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What Exactly is the Difference Between Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion?

Reading Time: About 5 Minutes


Do you feel the same way...? Are you also confused by all these terms from the fashion industry? I mean, there are all these fashion terms - and I wonder: do the fashion companies even understand what they are promoting?

Or is it just greenwashing?


In this article, we take off the rose-coloured glasses - and scrutinize everything. By the end of this blog, you will know the real differences between the various fashion philosophies - and you will realize that sometimes the wrong things are associated with one or another fashion philosophy.

So, let's get started...

Welcome to the entertaining world of fashion, where not everything is taken too seriously - but explained very vividly!


Why are all these Fashion Terms so Interesting?

The fashion industry is globally one of the top 3 biggest environmental polluters - and is also criticized for causing low prices at the expense of the people who produce them.
Therefore, many companies aim to position themselves in a niche with these specific fashion terms, to express their trend for fair wages and avoiding environmental damage.

In this blog post, I will illustrate in detail the aspects of environmental damage and ethics (fair wages, etc.).

For each fashion, I will give you an overview of relevant points:

  • Reality = what the term plainly means.
  • Misunderstandings = what associations often come with it.
  • Environmental Impact = the extent of overall environmental impact.
  • Collections per Year = as part of the environmental impact.
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing = overproduced clothing.
  • Ethics = how high are the ethical standards (wages, working conditions).



What is Fast Fashion? =

It's like being at the Hamburg Fish Market. Jan loudly promotes his offers: "Come here... here you'll find everything you didn't even know you needed!" - and keeps adding fish to the sales bag.

Fast Fashion uses marketing for impulse buys, such as:

  • Generally free shipping
  • Free returns
  • 'buy 2 at a reduced price'
  • Extended return periods
  • Sale - Sale - Sale
  • 'You want to leave us? If you buy now, you save 10% with this voucher code.'
  • Etc.

Fast Fashion Simply Explained:

Fast Fashion refers to a fashion industry practice that focuses on quick production and sale of clothes at low prices. It quickly responds to current fashion trends and is characterized by short product life cycles and high production volumes.

  • Reality: Quick and cheap production, focus on trends
  • Misunderstandings: None
  • Environmental Impact: Very high
  • Collections per Year: Up to 1 per week
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing: High
  • Ethics: Low

Fast Fashion is like those microwave meals. Quick, convenient, and leaves you wondering what exactly you just ate. "Is this really food? Do I really want to know?"




What is Green Fashion? (sustainable fashion) =

It's like being at the Hamburg Fish Market. Fiete loudly promotes his offers: "Come here... here you'll find everything you didn't even know you needed..."

Wait a minute... Didn't I just read that? Something was there! Same statement - different name?

Green Fashion (sustainable fashion) also uses the marketing of Fast Fashion:

  • Free shipping
  • Free returns
  • 'buy 2 at a reduced price'
  • Sale - Sale - Sale

The difference to Fast Fashion is that Fiete emphasizes that all his fish are organic.

Otherwise, Green Fashion also appeals to the temptation of spontaneous purchases.

So, if you act exactly like Fast Fashion - but only the products, not the means, are different - aren't you just the one-eyed among the blind? (to use a proverb).

Green Fashion Simply Explained:

Green Fashion refers to environmentally conscious fashion that prioritizes the use of sustainable, ecologically sound materials and production methods. This approach aims to minimize the ecological footprint of the fashion industry.

  • Reality: Focus on less environmental impact
  • Misunderstandings: Equating with environmentally friendly and Fair Trade
  • Environmental Impact: Medium to high
  • Collections per Year: Variable
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing: Medium
  • Ethics: Often - but not a requirement

Remember when we bought a shirt at the Black Friday Sale - and patted ourselves on the back for our environmental activism?




What is Slow Fashion? =

It's like cooking dinner for good friends. You could drag them to a fast-food joint where the food is served faster than you can say 'fries'. Instead, you take your time and try a recipe that has more steps than a fitness app on a good day. Time as an asset - as an event.

So, it's not about how quickly you get something new into your wardrobe, but about how much joy and quality you derive from it.

Slow Fashion Simply Explained:

Slow Fashion represents a more conscious approach to fashion, emphasizing longevity, quality, and timeless design. It's about conscious consumption, slowing down production speed, and extending the lifespan of clothing.

  • Reality: Emphasis on longevity and quality
  • Misunderstandings: Confusion with exclusive use of sustainable materials. (this can - but does not have to - be the case)
  • Environmental Impact: Low (because less is produced)
  • Collections per Year: Fewer, focused on timeless pieces
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing: Lower
  • Ethics: Can vary

Remember the time when we bought trousers that lasted longer than our last three relationships?




What is Fair Fashion? =

It's almost like getting lost in listening to a brilliant street musician - and then catching yourself trying to sneak away when the hat comes around. The word 'encore'... and 'I don't want to leave yet' echoes in your head. Besides a few euros and a handful of confetti in the hat, you pull out your smartphone and order pizza for you and the musician. You enjoy the artist's smile - and the echo of the moment.

Fair Fashion Simply Explained:

Fair Fashion focuses on the ethical aspects of fashion production, especially on fair working conditions and wages. This philosophy deals with the social responsibility within the fashion industry.

  • Reality: Focus on fair working conditions and wages
  • Misunderstandings: Often equated with environmentally friendly materials
  • Environmental Impact: Variable
  • Collections per Year: Not fixed
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing: Low
  • Ethics: High

Buying Fair Fashion is always a bit like tipping in a restaurant: You know it helps - but you wonder if it really reaches the kitchen staff.




EcoFaSlo Fashion (= the Ideal)

Simply Explained:

EcoFaSlo Fashion is a nearly fictional, integrative approach to fashion that combines elements of ecological sustainability (Eco), social justice (Fair), and conscious, long-lasting consumption (Slow). This concept aims to combine the positive aspects of each fashion philosophy.

  • Reality: Only a few shops live it.
  • Misunderstandings: Idealistic.
  • Environmental Impact: Lower.
  • Collections per Year: Variable.
  • Proportion of Destroyed, New Clothing: Low.
  • Ethics: High.

EcoFaSlo Fashion is like a salad you get at one of those chic organic cafes. "Yes, I'd like the EcoFaSlo Salad - but could you please leave out the irony?"





Are you now smarter? Or perhaps even more confused?

If this article makes you think (or even question), then I've done everything right!

Now, at least, you are able to clearly assess the statements of fashion brands and online shops - to reduce the whole marketing around the greenwashing aspect.

Please don't get me wrong: I don't want to badmouth any of the fashion philosophies. (well... except for Fast Fashion!). Quite the contrary: The basic approaches of Green, Slow, and Fair Fashion are important components to reduce our environmental impact.

What I want to point out is that we are more willing to interpret something into a philosophy - which, soberly considered, does not have to keep a promise associated with it by me.



But how do I find out if an online shop lives up to what I expect from it?

Stay tuned... and read in the next article how you can find out if your (favourite) online shop is good for you.

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