If you’re a fashion lover and consumer, you may have heard these two terms thrown around here and there. We’re here to teach you about the two–what distinguishes them and why it’s important to know about them.

Fast fashion denotes many of the characteristics you’d first think of when you hear the words. Mass-produced clothing with short life-cycles. It's essentially non-stop production and distribution of clothing items at a very cheap price. Examples include Shein, H&M, and Zara amongst many others. You read that correctly, brands like Zara and Mango are fast fashion! Zara in particular was the first time the term fast fashion was used while describing their quick turnover in getting new items in their stores.

landfill with crane dumping more waste

While from a consumer perspective a $5 jacket sounds great, the attraction ends there. Many fast fashion workers operate in conditions that violate local and international labor laws. They earn vastly below minimum wage salaries, and in many cases work upwards to 18 hour days with little-to-no breaks or days off. 

On top of that, fast fashion contributes to the plagiarism and copying of independent designers. Imagine working so hard and having put so much effort into everything from design to production, only for it to be ripped off and mass-produced without your say so.   

Let’s also not forget about the extreme environmental cause of fast-fashion. It contributes to the almost 100 million tons of clothes that end up in landfills! 

seamstress/garment worker putting black trim on lining of blazer collar

Moving on, slow fashion, as you may think, is the opposite. Slow fashion embraces the slow movement of apparel manufacturing. 

Examples other than yours truly, Mela, are Mirror Palais and Tae Park. These brands are transparent with their consumers. The process from design to a final product through a more small-scale production approach. The intention includes promoting fair wages and fair treatment to everyone involved in the craft.

It’s all about appreciation for the entire process of producing a product. The designing, the fabric sourcing, paying the talented seamstress and garment workers. When you get dressed everyday, feeling a connection to the quality and ethical production of the garment you’re wearing. 

Now this basic outline of the two terms is part of a much larger conversation of our behavior as independent consumers and sustainability as a whole. As we always say, it’s about trying! We’re all learning and there are plenty of resources at our fingertips. One of our favorites includes the @Environment instagram account and  WeYou can do your part by reducing your consumption of products that contribute to fast fashion and unethical business practices. We can all do our part by paying some more attention to how and what we buy.

November 23, 2022 — Neel Elsherif