What Is Slow Fashion? - Good On You
28 May

What Is Slow Fashion?

There are countless terms in the sustainable fashion sphere, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed—especially when some of them seem to blur together! So what is ‘slow fashion’ exactly, and how is it different from sustainable fashion? We’re here to tackle the term for you and explain why slowing fashion down is crucial for a fashion industry that leaves a lighter footprint for generations to come.

What is slow fashion?

Put simply, slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It encompasses an awareness and approach to fashion that considers the processes and resources required to make clothing. It advocates for buying better-quality garments that will last longer, and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet along the way. 

Realistically, slow fashion and sustainable or ethical fashion have a lot of similarities. They are sister movements and follow the same general guidelines. The main difference with slow fashion is that it hones in on reducing consumption and production more specifically.

The beginnings of slow fashion

The past decade or so has seen a wave of change sweep through the fashion industry. An increasing number of brands are rejecting the principles of fast fashion and opting for a more sustainable approach to making clothes.

The term ‘slow fashion’ came about quite organically. It was coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, following the phenomena of the slow food movement. As with the slow food movement, Fletcher saw a need for a slower pace in the fashion industry.

Slow fashion opposes the fast fashion model that emerged around 20 years ago, in which clothes became cheaper, and trend cycles sped up. With brands like H&M burning many tonnes of unsold garments per year despite ongoing sustainability efforts to close the loop in fashion, it’s clear that this philosophy is a necessary part of the movement as a whole.

scrabble pieces on green background spelling out

Slow fashion becomes a movement

Pre-Industrial Revolution, garments were locally sourced and produced. People would buy durable clothing that could serve them for a long time or make their own from the textiles and resources available to them. Clothing reflected the place and culture of the people wearing them.

Modern-day slow fashion has seen a re-emergence of some of these old ways. Initially, it asks us to take a step back and decide if we really need something new, or if we can shop our closet for some forgotten piece that maybe just needs a small repair. It then encourages us to buy fewer garments less often, and opt for second hand when we can. When it comes to buying new, instead of purchasing six cheap polyester tops that will unravel after one or two wears, for example, conscious consumers invest in higher quality pieces. They will be made from more sustainable processes and fabrics that emphasize the art of clothes making and celebrate the skills of craftspeople, like one or two organic cotton or linen tops you know will last for years to come. Finally, slow fashion asks us to stop treating our clothes as disposable, and to make an effort to repair, upcycle, pass along, or responsibly dispose of them when they no longer serve us. 

Slow fashion has seen increasing support in the last few years as consumers demand higher sustainability and ethical standards. As research shows, 19% of the top fast fashion-related searches are linked to the environment, ethics, and sustainability. As awareness and popularity increases, the planet and all its inhabitants are set to benefit from this slower and more considered approach to fashion.

Some characteristics of a slow fashion brand

  • Made from high quality, sustainable materials like linen
  • Garments are more timeless than trendy
  • Often sold in smaller (local) stores rather than huge chain enterprises
  • Locally sourced, produced, and sold garments
  • Few, specific styles per collection, which are released twice or maximum three times per year, or a permanent seasonless collection
  • Often made-to-order to reduce unnecessary production

Staple slow brands

These brands implement fair practices for their environmental, ethical, and animal impacts and are great starting points if you are looking for some slow fashion staples.

A.BCH

Rated: Great
A woman with black hair and grey t-shirt looks at camera

A.BCH is a Melbourne-based, Australian-made fashion label for individuals who care about garment provenance. It utilises renewable, organic, and recycled materials. Its goal is to transform the way people buy, wear, and dispose of their garments, and it even sends you a digital care manual with every purchase to help you keep the clothes fresh and fabulous for a really long time. Find the range in sizes XS-XL, or customise to fit you!

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Shop A.BCH.

OhSevenDays

Rated: Good

OhSevenDays was started by Australian-Canadian Megan Mummery to promote slow fashion and the ‘power of circularity’. Based in Istanbul, the brand reclaims end-of-roll fabrics from the city’s garment factories and creates sharp, everyday womenswear that’s as wearable as it is ethical. Essentially, it makes slow fashion from fast fashion's leftovers! OhSevenDays' garments are available in sizes XS-XL or custom sizing.

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Shop OhSevenDays.

ASKET

Rated: Good
man wearing black asket t-shirt

Asket doesn’t design for seasons, it creates for forever. The brand has been perfect the slow fashion wardrobe since 2015; one piece at a time, free of compromise, full of love. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop Asket.

