Gone are the days when new ready to wear fashion was introduced annually or even seasonally. A walk past storefront windows reveals a revolving door of new clothing, updated in the blink of an eye to generate and respond to global trends – and to encourage consumers to buy more items more often. It’s a concept that’s been termed “fast fashion” and it’s seen midmarket clothing chains expand the traditional two fashion seasons to 52 “micro-seasons” in an effort to increase sales.
But closets bursting at the seams aren’t the only by-product of fast fashion. As some companies in the garment industry continue to churn out new “affordable” pieces at breakneck speeds, the cost to the environment and society can be staggering.
As a company committed to high ethical standards in the production of our pima cotton, we wanted to dig into the truth behind the trends and make the case for balancing our reliance on fast fashion with its flip side: slow fashion. Slow fashion borrows from the slow food movement to promote three qualities – good, clean, and fair – in an effort to boost the creation of high-quality clothing produced by workers treated and paid fairly, made with minimal negative impact on the environment, and offered to consumers at an accessible price point. If you’re not already on board, here are our top four reasons to think slow when it comes to clothes:
1. Support Fair Labor and Sustainable Supply Chains
In order to create clothing as quickly as they do, manufacturers rely on the lowest-cost labor to cut, sew, and finish that trendy top or pair of jeans. We’ve explored some of the problems with overseas cotton production processes before, but the problems of forced and child labor are equally serious. Globally, 80% of garment industry workers are women and this often vulnerable population is regularly subjected to low wages, long hours, unsafe conditions, and harassment or abuse. For the conscientious consumer, no trend is worth subjecting workers in developing nations to this kind of treatment. As a first step, do some homework before hitting the mall to learn which brands are committed to fair labor practices. Today, most brands offer visibility into their labor and environmental practices on their websites.
2. Make an Investment in Higher Quality
By constantly updating their offerings and pushing new merchandise to the front of the stores, it can seem as though some brands are working hard to make you feel out of style before you’ve even had a chance to take off the tags. When manufacturers focus on speed, often they’re sacrificing quality. Some of these low-quality pieces are actually designed to wear out faster, leading consumers to – you guessed it – buy more clothes. And once someone is done wearing an item, it usually ends up in the landfill, where synthetic fabrics can take decades to decompose. Consider investing in fewer, higher-quality classic pieces that can last for years, reducing the strain on the environment and your wallet. Look for companies with a reputation for quality, and also check out vintage stores to bolster your wardrobe with clothing that’s proven it can stand the test of time.
3. Support Design Creativity
Because fast fashion has such a shortened timeline for design and production, there often isn’t room for the development of unique pieces. This leads to brands turning to other designers for “inspiration” – and, some would contend, outright rip-offs. A number of fast fashion retailers have faced copyright and intellectual property lawsuits from other, more innovative or established fashion houses. Rather than relying on brands that don’t invest the time it takes to create original designs and who focus instead on lower-quality knockoffs, find brands that offer a unique point of view that you can live with for the long term. And consider adding some talented young designers and independent labels to your closet, too.
4. Join a Movement for Good
Recently, we’ve seen a backlash against fast fashion for many of the reasons cited above. As consumers become more aware of the problematic production and interested in supporting sustainable and ethical supply chains, they’re beginning to look past fast fashion to learn more about incorporating slow fashion into their lives. Thankfully, this trend promises positive change – and seems like it’s here to stay. As society embraces slow fashion, we’ve seen more and more companies commit themselves to transparency and environmentally- and socially-responsible design and production processes. At PimaCott, we’re proud to champion the slow fashion movement, and just as proud of our ongoing commitment to sustainable and ethical pima cotton.