The ‘slow movement’ advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life's pace. Starting from the slow food movement, the term slow is now applied to a variety of activities and aspects of culture. Slow is “calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity” (Honoré, 2004: 14). 

The concept of ‘slow’ originated in Italy with the Slow Food movement, which was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 in opposition to fast food (Petrini, 2007). In modern times “turbo-capitalism” (Honoré, 2014: 16) has produced a cult of speed and efficiency that leaves people as well as the Earth exhausted (Honoré 2004; Osbaldiston 2013). The movement of slow food provides a framework for more sustainable living, privileging local food production and consumption and quality over quantity. ‘Slow’ means offering the time to produce, appreciate, and cultivate quality. Being regarded as one of the most important ‘decelerated living’ movements globally, the slow food movement is based on promoting a desire for, and the implementation of, slow living in the context of food. 

While the slow food movement has spread worldwide, it took a lot longer to take root in the field of fashion. The fashion industry is based on fast fashion, a system characterized by rapid changes in style, ever faster cycles of global production and consumption, and ever cheaper products (Maynard 2013; Press 2016). Scholarly debates on fashion studies today concur on the challenge that the fashion system is caught in a spin of acceleration. The fashion industry excels in waste, pollution, and exploitation of human labour and natural resources, due to over-production and over-consumption (see under ‘Sustainability’). The problem is a 24/7 society ‘in which producing, consuming, and discarding occur without pause, hastening the exhaustion of life and the depletion of resources’, as Jonathan Crary writes (2013: 17).  

Hazel Clarke (2008) was the first scholar to explore the term ‘slow’ for fashion. She writes: “The term is used to identify sustainable fashion solutions, based on the repositioning of strategies of design, production, consumption, use, and reuse, which are emerging alongside the global fashion system, and are posing a potential challenge to it. The slow approach offers more sustainable and ethical ways of being fashionable that have implications for design, production, consumption, and use” (2008, 428). She explains that fashion has never been so fast as it is in temporary society. This is enhanced by technology, but also by the lack of attention, meaning and value that people have for their clothing. In order to create some form of slow fashion, or slow lifestyle in general, people should start to see value and also take time to find that personal value. Clark argues that companies could help to motivate this process by focussing more on the local instead of the global and to create transparency of how and where clothing is produced. The way in which clothing is produced could also help people with living more slowly. For example, taking the time to cook an extensive meal or to knit a sweater, to be aware of the time, work and materials that it takes to cook up a meal or create a garment is a nice first step towards becoming aware of the possibilities of slow food and fashion in the future. Since Clarke’s article many scholars in fashion studies have highlighted the urgent need to engage systematically with the social and environmental consequences of the globalized fast fashion system (see under ‘Sustainability’).  

Aronowsky Cronberg (2014) has drawn attention to the intimate link between slowness (or speed) and time, because fashion is based on perpetual change: “In terms of fashion, the depreciation of the past in favour of the present is what keeps the wheels of the system turning. Fashion aims to always be ‘of the moment’, but to do so it has to disown its own past.” (Cronberg, 2014, n.p.).  

Honoré (2004), Osbaldiston (2013) and Crary (2014) all three explain issues of speed and immediacy in the current globalised and capitalist society. They stress the increase in meaninglessness of everyday life, which happens in food, communication, leisure and of course fashion. Due to rapidly developing technologies for communication, travel and production the boundary between personal and public life is barely recognisable anymore. This means that escaping work in free time or escaping consumption is becoming more and more difficult. Because of the increasing connection between consumption and the individual, people have started recognising themselves in their commodities, including clothing or eating styles. Through such consumerism people’s perceived truth or authenticity is starting to blur into the aspects of a fast lifestyle. They connect this phenomenon to the sense of meaninglessness and living in a perpetual sense of crisis in which any sense of balance in life has been lost. In order to live a ‘slow’ life, these authors argue that we should develop attention, care and mindfulness.  

