Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—The Differences & Impact

Published by: 440 Industries, March 7, 2022

Referred to: 19 December 2022



The term “fast fashion” flies around a lot in the fashion industry, especially when criticizing big fashion brands. Then, as the big fashion brands sought to respond to the criticism by mitigating the damaging effect of fast fashion, a new term called “slow fashion” was formed. Therefore, slow fashion vs fast fashion has become popular in recent times. According to Google trends, fast fashion and slow fashion are terms that have gained an enormous peak in search interest between 2020 and 2021. They are gaining a lot of attention as they create new ways to manufacture, design, and sell fashion items—clothing in particular.

While fast and slow fashion are two concepts associated with the fashion industry, they are opposites. The goal for slow fashion business persons is to produce fashion—clothing—that won’t harm the environment and ensure that workers are treated fairly. On the other hand, fast fashion doesn’t seem to care about these things. Fast fashion aims to produce as many clothes in the shortest possible time. They want to profit from selling many of the produced clothes without regard to the environment or workers’ treatment.

With over $1.4 trillion to share in the fashion industry, is this idea not just marketing greenwashing and jargon? What exactly is slow and fast fashion, and what are the differences between slow and fast fashion?


What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion describes a conscious and sustainable approach to production and consumption. This category is where you find clothes designed, created, and sold to last a long time. It’s also about giving attention to fair working conditions, reversing environmental damages, using long-term, sustainable resources while wearing clothes for a more extended time, and improving communities as a result. So, the goal is to be mindful about shopping and wearing fashion items—clothing precisely—with the social impact on the environment and sustainability in mind.

Usually, as we’ve come to find out, cheap is not necessarily the best, and more doesn’t mean better. This assertion, in many ways, conflicts with our current attitudes, but it has been proven severally to be the truth. Yes, the clothes may be more expensive, but you wouldn’t need many such clothes if you know the ones you have will last. Many people participating in the slow fashion system have a more minimalist wardrobe—and that’s by choice because they can afford to. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same in the fast-fashion approach—a significant factor in the slow fashion vs fast fashion debate.


What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is the business model that brings as many fashion collections as possible into the market as quickly as possible. The cheap process of mass-producing clothing is a replica of the newest styles usually revealed through fashion shows, red carpets, and catwalks. So, what’s in vogue with designers and celebrities is the fuel of fast fashion collections. 

Those into fast fashion imitate the trend in the shortest possible time, produce them in low qualities, affix a low price, and ship the item into the market as quickly as possible—they then wait for the next trend. The idea thrives on the fact that fashion trends move rapidly; those who can chase trends and produce them as fast as possible can make a significant profit from the concept.


Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—A Brief Comparison in Tabular Form

Here are clearly stated differences in the slow fashion vs fast fashion debate;

Fast FashionSlow Fashion
DefinitionRefers to a business model that prioritizes bringing many collections into the market over quality and its environmental impact.A counter-movement where more attention is given to quality and sustainability—a conscious approach to fashion.
ConsumptionIntroduces a lot of clothing designs within a short period. However, consumers don’t wear the item for a long time before it quickly goes out of fashion.Pay attention to the sustainability of consumption. Consumers only get to buy what is necessary. They place value on good production using environmentally friendly materials.
MaterialsUsually made from synthetic fibres such as elastane, polyester, etc.Usually made using natural fibres such as recycled fabric or cotton.
ProductionProduction occurs in developing countries with little to no regard for product standards or workers’ welfare.Produced in the Western Countries or locally, where fair workers’ wages and human rights standards are respected.
WasteA majority of the produced items get thrown away, and only 1% of the products get recycled.
Clothes can be exchanged, sold second-hand, repaired, or donated. Therefore, there’s a waste reduction.


Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—A Detailed Comparison

The Production Process of Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion

There’s constant change in trends; therefore, manufacturers demand that they mass-produce garments to keep up with customer expectations and beat the competition. This race has led to an enormous increase in fashion collections per year. Going by statistics, the worldwide textile production doubled from 2010 to 2020, and it has not slowed down since. Therefore, the constant demand to outperform has caused several knock-on effects; whereas customers demand more, they get less and create a bottom in price and quality.

