The other day I read an article that said ‘sustainability was having a moment’ thus cementing the era of brands using sustainability as a marketing tool. This can confuse consumers into thinking that “sustainability” is something you can slap on a product, or something you can check off a list and buy.
Slow fashion is a piece of the sustainability puzzle, and one that I feel is often overlooked when it comes to figuring out how to tell if a company is sustainable or has slow fashion values. Slow fashion is also a lot more ambiguous to pin down from a marketing perspective as a company since it’s less performative and embedded in their actual business practices and operations.
While I spend a lot of time researching the environmental and ethical background of companies because this is increasingly important to me, my personal priority as a consumer has always been slow fashion – longevity. I seek out quality construction and long lasting design aesthetics so I know whatever I add to my wardrobe will be there for years to come, or can be passed on successfully. This also translates to me appreciating and loving my clothes, caring for them, and reducing my need and want to constantly shop.
So what are the characteristics of a slow fashion company or brand? I’ve compiled a few clues as to whether a company has slow fashion values, which I believe are equally as important as the traditional eco-friendly and ethical criteria. They are less splashy and require time to confirm, but I think it’s worth it, especially if you are trying to shop in alignment with your values.
So What Are The Characteristics of a Slow Fashion Company?
- They Don’t Carry Huge Amounts of Inventory
Slow Fashion is all about quality over quantity, and this applies to business models as well. A slow fashion company makes intentional design choices for a highly targeted customer base. Slow Fashion companies don’t try to please everybody for the sake of making a profit. They price according to the value of their product and the people who make it – their business model and profit is not based around high volume.
2. They Don’t Turn Over Their Inventory Every Week
In addition to not having a nonsensical amount of inventory, a slow fashion company won’t churn out new inventory every week, or even every month. Their model is not based on high volume, OR high turnover. Keep an eye on how often a company you’re interested in drops new product, and how long it stays available for.
3. They Always Have Core or Classic Styles On Offer (Year after Year)
Classic and timeless design is a major tenet of slow fashion, and I think a slow fashion company embodies this through a core collection of products that barely changes year over year. Not only does this reflect a thoughtful and timeless design, it also reflects their belief in a slow fashion system, as well as an understanding of their customers’ budget. Slow fashion doesn’t promote a sense of urgency – when classic styles are offered year over year, this encourages customers to save and wait for their perfect piece.
4. Their Product is High Quality
Here is the crux of the “quality over quantity” foundation for slow fashion companies. Their garments are not only timeless, but they stand the test of time from a construction perspective, too. High quality materials, as well as high quality construction like reinforced seams, linings, exceptional tailoring for optimal fit, etc. All of these tiny details come together to create a product that their customer will cherish for years.
5. Their Designs are Classic or Unique Enough to be Timeless
As mentioned above, high quality garments also have to have timeless style, so that the customer can wear these pieces for many years, without worrying about trends.
6. They Have a Take Back, Mending, or Refurbishing Program
This is one of my favourites but rare to find. I believe an exceptional slow fashion company will pay as much attention to their product’s end of life as they do the beginning. Ensuring their fibres are easily reused or recycled, or encouraging the customer to continue wearing it through an in-house mending or tailoring program, or a take back program where the company refurbishes old garments is an incredible slow fashion commitment.
7. They Have a Guarantee or Warranty of Some Sort
A slow fashion company will stand behind the quality of their product, and a guarantee or warranty is an easy way to highlight their commitment to quality.
8. They Have Customization Options
This is another rare quality, but it truly speaks to the intentionality in a slow fashion company. Whether the customization is small, like having to indicate which colour item you want, or whether there is an invitation to directly contact the company for sizing or special alterations, I think this is incredibly important to ensure a product’s longevity, and a slow fashion company should be open to minor adjustments or at least thorough communication with customers about fit.
9. They Offer Tips and Resources to Take Care of Their Product
Offering tips to care about garments can also be an easy greenwashing tactic, but it is an important part of slow fashion. This section should be robust, with plenty of details and resources to help the consumer take care of their garment (or a program where the company does it for them. For example, Canadian knitwear company Ca Va de Soi has a program called Ca Va Bain where customers can send in their old product and have it professionally cleaned and feeling like new!)
I hope you found this list helpful next time you want to make a slow fashion purchase!
Thank you as always for reading!