Fashion represents the allure of the new, of change, of clothes that match the Zeitgeist. It is thus inevitably subject to regular cycles—clothing retailers and department stores traditionally clear their stock every six months for new seasonal merchandise. More recently however, driven in part by the increase in online fashion retailers, these cycles have shortened—with the result that fashions are becoming more and more quickly outdated. In the wake of this dynamic development of what is known as the fast fashion industry, there is a newer trend developing, however, focusing instead on a radical deceleration: slow fashion.
“There are many terms that describe sustainable fashion at the moment,” says Ellen Köhrer, author of the book Fashion Made Fair and the blog “Grün ist das neue Schwarz” (green is the new black). “These include slow fashion, fair fashion and even eco fashion. The dividing lines between them are vague, but what unites them is the same intention: producing fashion in a more sustainable fashion.” This movement relies on production under fair working conditions, environmentally friendly processes and the efficient use of resources. Furthermore they also want transparency in production processes. “It’s the countermovement to fast fashion,” Köhrer explains. “In the past years, it’s become a matter of course to buy clothing whenever you want, regardless of whether you need it or not. It’s cheap, so the cost is of no consequence.” But this begs the question: Does this slow fashion response potentially represent a sea change for fashion consumption? True to the motto: less is more?
“Let me be clear, slow fashion is a niche market and it will probably remain so,” Köhrer explains. But it’s also a very booming niche. Slow fashion is currently gaining popularity at a time in which consumer behavior is changing in parts of society. Consumer researchers have found this change in broad swaths of Generation X, today in their mid-thirties and mid-forties, and also parts of the subsequent Generation Y. And for people without financial concerns who are also interested in sustainability, resource-conserving shopping is becoming an increasingly important part of their lives. And this doesn’t just hold true for food, whereby the Slow Food movement has been around since the mid-1980s and can certainly be considered the spiritual antecedent of the slow fashion trend.