Going by history, some fashion is in such a rush that they take some clothes out of fashion before hitting the market. Commercially, fast fashion seems to gain the upper hand. However, that’s all the benefits it gets because looking at the industry as a whole, there’s massive pressure to keep up with the slashing price. So, the craze for seeking the best—rock bottom—price is causing a lot of manufacturers to cut corners. It also leads to unfavourable workplace practices and little or no regard for environmental sustainability.

On the other hand, slow fashion attaches importance to environmentally friendly production and the use of high-quality materials. Most slow fashion items come in cotton or natural fibres. The fibres used are biodegradable; therefore, they do not pollute the environment—river and sea. Additionally, brands in slow fashion usually use a closed water system in production.

In other words, they recycle used water and ensure that there is no colour inside the wastewater released into the environment—when they do. They often carry out manufacturing locally to shorten the supply chain—using local manufacturing partners. Therefore, there’s room for offering significantly better salaries and a conducive work environment. 

Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—Consumption

In terms of consumption for fast fashion, the western world is already accustomed to the concept of low price textiles. Therefore, people tend to buy more clothes than high-quality ones at higher prices. According toa research report, up to 57% of our clothes remain unworn, and some end up in the garbage after three years on average. The reason for that is not far-fetched—it’s all about the constant change in trends that influence people into buying more clothes and changing wardrobes as much as they can.

On the other hand, the growing awareness of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment has gone a long way in drawing people’s attention to the importance of slow fashion. Climate change is fast becoming well-known to many people, and the knowledge that the fashion industry has a role to play in it has caused a change of mind for many people.

More brands are also beginning to take up the slow fashion system as people place value on clothing produced to a high standard and will neither lose shape nor its colour as it’s designed to last for a long time. Often the designs are simple and less trendy, so they don’t quickly fall out of fashion. Therefore, the consumption rate is not as high as those produced under the fast fashion model.

Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—Characteristics and Fun Facts

As fast fashion seems to cater to a large number of the customer base in the fashion market, slow fashion is also gaining significant popularity. People are beginning to care about the effect of their choices as it relates to the environment. What characteristics of slow fashion can you use to distinguish it from fast fashion when you decide to make the significant switch?

  • Made from High-Quality Materials: The clothes must be made from high-quality and sustainable materials.
  • Fair Trade: the items must be part of a fair trade union where they fairly trade across the globe, emphasizing proper working conditions for all persons involved.
  • Locally Produced: the need to be locally produced to reduce the strain of logistics and supply chain and cater to the local economy.
  • Recycled: to reduce the overall production, the consumption rate, and negative impact on the earth, the materials used in production such as water have to be recycled, and the clothes need to be recycled for reuse.
  • You can only buy from small shops and vintage stores: they are not commonly sold. You should only buy them from small independent stores and shops or sustainable and vintage brands.

Even though people now tend to embrace the slow fashion idea, the number of people into fast fashion are more. To gain clarity, let’s put the idea in a list of simple fun facts;

Fun Facts

Do you know that?

  • It takes about 7,000 litres of water, on average, to produce one pair of jeans. That’s approximately equivalent to the amount of water one person will take as drinking water in the span of six to seven years!
  • The world consumes close to eighty-billion pieces of new clothing per year. That’s almost four hundred percent more than what was consumed in the last decade.
  • The possibility of repairing clothing, repurposing, or being available to be rebought and significantly extending the life of clothing for an extra nine months will reduce the carbon, water, waste, and other footprints of that item by twenty to thirty percent.
  • The USA sends over 10.5 million of clothing to landfills every year. That’s about thirty times the weight of the Empire State Building.

Fast fashion score points for a low price and stylish looks; however, the amount of damage caused to the environment cannot be quantified. Therefore, slow fashion comes to the rescue, providing high-quality items with timeless styles that we can wear for many years.


Reference: Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion—The Differences & ImpactWritten by 440 Industries, March 7, 2022






Being fashionable without damaging the environment is all about slowing down. It means taking your time to find second-hand pieces that are really special, or investing in high-quality, timeless clothing that you’ll never tire of.

It also means paying attention to what your favourite brands are doing when it comes to making their fabrics and supply chains more ethical. If you don’t like what a fashion brand is doing, show them you care by taking your money elsewhere.


Invest in Quality

If you’re looking to buy this season’s newest clothes, the first thing to consider is quality over quantity. Looking for well-designed, high-quality natural materials fabrics and designs, should be the first step when investing in your wardrobe.

Instead of focusing on seasonal trends, buy classic staple pieces that are timeless and easy to dress up or down.