the equivalent of the amount of water that 5 million people need to survive.||Using second hand or vintage clothes helps reduce the global water consumption. Even if you buy eco-friendly fibers garments you are reducing it. For example, organic cotton needs 88% less water than cotton and recycled polyester needs 90% less water than polyester.|
|Waste||Every single second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textils is burning or throwing to a landfill. Most of them are made of plastic fibers. Then they’re non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose.||Recycling and reusing clothes and even buying vintage and second hand helps to reduce the textils waste.|
|Working conditions||A report from 2018 published that forced labor and child labor exist in the fashion industry in different contries like Argentina, India, Brazil, China, and more.||In contrast, the slow fashion working conditions are much better. The movement supports shopping from smaller producers and designers giving them the opportunity to value their work and keep doing it.|
|Raw materials||Most of the fibers that are used are synthethic and have a high environmental impact: high energy need, soil erosion, they use GMOs and harmful chemicals, rainforest destruction, animal cruelty, non-biodegradable and more…||The fibers are eco-friendly and organic. Their production process has a low environmental impact.: they need less water, are made of wasted materials, they are biodegradable and they don’t generate soil erosion.|
|Brands||Zara ; H&M ; Pull&Bear ; Massimo Dutti ; Victoria’s Secret ; Uniqlo ; Stradivarius ; TopShop ; Primark ; Urban Outfitters ; GAP ; GUESS ; Pretty Little Thing ; Boohoo ; Mango ; Oysho ; ASOS ; Shein ; Forever 21 ; Bershka ; AliExpress ; Zaful ; and more.||Boden ; Able ; Tradlands ; Nu-In ; NA-KD ; Mayamiko ; Back beat co ; Tala ; Kotn ; Pact ; Boody ; Tentree ; Thought Clothing ; Girlfriend Collective ; Organic Basics ; Brook There ; Fair Indigo ; Kowtow ; Beaumont Organic|
|Freya Killin ; Kate Hutchins ; Alexx Coll ; Naomi Genes ; Nadia Anya ; María Turiel Soler ; Paulina Kurka ; Sophia Schönherr ; Thanya W. ; Alicia Roddy ; Daria Foldes and more.||Nawal Bonnefoy ; Stefanie Giesinger ; Lysiane -Marie ; Natalie Kay Costello ; Bel Romano ; Andrea Jarrett ; Chloé slowly ; Candice M Tay ; Emily lightly ; Mariana Nichifor and more.|
|Instagram Accounts||@zarastreetstyle ; @zara__europe ; @inspo.overdose ; @inspohunterr ; @beauty.inspiration.a ; @shoppasel and firstname.lastname@example.org ; @slowfashionworld ; @thesustainablefashionforum ; @cleanclothescampaign ; @labourbehindthelabel ; @consciousfashion ; @thoughtclothing and more.|
– Easy to find
|– High quality|
– Fair production
– Conscious consumption
– Unique or exclusive pieces
|Cons||– Low quality|
– Not sustainable
– Everyone wear the same
– Supports slave work
– Not long-lasting
|– Sometimes is more expensive|
– Maybe you can’t find a garment you were looking for
– The clothes sellection could be defined in an specific and determined style.
If you can’t see this table click here.
How can I start changing my consumer habits?
In conclusion, this fast fashion vs slow fashion thing is a matter that we should all care about. I see this change of fashion consumption as a process that takes time. And it is a process in which you don’t have to be hard on yourself in order to “only have sustainable garments” or “only shop vintage clothing”. Further I think that the absolute doesn’t exist and the most important thing is to start doing little changes. So these little changes are, for example:
- Invest in timeless clothes.
- Look for quality instead of quantity.
- Buy vintage clothes and sustainable brands (these are the ones that recycle garments, for example, or produce clothes with eco-friendly fibers like the ones made with waste material or low environmental impact, for example).
- Read the labels of the pieces you want to buy (this is very important in order to see the material that the garment was made of).
- Sell or donate the garments you don’t use anymore.
- Follow your personal style.
If you want to know how I changed my mind about my fashion consumption I tell you what’s going on in my head and which is my plan to be a more responsible fashion lover in this post: Fashion consumption: How I changed my mind.
And if you want to talk or have any question about this you can write me on my Instagram profile belromano or you can leave a comment right below.