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Slow Fashion vs. Sustainable Fashion: What’s the Difference?

Slow fashion, sustainable fashion… you have probably been hearing or even using these words when referring to alternatives of the unsustainable and unethical fast fashion, maybe even interchangeably. While a fashion brand can be classified both as slow fashion and sustainable fashion, each has a different meaning. So, what is each of them defined as and what are some of their similarities?

Slow fashion is usually used to refer to the style of the garment and its longevity. It is a direct opposite of fast fashion, which quickly rotates styles, patterns, and cuts not giving much care to the design of the garment and how long it will last. Slow fashion clothing is made out of fabrics that will last a long time, cut in a timeless manner, sewn together professionally, and designed to last for years. In direct contrast to this are fads and current trends, which you will find none of in slow fashion.

Slow fashion is closely associated with the beliefs of minimalism and the ‘less is more’ philosophy, encouraging people to buy less and make what they have, go a long way. Nothing is treated as disposable, capsule wardrobes are particularly popular and slow fashion closets are put together to make sure there are many ways to combine a small amount of garment to create a wide variety of timeless outfits.

Sustainable fashion is referring to the impact of the production, lifecycle, and disposal of the garment on the environment. Sustainable fashion skips on pesticides, water pollution, high carbon footprint, energy use, etc. often associated with fast fashion brands, but not necessarily characteristic of them by definition. The list of ways garment production can impact the environment is almost infinite but sustainable fashion brands are constantly finding ways to reduce their impact and be more eco-friendly.

By design, sustainable fashion and slow fashion have a lot in common, although their definitions are very different from one another. For example, slow fashion tackles many of the waste-related concerns sustainable fashion is striving to solve. But what would one look like without the other, if we took them to the extreme?

Slow fashion would choose the longest-lasting materials – no matter how (un)sustainable they are. It could, for example, be using some high-quality synthetics which release microplastic particles into the environment whenever they are washed. Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, would not worry much about the versatility or longevity of pieces, as long as their disposal was sustainable (hypothetically).

Needless to say, it makes sense for the two to usually come together, since imagining one without the other just does not look right. Many of their ultimate goals are in accordance with one another and issues such as garment longevity and waste pollution and so tightly intertwined they cannot be discussed without one another. However, this does not mean that we should be using the terms interchangeably, since both still vary quite a lot by definition.


• Slow fashion
• Sustainable fashion