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On the Retykle Radar: Slow vs Fast Fashion

On the Retykle Radar: Slow vs Fast Fashion


Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion


The Burning Question: Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion has become somewhat the delinquent within the fashion industry. It's a frenemy we find hard to shake. Seemingly innocent, persuasively it wins us over again and again with fashion-perks often too hard to refuse! Affordability and accessibility are at the core of the fast fashion industry, making its appeal to the masses an almost impossible case to argue against in this consumer-charged environment. Without a full grasp of the hard truths behind its obscure appearance, at face value for most consumers, the issues are possibly invisible.

Companies can produce up to eleven different collections a year against the more traditional standard of four collections and are known for their astonishing turnaround times. For most fashion retailers, turnaround times are about 3-6 months; however, Zara can push a collection from the canvas to the store shelf in just two weeks- and sometimes if need be, shockingly, from ideation to approval in as little as a few hours. Image via

The amount manufactured at an incredibly fast pace is only possible with some pretty aggressive factors at play: for example, exploiting an overworked and underpaid workforce by using unethical techniques and materials in manufacturing, disregarding or lacking the appropriate standards and knowledge for worker safety to garner faster efficiency and make volume, volume, volume.  

Bangladesh's worst industrial accident. The Dhaka garment factory catastrophe occurred on the 24 April 2013, where an eight-story commercial building called Rana Plaza collapsed. It is considered the deadliest structural failure accident in modern human history, and therefore also the deadliest garment factory disaster in history. [1]                                         

The SCMP reported, "relentless demand for ever-cheaper clothes from high-street stores and supermarket chains in the West is keeping workers' wages in Bangladesh at levels as low as US$68 per month". "This is an amount that pressure groups, unions- and even some employers- admit is barely enough to support the people whose sweat and hard work this part of the industry relies on". 

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition estimates that designers control upwards of 80 percent of a product's environmental impact, and that it lies in the first steps of development. It is tough to work backwards when you are working towards a more sustainable product. Instead, it has to be stitched into the garment from the very beginning- highlighting the enormous challenge ahead for the big fashion companies to make the necessary changes in their already established supply chains.


It seems most people buy in large amounts because of an attractive price point and quicker accessibility to emerging trends. Unfortunately, these items are often used only a handful of times, and in childrenswear the turnover of clothing can be even higher. A growing child's wardrobe is sizeable with a constant need to renew and restock for the next growth spurt. Sadly, after a short time- whether children or adult's  sizing- many of these poorly made items are quickly discarded. We tend to place less value and care on cheaper imitations, as we rarely plan to preserve them due to a lack of quality making them unlikely to hold up beyond their intended wearability.

Slow fashion essentially means to slow down the process of design and production with awareness and responsibility leading to a more sustainable outcome. Sustainability is one of the most significant talking points of 2019. It's a term that encompasses many things: environmental impacts, social justices, supporting artisanal crafts, businesses supporting developing economies and more. It is broad in definition but can be relevant to so many different industries. For example, The Slow Food Movement, founded in 1986, Italy-  an interesting parallel example of the link between pleasure and product, incorporating awareness and responsibility (food in this case). The movement defended the biodiversity in our food supply by challenging a standardisation of taste. Supporting the need for consumer transparency and protecting cultural identities tied to food to try to preserve  its unique qualities because, no one wanted standardised food and no one wants standardised fashion. Faster and more is not always better.

Slow is not the opposite of fast- there is no dualism just a different approach".


Slow fashion comes under the umbrella of sustainability. It requires that design, development and production meet today's needs by improving manufacturing and social impact without sacrificing fashion and style (pleasure and product with awareness and responsibility). It doesn't have to mean because a brand is sustainable that they won't be fashionable. In fact, sustainability in terms of slow fashion means great design: creativity, quality, longevity, craftsmanship and fair wages, all adding to a lower carbon footprint without compromise- which is something all of us can get behind. Shopping thoughtfully, investing in items that will outlast our children's wear-and-tear can not only be financially beneficial but makes for a more stylish wardrobe for your little one too, bonus! 

Mass market or luxury, if people can find a high-quality product for much less, they’ll choose used".

The pieces we end up keeping in our children's wardrobes', that we mend or have our kids wear on repeat until we finally gift them to a friend (or hand them down), are the pieces that we value the most, and for the most part are unique investment pieces made to endure a few children. The fashion resale market is exploding, growing 21 times faster than the retail market over the past three years, according to research from retail analytics firm GlobalData. Secondhand has finally come to the forefront as a chosen option amongst conscientious consumers looking to keep items in circulation. “Mass market or luxury, if people can find a high-quality product for much less, they’ll choose used,” wrote ThredUp co-founder, and CEO James Reinhart. We can have an impact on the industry by voting with our purchase and as global consumers, we would be more inspired and incentivised to do so armed with the facts. 

"Slow is not the opposite of fast- there is no dualism - but a different approach". Says Kate Fletcher, widely credited with coining the term 'slow fashion'. "They are not in competition instead they are two separate mindsets, separate lifestyles, unrelated". 

Possibly a helpful take-away could be evaluating what is important to you and your family, whether it be the food you consume or the clothing you wear. Generally having more say in what we consume in and how it is made could be the key to changing the current narrative to something more conscious and informed, especially for the younger generations to follow #JoinTheCycle.

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