What’s the definition of Sustainable and Slow Fashion?

Sustainable fashion, slow fashion, fast fashion, a capsule wardrobe, subscription-based models, value chain, transparency, trans-seasonal, timeless, GOTS-ceritified, organic, oeko-tex 100/1000… 

Do you know what it all means? We hardly know all the definitions, so we decided to make a DICTIONARY. So every second week or so, we will try to post a definition of a new word or concept. 

As the headline already revealed, the first concept we will define is sustainable fashion and slow fashion. But in order to explain what sustainable fashion is about, let me just explain why the fashion industry needs to be made more sustainable – namely because there is something called ‘fast fashion’.

Fast Fashion 

The fast fashion mainly consists of high street brands copying the newest catwalk trends, and translate them into affordable garments, often produced in low quality of apparel and under questionable ethical conditions. Accordingly, they are low-cost clothing based on high-cost trends. The high street brands do not limit themselves to seasonal collections, but offer their customers up to 24 collections, with hundreds of styles each year. The concept of quickly manufactured, affordable clothes are used by large retailers such as H&M, Zara, and Topshop (McKinsey, 2016):

“Fast fashion especially is focusing on consumption, as consumers have become more demanding and fashion savvy forcing fashion companies to provide the right product at the right time in the market (Bhardwaj and Fairhurst, 2010). It is about mass-produced fashion that is reasonably priced for most consumers, and easy to obtain, making it easy for anyone to look stylish.” (Mihm, 2010).

Sustainable and Slow Fashion

As a counteraction to the concept of fast fashion and its consumption patterns, the term of ‘slow fashion’ has arisen (Danish Museum of Art and Design, n.d.). Slow refers to ‘slowing’ down how much clothes we buy and that the things we do buy are long lasting and therefore have a longer lifespan – and if it needs to last longer then it needs to be timeless in order to use the clothes and items for several seasons.

The sustainability aspect comes into play where the brand is focusing on better working conditions throughout the value chain, more sustainable materials (e.g. organic, use of less water or chemicals), local production, a higher level of transparency, and timeless fashion in order to use clothes for several seasons.

But – there is no unique or general definition of sustainable fashion and every brand defines what it means to them. So it might be a bit confusing as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. But one definition I hold on to is this one:

“there is no harm done to people or the planet, and that a thing or process, once put into action, can enhance the well-being of the people who interact with it and the environment it is developed and used within.” (Hethorn and Ulasewicz, 2008) 


Do you have another definition of slow fashion or sustainable fashion? Then let us know. We would love to learn what it means to you! :)

Stine Pedersen

Stine is passionated about the ongoing question of how to make a transition of the fashion industry and how sustainability and fashion can be connected. She will therefore write about alternative ways of 'consuming' fashion such as vintage, up-cycling and redoing. She is currently Project Manager at Leaderlab and LAUNCH, and has a background as Sustainable Design Engineer finishing of with a thesis in how to implement Circular Economy in a large danish fast fashion brand. Besides this interest, she always has a full calendar with friends, family,  training, exhibitions, sewing... // CONTACT: stinekolding@gmail.com

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