Slow and steady wins the race – and the fashion industry is no exception.
Many retailers are adopting slow fashion practices to get an edge in the rapidly changing industry. On the heels of the slow food movement, this alternative approach focuses on sustainability in each step of the production process and advocates for environmental and social justice within the fashion industry. It also pushes for a more circular model of the fashion industry by promoting the upcycling or recycling of clothing instead of discarding items with small tears.
The movement prioritizes versatility, slow consumption, repurposing and the use of sustainable materials. Sustainability organizations, like Oeko-Tex, provide certifications that show consumers that a brand is keeping up with their promises. The main actions retailers can take include focusing on transparency in the supply chain, promoting safe and fair working environments and prioritizing quality over quantity.
If your business is interested in becoming more sustainable, start here.
Balance purpose and profit
For retailers like The Good Tee and Encircled, staying true to slow fashion’s principles is central to their brand. They are deeply committed to thoughtful social and environmental performance and their efforts don’t go unnoticed. Sustainability is becoming more important to shoppers with 66% of shoppers saying they want businesses to improve their environmental and social performance.¹
Consider emerging values
Gen Z shoppers may be the driving force behind the shift towards slow fashion. Their values are steering retailers’ sustainability efforts, and their influence on their parents and grandparents is making an impact, too. A recent study indicated that consumers care about retailers’ use of sustainable packaging (61%), waste reduction (54%), their practice and respect of human rights (37%) and if they conserve water and other natural resources (34%).¹ Consumers are even willing to pay a premium to shop with retailers who prioritize these practices. In fact, 61% of consumers say they would pay more to shop with retailers that actively conserve water and other natural resources.¹
Gen Z’s values align with the pillars of slow fashion. Fashion retailers are prioritizing actions that highlight these values, such as minimizing waste and ensuring the welfare of people working in the garment industry. They are keeping environmental consciousness at the forefront.
Bewildher revamped their business, aligning it with their customers’ values. Read how.Download magazine
The perks of the slow fashion model
Because 66% of Canadians want businesses to improve their environmental and social performance,1 there’s a lot to be gained from prioritizing yours. Adopting the slow fashion business model comes with several unique benefits:
Pre-orders enable retailers to limit the amount of material and resources that go to waste in their production process. By collecting pre-orders, you can save money and resources while forecasting sales and demand. This helps you avoid unnecessary spending and stock the right number of products to meet demand.
Slow fashion athleticwear brand, Bewildher subscribes to the idea that keeping large amounts of inventory poses a large financial risk for retailers and workers in factories. By focusing on products that are made to order, retailers can avoid this risk since they do not need to store excess products in warehouses, which helps divert products from landfills.
Trustworthiness and customer loyalty
Strong relationships between brands and consumers can be forged when consumers feel involved in the production process. Retailers can achieve this by providing consumers with updates throughout the process – from when the order is placed to when it’s out for delivery. It’s also helpful to include notes about the environmental impact of your production methods which matters to conscious consumers.
Slow fashion retailers naturally stand out in the fashion industry. To raise awareness for how they’re different, many include a section on their website detailing the types of materials they use and steps they take towards sustainability to show why they’re different than fast fashion retailers. These sections help consumers make informed purchasing decisions they can feel good about.
Slow fashion brand Buttercream Clothing makes the most of their opportunity to educate their customers. From mandatory checkboxes at checkout acknowledging wait times, to messaging on their website and in confirmations emails, to social media posts highlighting the seamstress making the order – they use communication and transparency to help manage expectations.
Quality and longevity
Most brands that adhere to the slow fashion model create timeless pieces that will last longer thanks to the quality of the materials used and the amount of time dedicated to producing each piece. This level of care encourages stronger relationships with shoppers.
Step towards sustainability
Like anything that’s worthwhile, adopting the slow fashion model takes patience and effort. It’s also important to regard it as making an ongoing commitment to the environment and conscious consumers.
Find the right place to start
It can be challenging to know where to begin on your journey to sustainability. Here are some starting points to consider:
Adopt eco-friendly packaging
One small-scale change retailers can make is switching to eco-friendly packaging. Biodegradable packing peanuts, recycled cardboard and paper and compostable materials are all options available to retailers looking for sustainable alternatives for packaging. Using the same type of material for all of your packaging is beneficial because it makes it easier for consumers to properly recycle that packaging. With 49% of shoppers saying they would shop more often with a retailer who offers sustainable packaging when shipping,² these small-scale changes are steps in the right direction.
Try upcycling and trade-in programs
To reduce waste, try upcycling or trade-in programs. Trade-in programs can minimize the number of textiles that go to waste and even build community relationships. Encourage customers to trade in old products via partnerships with local charities or offer them discounted items in exchange for their old purchases.
Take sustainability to the next level
While these are great first steps in a journey to sustainability, retailers should also hold their manufacturing facilities to high environmental and social standards, promote environmental conservation and restoration and commit to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
It’s also important for retailers to investigate if their manufacturing facilities use renewable energy and non-toxic materials and if they are adhering to environmental regulations. The UN’s SDGs help businesses adopt practices to protect the planet, such as prioritizing clean water and sanitation.
Focus on the journey
While all of these efforts are important, retailers need to remember that slow fashion is a journey, not a destination. This business model emphasizes the importance of making an ongoing commitment to sustainability at each step of the production process – in as many ways as possible.
Despite wanting to jump right in, remember that rushing into the slow fashion model defeats the purpose. Go slow to benefit your business, the environment and, most importantly, the end consumer. And don’t forget to share your sustainability efforts with your customers. 63% of Canadians want to know how businesses like yours are adopting sustainable practices.¹
Use our practical resources
If you’re ready to dive deep into the topics covered in this article, the following resources and insights can help your business pave a path to a greener future.
Using the right type of packaging can help your business manage shipping costs, protect products in transit and reduce environmental impact. Read our guide to learn more.
Greening your ecommerce operations
Boost your sustainability strategy with actionable insights for greener packaging, shipping, returns and last-mile delivery. Read the guide.
Sustainability is here to stay – three factors shoppers care about
Dive into sustainability trends and practices that Canadian shoppers are watching closely this year in our report.
Pulse of the conscious consumer
Uncover what Canadians expect from businesses on the sustainability front in this report.
1All statistics come from Canada Post’s 2022 eShopper Survey conducted by Phase 5 Consulting Group, May 2022.
2The Strategic Counsel. Fall Omnibus Report, November 2022.
Move your sustainability objectives forward
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