Look, I'm not gonna beat around the bush here... if you're familiar with the idea of "slow fashion" at all, you've probably noticed that it caters to a... certain demographic. And... it's a very white, very affluent, very a-lot-of-time-on-their-hands kind of demographic. If fast fashion is designed to attract people with it's convenience and low prices, slow fashion, at least as it appears from the outside, seems to be... not very attainable to people who depend on those two things. Slow fashion seems to be limited to the privileged few who can afford painstakingly shopping for fair trade, organic, artisan make investment garments, or who have the time, skills, space, and equipment to make clothes themselves.
or is it?
I’m willing to argue that it’s fast fashion that’s the privilege.
I know. Just hear me out here: fast fashion is based on two major principles, low prices and a constant influx of new trends. The clothes are affordable, yes, but the lower per-item prices is to get you to buy more pieces than you ordinarily would, ultimately spending more money than you would have in the first place because you got such a "good deal".
Second, fast fashion retailers use a calendar with as many as 52 "seasons", meaning, they can have new clothes every week creating a need for consumers to frequent the store so that they don't "miss anything". This creates a mindset where one is never not shopping, eyes always open looking for the next great deal, one that's so cheap they don't think much of the costs (financial, environmental, or social). Eventually it becomes such a deep habit that it's not entirely conscious.
"But how is that a privilege, Victoria? We need clothes and what's wrong with getting them in the most affordable way possible?" Well, here's where I'm about to blow your mind... do we, does anyone, need a constant stream of new clothing? yes, we grow, we change, we have babies, move, change jobs, and all of those situations require new clothing to an extent. And even the best clothing doesn't last forever but... do we actually need a new outfit for every thing we go to? Do we need to be constantly hunting for our next new thing? How many of us, really, legitimately do not own enough clothing to keep us decently clothed between laundry days? Just... think about that for a minute.
Nothing about fast fashion has to do with necessity.
And lets talk about the “other” costs of fast fashion: the exploitative wages, poor working conditions, and environmental consequences, that the buyer never even has to see or consider, let alone live in?
And now for the other side of the equation, does slow fashion include certain kinds of "luxury goods"? Yes, but here is a (non-exhaustive) list of other things that fall under the umbrella of "slow fashion": secondhand clothing (in all its forms), mending worn or damaged clothing, properly caring for clothing you already own, swapping borrowing clothing, refashioning/restyling clothing... things that are all generally associated with necessity rather than privilege?
Buying more clothes than you need = privilege
“Needing” a constant stream of NEW clothes = privilege
Buying garments that are so cheap that the makers couldn’t possibly have made a living wage = privilege
Not having to see or deal with the environmental consequences of your purchases = privilege.
Slow fashion doesn’t sound so bad in comparison anymore, does it?