How Slow Fashion Brands Build a Greener Fashion Industry

By Yuhan Ma Published on Dec. 22, 2022

The definition of slow fashion

Slow fashion is defined as an ethical approach to fashion that encourages slow consumption, sustainability, and quality over quantity. Unlike fast fashion, slow fashion focuses on producing high-quality garments and accessories that will last for years. This approach is becoming increasingly popular for its environmental benefits, fair labor practices, and slow design processes.

RELATED: Corporate Social Responsibility and Radical Transparency

Fast fashion vs. slow fashion

Fast fashion is the term used to describe the current trend of extremely cheap, disposable clothing. While fast fashion offers convenience and affordability for consumers, it comes at a high cost to the environment.

The production of fast fashion garments often involves using harmful chemicals and materials that can damage ecosystems. It uses a massive amount of water and pollutes water supplies. About 20% of the wastewater worldwide is attributed to the production process. Many factories located overseas are often in countries without strict environmental regulations. As a result, the toxic wastewater created by the factories enters the ocean unchecked.

In addition, fast fashion contributes to textile waste, which is one of the leading contributors to landfill waste. 92mn tons of textile waste is produced annually. And the number per year is expected to grow to 134mn tons by the end of this decade. Fast fashion also links to other issues, such as CO2 emissions, excessive waste of clothing, and unsafe labor conditions.

The slow fashion movement has been a response to the unsustainable practices of the fast fashion industry, which produces mass amounts of cheap clothing at an alarming rate. Fast fashion relies on using low-cost labor and materials to churn out new collections as quickly as possible. And there's usually little regard for environmental or ethical considerations.

In contrast to fast fashion, slow fashion producers focus on creating garments from natural materials, such as organic cotton and hemp, that have a minimal environmental impact. They also prioritize ethical production methods, fair wages, and working conditions for those involved in the production process.

Slow fashion brands

Slow fashion brands are now emerging on the market, offering slow-made or handmade products that are made to last. By investing in slow fashion brands, consumers are helping reduce the environmental impacts of clothing production and supporting slow design processes that foster creativity and sustainability. 

Simplifyber

Simplifyber is a slow fashion brand that creates high-quality, sustainable garments. The company produces soft, cotton-like biodegradable footwear and clothing that are made by injecting liquid into molds. So there's no need for cutting, sewing, or weaving during production.

Simplifyber's founder, Maria Intscher-Owrang, has worked for some of the most notable designers, such as Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, and Vera Wang. She saw the inefficiency and waste in the fashion industry. By creating Simplifyber, she hopes to transform the apparel and footwear industries through proprietary, fully-biodegradable material formulas and sustainable additive manufacturing systems.

UNLESS

UNLESS makes plant-based streetwear designed to leave zero plastic waste. Its first collection can harmlessly decompose at the end of life. UNLESS constantly explores end-of-life strategies such as repair and reuse, recycling, and composting.

To design its first regenerative sneakers, UNLESS teamed up with Natural Fiber Welding, or NFW, to employ a set of revolutionary materials. One was Mirum, a plant-based leather-like material. And the other one was Clarus, an innovative regenerative textile to create the upper part of the shoe.

For the bottom of the shoe, UNLESS collaborated with NFW to engineer, design, and produce exclusive natural rubber compounds (Tunera and Pliant). These compounds were durable enough for outsoles and soft enough for cushioning foams. With a base of natural rubber, cured with citric acid, and using mineral fillers, these compounds can also harmlessly decompose at the end of life.

Circ

Circ has created a technology system that returns clothes to their raw ingredients. It enables fashion labels to harness its proprietary technology that (re)sources and (re)harvests raw ingredients out of clothing waste.

Using hydrothermal processing technology, Circ can manufacture products to replace virgin materials without added cost or compromises in quality. The tunability and flexibility of its technology platform make it uniquely suitable for the varied needs of the fashion industry. By 2030, it expects to have recycled 10bn garments, representing 10% of the global apparel market, and to have saved more than 100mn trees.

Rubi Laboratories

Rubi Laboratories revolutionizes the textiles industry with its synthetic biology technology, which converts carbon emissions into net-carbon-negative materials. Its patent-pending technology is inspired by the biological machinery that plants use to turn CO2 into natural fibers. However, it's streamlined at an industrial scale outside the cell and cost-competitively with today's material production. Using Rubi technology, every piece of clothing eliminates around two full bathtubs worth of pure CO2 from the atmosphere.

Alt Tex

The ALT TEX technology converts food waste into a fabric that brings the performance of synthetics with the biodegradability of natural fibers. By taking advantage of polyester's existing system, the unique patent-pending technology allows for high volume and cost-effective production. This opens up a world of possibilities - now, synthetics can be replaced on a large scale.

After generating its pioneering fabric from food waste, Alt Tex has expanded to a hundred times the original size. It's also raised millions of dollars in capital and is now prepared for commercialization over the upcoming years.

Making slow fashion affordable and accessible

Slow fashion is gaining traction as more people become aware of its environmental and ethical benefits. However, many often find slow fashion out of reach due to its higher price point. This is due to factors such as slow production methods, high-quality materials, and ethical labor practices. These all drive up the prices of slow fashion.

Innovations in slow fashion are looking to bridge this gap by creating more affordable slow fashion options. By utilizing materials such as recycled plastics and food waste, brands can reduce the cost of slow fashion without compromising on quality. Additionally, some brands have created technologies that make slow production processes more efficient and cost-effective, making slow fashion affordable and accessible.

These slow fashion innovations represent a much-needed shift towards sustainable, ethical practices in the fashion industry. It can benefit both consumers and the environment. By utilizing these advances and making slow fashion more available, we can move closer to a world where slow fashion is commonplace rather than an exclusive luxury.

NEXT: The Future of Retail: Livestream Shopping and How Brands Implement it

Overall, slow fashion has become an increasingly popular alternative to fast fashion. As slow fashion gains traction, the future of slow fashion looks increasingly promising. With the combination of new innovations and consumer demand, slow fashion is poised to become more widely adopted in the fashion industry.