This is also argued by Parkins and Craig (2006), who write of slow living as “a process whereby everyday life . . . is approached with care and attention . . . an attempt to live in the present in a meaningful, sustainable, thoughtful and pleasurable way” (Parkins and Craig 2006: ix). As also Clarke writes about value, it may be opportune to connect the slow movement to recent studies in ‘care’, as in The Care Manifesto (The Care Collective, 2020). The authors of this fierce manifesto argue that our neoliberal world “…is one in which carelessness reigns.” (p. 1). In their words: “A global neoliberal economy that places profit over people, and is dependent on the endless extraction and burning of fossil fuels, has caused environmental destruction on an unprecedented scale.” (p. 9), because “Neoliberalism is uncaring by design.” (p. 10). For a better world, people should put care at the very center of life rather than pursue competition and self-enhancement (p. 4). They understand care in a wider sense of the world, where care as a practice involves “…the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life” (p. 5). Their manifesto helps to understand that a slow approach to life includes care for the other, which extends beyond other human beings to the non-human, such as plants, animals and the environment (p. 39). This is a practical way to counter overconsumption, by caring for ‘stuff’, and to share, reuse, recirculate and recycle. Here, we can relate the notions of slowness, of value, of care for a sustainable future to a posthuman perspective (see Posthuman and Anthropocene).  

Some research has demonstrated that consumers’ environmental awareness has definitely an impact on some of their purchases, such as food (due to its direct health concerns), but it does not influence their fashion consumption (Gam 2011). This can perhaps be explained by the fact that even though clothing has always been closely associated with the matters of the human body, it does not have a detrimental direct effect on that body (Beard 2008). Consumers show more ethical commitment when their purchase directly affects their own health and wellbeing positively (Niinimäki 2010). Another difference between slowing down the production and consumption of food and fashion, as Kate Fletcher also argues, is that the fashion industry is much more complex than the food industry in terms of its supply chain and manufacturing processes (qtd. in Beard 2008). 

Aronowsky Cronberg, A. ed. (2014) Vestoj: The Journal of Sartorial Matters, Issue 5: On Fashion and Slowness:  

Beard, Nathaniel Dafydd. “The Branding of Ethical Fashion and the Consumer: A Luxury Niche or Mass- Market Reality?” Fashion Theory, vol. 12, no. 4, 2008, pp. 447–467,  

Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow + Fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future...?’, Fashion  
Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture
12 (4) 427-446.  

Gam, Hae Jin. “Are Fashion-Conscious Consumers More Likely to Adopt Eco-Friendly Clothing?” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2011, pp. 178–193,  

Greenpeace (2017) Fashion at the Crossroads: A review of initiatives to slow and close the loop in the fashion industry:  

Hall, Jenny. “Digital Kimono: Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion?” Fashion Theory, vol. 22, no. 3, 2017, pp. 283–307., 

Honoré, C. (2004) In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. Harper Collins. 

Koepnick, L. (2014) On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary. Columbia University Press.  

Niinimäki, Kirsi. “Eco-Clothing, Consumer Identity and Ideology.” Sustainable Development, vol. 18, no. 3, 2010, pp. 150–162.,   

Osbaldiston, Nick (ed.) (2013) Culture of the Slow: Social Deceleration in an Accelerated World. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Parkins, Wendy and Geoffrey Craig (2006). Slow Living. Oxford and New York: Berg. 

Petrini, C. (2007) Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair. New York: Rizzoli Ex Libris. 

Press, C. (2016) Wardrobe Crisis. How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion. Carlton, Australia: Nero. 

The Care Collective (A. Chatzidakis, J. Hakim, J. Littler, C. Rottenberg, L. Segal), The Care Manifesto. The Politics of Interdependence. London: Verso, 2020. 

Wanders, A.T. (2010) Slow Fashion: Alternative Fashion Concepts. Zürich: Niggli Verlag.