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What is slow, ethical, and sustainable fashion?

It’s not unusual to come across terms such as ‘ethical’, ‘sustainable, and ‘slow’ fashion while shopping these days. You may have even noticed that sometimes, what one company’s definition of ‘ethical’ is quite different to another’s version. We know they’re terms to look out for and generally mean something good but do you really know the difference between them all?

We thought it might be easiest to break it down for you so you’re well informed for your next shopping spree.

Slow Fashion

The term Slow Fashion is considered as the exact opposite of Fast Fashion. Slow Fashion is an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.

Slow Fashion clothes are considered to be timeless and durable pieces that don’t necessarily follow current trends. Slow Fashion brands rarely bring out new clothing lines, whereas Fast Fashion is all about constantly pumping out new clothing lines/trends as fast as possible to keep on top of trends. 

Some characteristics of Slow Fashion is that they’re made from high quality, sustainable materials. You can often purchase Slow Fashion from smaller (local) stalls rather than large chains. Locally sourced, produced and sold. 

Ethical Fashion
Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

Some of the main issues surrounding Ethical Fashion are

  • Exploitative working conditions for working in factories.

  • Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be subjected to abuse such as forced overtime, as well as unhygienic surroundings and very poor pay.

  • Cotton provides much of the world's fabric, but growing it uses 22.5% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides, chemicals which can be dangerous for the environment and harmful to the farmers who grow it.  
  • Most textiles are treated with chemicals to soften and dye them, however these chemicals can be toxic to the environment and can be transferred to the skin of the people wearing them. Hazardous chemicals used commonly in the textile industry are: lead, nickel, chromium IV, aryl amines, phthalates and formaldehyde.

  • Many animals are farmed to supply fur for the fashion industry, and many people feel that their welfare is an important part of the Ethical Fashion The designer Stella McCartney does not use either fur or leather in her designs. In an advert for the animal rights organisation PETA, she stated: 'we address... ethical or ecological... questions in every other part of our lives except fashion. Mind-sets are changing, though, which is encouraging.’

Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable Fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketered and use in the most sustainable way possible. This refers to the effects of the production of clothing on the environment.

This includes the use of pesticides in growing cotton and other natural, sustainable fabrics, the dyes used for various colours, water and waste treatment, energy reduction, using recycled materials, and sometimes even packaging.

Fashion Boundary Top Tips?

Always take note of how openly brands discuss the issues at hand. If for the most part, ethics or sustainability doesn’t seem to be their main priority, you can use that to make your decision as to whether to support them or not.

  • Look at the label on your clothes to see what materials they’re made from. Natural fibers are best if possible, because they are often less destructive to produce.
  • Opt for clothes that are made with organic and natural materials and use vegetable dyes.
  • Move from disposable fast-fashion culture to key statement pieces that will last you for years.
  • Repair you clothes! A loose hem? A rip? Try getting it repaired rather than replacing.
  • Sick of old styles or have grown out of your clothes? Don’t throw them away. Why not donate or hold a market stall?
  • Watch out for “crease-proof” and flame retardant claims. Many of the stain resistant and wrinkle-free fabrics are treated with per-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), like Teflon.