Fast vs. Slow Fashion

Model wearing white linen blazer and taupe slip skirt posing by the beach

What is Fast Fashion? 

Fast fashion refers to making and selling fashion with the goal of bringing designs quickly to the market. It utilises trend replication, technology and cost-cutting measures to mass-manufacture lower quality garments with rapid turnarounds and short lifespans.

For a typical fast fashion company, the turnaround from design to delivery is only 6 weeks. This includes designing, sampling, revising, manufacturing and delivering up to 100 styles, usually in quantities of tens of thousands of units.

Fast fashion is the result of a trend-driven, throwaway culture based on rapidly-evolving consumer demands. It is thought to have originated in the 1990s, when materialism was on the rise and the demand for fashion increased. Today, fast fashion is the business model used by global fashion retailers such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, Uniqlo and Gap.

As we’ve learned in recent years, the true cost of fast fashion is overconsumption, unethical labour, human rights abuses, pollution and the depletion of our natural resources.

The Impact of Fast Fashion
  • In 2015, the textile industry emitted 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent—more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

  • 1.5 trillion litres of water is used by the fashion industry every year.

  • Each year, half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres (the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles) is released into the ocean from the washing of textiles.

  • 1 in 5 cotton garments sold globally include materials produced by the forced labour of Uyghur and Turkic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

  • 82 companies potentially benefiting from the use of Uyghur forced labour have been identified, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret and Zara.

  • 100% of garment workers in Bangladesh and 99% of garment workers in Vietnam earn below the living wage.

  • In Australia, over half a million tonnes of unwanted clothes end up in landfill every year.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion refers to designing and producing clothes at a slower pace, prioritising the craftsmanship, quality and longevity of a garment. The term is used to describe a more mindful approach to garment creation that distinctly opposes fast fashion.

The goal of slow fashion is to produce high quality products using sustainable materials, often in enduring designs that outlast the season. Currently, the concept of slow fashion is open to interpretation but the term commonly refers to the following principles:

  • Eco-friendly materials

  • Local manufacturing

  • Small batch production

  • Ethical labour

  • Transparent supply chain

  • Quality craftsmanship

At Petite Femme, we strive to be transparent about our practices to enable you to define slow fashion based on your personal values. If you have any suggestions for how we can do better, we’d love to hear from you.



Australian Bureau of Statistics - Towards the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts

Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region - End Uyghur Forced Labour

Ellen MacArthur Foundation - A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future

Oxfam - Made in Poverty: The True Price of Fashion

Australian Strategic Policy Institute - Uyghurs for Sale