ARIELLE

Rated: Good

ARIELLE is a sustainable apparel label committed to organic, fair-trade operations and plastic-free packaging & production. The brand also focuses on sustainable textiles and domestic manufacturing, two characteristics of slow fashion brands. It carries a size range of XS-L.

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Shop ARIELLE.

TWOTHIRDS

Rated: Good

TWOTHIRDS sees itself as a brand for people who are awake and aware of the immense value of our oceans, but also have a thirst for style and substance. Through their Pre-Order system they estimate how many pieces they are going to sell from one product: they, therefore, produce what they sell, which is another great approach of slow fashion. The clothes can be found in sizes XS-L.

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Shop TWOTHIRDS.

Elle Evans

Rated: Great

Founded in 2013, Elle Evans Swimwear creates beautiful, sustainable, swimwear and activewear for people who care about fashion and the future. The brand uses post-consumer waste fabrics and traces all of its supply chain. The range is stocked in sizes XS-3XL.

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Shop Elle Evans.

Bozena Jankowska

Rated: Good

Bozena Jankowska is a London based label set up in 2016 by founder and creative director Bozena Jankowska. Driven by her passion for sustainability, the label started with a focus on small capsule collections that were inspired by and told the story of critical social and environmental issues. Find the collection in UK sizes 6-14.

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Shop Bozena Jankowska.

unspun

Rated: Good
blue jeans by sustainable brand unspun

unspun is an American brand, creating a denim world that reduces global carbon emissions by 1% through a zero-inventory and low waste process. Its product sizing is totally customisable to ensure you always find the perfect fit.

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Shop unspun.

LANIUS

Rated: Good

Offers

black woman wearing moss green knitted top by ethical brand LANIUS

LANIUS – Knits

Wrap yourself in the softest knitwear, perfect for relaxing at home or staying snug outside. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off knits. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

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woman wearing white denim jacket ethically made by LANIUS

LANIUS – Coats and Jackets

LANIUS creates beautiful pieces that keep you warm while making you feel good, inside and out. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off jackets and coats. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

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salmon coloured sustainable shorts with stripes by LANIUS

LANIUS – Shorts and Pants

From classy to flirty, but always responsible: LANIUS trousers fit for every occasion. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off shorts and trousers. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

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woman wearing white sustainable wrap top by LANIUS

LANIUS – Tops

Delicate, minimalist, ethical tops and t-shirts that can be combined in many ways. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off tops. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

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black woman wearing long navy ethical dress by LANIUS

LANIUS – Dresses

Fair and organic fashion with a feminine touch. Noble looks that radiate liveliness. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off dresses. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now

“Love Fashion, Think Organic, Be Responsible” are the maxims of LANIUS. The German brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton. All LANIUS facilities are SA8000 certified and it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. LANIUS' clothes are available in EU sizes 34-44.

See the rating.

Shop LANIUS.

The R Collective

Rated: Great
women wearing blue the r collective trenches

The R Collective's womenswear collections are made by reusing rescued excess materials from leading luxury brands and reputable manufacturers. The brand uses a high-proportion of eco-friendly materials, which limits the amount of chemicals, water, and wastewater used in production. It also ensures the payment of a living wage in its supply chain, which is why we rated it 'Great'! The garments are offered in two sizes: XS-S and M-L.

See the rating.

Shop The R Collective.

Shop The R Collective @ ourCommonplace.

How is this slower approach changing the fashion industry?

From top end to small scale designers, the values that make up the slow fashion movement suggest a complete overhaul of consumption and production. As we have explored, this approach has inspired many changes in recent years, particularly in the production of clothing, but also in consumer behaviour.

And while there is a growing support for slow fashion, there is still a long way to go. To really support the slow fashion movement, we need to be a part of the growing movement of people looking beyond the “appeal” of the cheap, high turnover of fast fashion. We can maintain awareness of what a brand is really representing and focus on quality, not quantity by simplifying our wardrobes. As they say, less is more, right?

Discover 4 easy ways to simplify your wardrobe.

Author bio: Madeleine is an experienced content writer who specialises in all things personal sustainability, environmental awareness, and minimal consumption. She loves using her writing and research to clearly communicate these key solutions to environmental issues, and endeavours to help people do more in their everyday lives to minimise their footprint on the planet. To do this, Madeleine also manages the online platform Our Simple Gestures, and in her spare time loves being outdoors and enjoying life! Find her at LinkedIn, Instagram and at the website.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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