Clientbook Blog
June 10, 2024

How slow fashion is changing the fashion industry

How many times have you heard someone say, “They don’t make things like they used to”? In the clothing industry, this trend toward fast fashion—with its lower quality and less expensive materials—has dominated the market for the past few decades. Today, however, savvy consumers, particularly in the younger generation, have noticed the negative impact that comes with fast fashion and instead reach for slow fashion options with increasing frequency.

As an apparel or accessory retailer, it's important to fully understand the difference between slow and fast fashion. This will help you align your brand identity and company mission with customer expectations and desires. The slow fashion movement is changing the whole industry, and responsible, forward-thinking companies must get on board.

Slow fashion vs. fast fashion: what's the difference?

As the names imply, the two designations have to do with the speed of manufacturing of each piece of clothing. What's more, they reveal just how quickly an item of clothing heads to the landfill after its usable lifespan ends. Quality, customer satisfaction, environmental impact, and waste all play into the definitions.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is slow fashion?

Slow fashion is about more than taking time and making clothing last. It represents a philosophy that emphasizes sustainable sourcing, manufacturing, and sales, ethical production, and mindful consumption. People pay more for quality items that were created with care, love, and respect for the workers and the Earth.

Items that fall into the slow fashion category have these things in common:

  • Eco-friendly, biodegradable, and high-quality materials such as organic, natural, and recycled fabric
  • Ethical production with fair labor, safe working conditions, and transparent supply chains
  • Limited runs of quality products that last longer
  • Focus on purchasing fewer individual items at higher price points
  • Classic, sustainable fashion styles that transcend trends
  • Environmentally conscious production and manufacturing
  • Education for consumers about the impact of fast fashion

The problem with fast fashion

Flip all the benefits of ethical fashion on its head to learn the problems that fast fashion creates for the world. The appeal of fast mass production of low-quality items often perpetuate trends. And people buy them, often due to their more affordable price tags. However, they'll end up throwing them out far earlier than they expect, costing them more in the long run. This mindless consumption leads to vast amounts of waste and pollution.

The statistics around fast fashion are sobering. Excessive production uses more of our water supply, releases more pollution and micro-plastics, and stuffs landfills at an alarming rate. Approximately 92 million tons of all textiles produced end up in the garbage annually. While this includes more than things produced for the fashion industry, it represents a distressing and dangerous issue.

What do consumers think about slow fashion?

The omnipresence of the internet and global information about the environment and labor conditions has contributed to a culture of care. Consumers want to make a positive impact by supporting a responsible production process and better shopping habits more than ever before. Slow fashion represents a huge part of their emotional and psychological drive to buy local, buy quality, and buy less.

Environmental consciousness

With all the challenges to the Earth these days, consumers want to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Slow fashion prioritizes sustainability and responsible material and resource usage. Going green while wearing a beautiful blouse makes the experience more valuable. As an added bonus, sustainable fabrics like organic hemp and cotton offer maximum comfort, too.

Ethical considerations

Slow fashion companies that support fair and safe worker conditions, ethical practices, no animal testing, and transparency in all steps along the supply chain attract attention in a big way. Consumers have learned so much about international manufacturing and logistics issues over the past several years and are willing to spend more on apparel products that support their ethical standards.

Anti-corporate sentiment

Big business has become the enemy of many savvy consumers. Tales of waste, ill-treated employees, and overt consumerism fly in the face of their values and interests. This leads to a growing trend in shopping with small businesses and local retailers. This aligns with slow fashion in many cases. Smaller clothing, footwear, and accessory manufacturers tend to use higher quality materials, take more care of the individual item, and have a closer relationship with the people who buy their products. These are all things shoppers want.

Quality, style, and education

People who take these factors into account don't want to sacrifice their personal style for sustainability. Thankfully, slow fashion creators understand this and tend toward more fashionable and unique pieces. This isn’t about chasing every fashion trend that can change as quickly as a person changes their shirt. It's about helping people learn about their own unique styles and how quality clothes support that individuality.

Cost considerations

Slow fashion costs more upfront. Discerning shoppers with more disposable income have the luxury of making smart buying decisions like these. Even if your brand caters to middle income earners, education about how longer lasting items offer more value helps. Targeted information can influence your audience’s buying habits.

Why should retailers care?

All fashion industry retailers want to make ongoing sales. It's impossible to succeed without them, of course. Fast fashion drives single sales and does not necessarily create an ongoing relationship with the brand. Slow fashion focuses on customer relationship building. You offer not only a quality jacket, dress, or pair of shoes. You also offer the knowledge and emotional benefit of supporting an eco-friendly, worker-focused, sustainable, and responsible brand.

It isn’t enough to say that retailers should care because slow fashion can lead to higher profits. In fact, this attitude represents exactly what consumers do not like about fast fashion producers. They expect authenticity, honesty, and individual attention that aligns with their interests and values. This is especially true for smaller and less known brands trying to compete with the icons of fashion.

Gather information about what your consumers truly want. Educate them on the value of slow fashion and your specific business practices that align with ethical, sustainable best practices. Align marketing strategies and customer interactions in a way that allows them to be an integral part of the process. When brand values align with their own, the results speak for themselves.

Clientbook data tracking and analysis helps you keep track of popular trends and the unique preferences of your target consumer base. The interest in slow fashion won’t diminish as consumers become ever more informed about the risks associated with fast fashion production. Use this knowledge and your specific customer data to make smart product procurement and marketing decisions going forward.

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