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’).