Featured image for blog post: "SUSTAINABLE FASHION VS. FAST FASHION - A Battle Worth Noticing" by State of Matter, depicting a man in a sharp blue shirt and grey trousers, holding a laptop, symbolizing the professional approach to sustainable fashion.

Fast Fashion vs. Sustainable Fashion

In today's rapidly evolving fashion world, a stark dichotomy has emerged between two distinct paradigms: fast fashion vs. sustainable fashion. Fast fashion, characterized by its quick turnover of trendy, inexpensive garments, meets the insatiable demands of consumers seeking up-to-the-minute styles—conversely, sustainable fashion champions ethical and environmentally-conscious practices, prioritizing longevity, quality, and responsible sourcing.
What Is Fast Fashion?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fast fashion as an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.

The Economist is less kind in its appraisal, describing fast fashion as "trendy clothes at astonishingly low prices. The result is a new and even faster kind of fast fashion, which encourages consumers to buy heaps of items, discard them after a few wears, and then come back for another batch of new outfits."

Fast fashion begins with designers attuned to the ever-changing currents of fashion, who deftly craft new styles based on the latest trends. Initial patterns are cut once the designs are finalized, and prototypes are swiftly brought to life to assess their feasibility. In the quest for affordability, fabrics, and materials are often sourced from various countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, and India, with cost taking precedence over considerations of quality or sustainability.

Environmental impact

The environmental impact of fast fashion is profound and deeply concerning. The data to support this claim is voluminous and clear, as evidenced by reports from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This rapidly growing industry contributes to approximately 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions, making it one of the most significant contributors to environmental pollution. One particularly scary statistic suggests that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned!

Furthermore, the throwaway culture perpetuated by fast fashion results in an alarming increase in textile waste, with nearly 92 million tons discarded annually, according to research by Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H. et al. The environmental price of fast fashion. Nat Rev Earth Environ, 189–200 (2020). These textiles often end up in landfills or incinerated, releasing harmful pollutants into the air and exacerbating the already pressing waste management issue. The environmental impact of fast fashion calls for urgent action, with consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers needing to collaborate to implement sustainable practices that reduce the industry's ecological footprint and safeguard the planet for future generations.

Ethical issues

The fast fashion industry has been embroiled in many ethical issues, including human rights violations and poor working conditions. This industry often exploits workers in developing countries, paying them meager wages and subjecting them to hazardous work environments. As a result, workers face significant social and economic challenges, struggling to make ends meet and support their families.

Shockingly, child labor remains prevalent, with over 250 million children involved in the global textile and clothing industry enduring long hours and exposure to harmful substances. Additionally, dangerous working conditions in non-compliant fashion factories pose severe risks to workers' safety and well-being, making them vulnerable to accidents and even loss of life. These practices underscore the pressing need for more responsible and ethical practices in the fast fashion industry to protect human rights and the environment.

Over Consumption

Overconsumption is a detrimental aspect of fast fashion, driven by consumer disposal habits where items are frequently discarded when they become old or damaged. Shockingly, the average American discards around 80 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, occupying a significant 5% of landfill space.

This wasteful cycle perpetuates the culture of disposable fashion, contributing to environmental pollution and resource depletion. The urgent need for sustainable fashion practices arises to address the harmful consequences of overconsumption and reduce the burden on the planet's limited resources.

Harmful to Health

One ironically unfashionable topic of conversation stemming from the fast fashion industry is the detrimental impact of certain textiles and clothes on health. Benzothiazole is a chemical commonly used in textile processing, and its permeation through fabrics raises concerns about human exposure to this compound.

Prolonged contact with textiles containing benzothiazole may lead to dermal absorption and subsequent health risks. Benzothiazole has been associated with skin irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals, emphasizing the importance of considering the impact of textile chemicals on human health.

A study on Chemicals from textiles to skin: an in vitro permeation study of benzothiazole highlights the need for further research and awareness regarding the potential health hazards of certain chemicals in fashion and textiles. Implementing safer and eco-friendly practices in textile processing becomes crucial to safeguard consumers and workers from the adverse effects of hazardous chemicals.
What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion is described by prominent scholars Janet Hethorn and Connie Ulasewicz as a thing or process that prioritizes avoiding harm to both people and the planet. Additionally, sustainability is seen as enhancing the well-being of individuals who interact with it and fostering a positive impact on the environment in which it is developed and utilized.

Sustainable fashion has emerged as a transformative force within the apparel industry, encompassing many benefits beyond mere style. Sustainable fashion presents various environmental advantages, striving to reduce the industry's ecological footprint through responsible sourcing, ethical production processes, and reduced waste.

Beyond its positive impact on the planet and its people, sustainable fashion also delivers high-quality, durable garments that withstand the test of time, challenging the prevailing culture of fast fashion and encouraging consumers to invest in enduring pieces.

Environmentally Friendly

Sustainable fashion presents a host of positive environmental effects by significantly reducing the burden on our planet. Unlike fast fashion's harmful production methods and reliance on synthetic materials that take centuries to decompose, sustainable fashion prioritizes eco-friendly materials and clean manufacturing processes. This deliberate choice to opt for biodegradable and responsibly sourced fabrics minimizes the generation of textile waste and lowers the industry's carbon footprint.

State Of Matter is an excellent example of those trying to move the fashion industry forward with a more sustainable ideology. SOM uses LYCRA, 20% recycled content, ECONYL, regenerated nylon, and MiDori. All three are GRS certified for sustainable practices.

Embracing sustainable practices fosters a more circular and regenerative fashion system, encouraging responsible consumption and paving the way for a more harmonious coexistence with nature.

Sustainable fashion promotes ethical practices by prioritizing the well-being of people and the planet. It advocates for fair wages and safe working conditions for garment workers, avoiding the exploitation often seen in fast fashion. Ethical fashion encourages consumers to make informed choices, contributing to a more equitable and socially conscious fashion industry.

When selecting our production partners, our foremost consideration is their commitment to ethical and safe business practices, followed closely by their ability to deliver top-notch craftsmanship on a large scale. For instance, our shirts are crafted in an Egyptian factory renowned for their exceptional quality, and, importantly, it holds a WRAP certification. Although not widely known, WRAP is an independent, non-profit organization of global social compliance experts that advocates for safe, lawful, humane, and ethical manufacturing worldwide through certification and education.


Sustainable fashion brands emphasize quality over quantity by producing durable and long-lasting garments. We use high-quality materials and ethical manufacturing processes, ensuring our products stand the test of time.

This emphasis on durability and longevity reduces the need for frequent replacements, minimizing textile waste and the overall environmental impact.

By prioritizing quality, sustainable fashion brands promote a shift away from the fast fashion throwaway culture, encouraging consumers to invest in timeless pieces, ultimately leading to a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.

How Can I Support Sustainable Fashion vs. Fast Fashion?

Embarking on a journey towards a more proactive and responsible approach to sustainable fashion is remarkably accessible and empowering. By taking even the simplest initiatives, we become catalysts for positive change in the fashion industry, contributing to a greener and more ethical future. Let's take a look at some of these small steps:

Purchase from sustainable brands

Join the movement towards a greener, ethical fashion future with us. Make a conscious choice to purchase clothes from sustainable brands prioritizing people and the planet. Embrace quality over quantity, support transparent supply chains, and be a responsible consumer. Your actions matter – together, we can drive positive change, reducing the fashion industry's environmental impact and promoting fair practices. Let's build a wardrobe that reflects our values and shapes a sustainable world.

Build a capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of essential, versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create various outfits. It promotes being more conscious in the fight for sustainable fashion by encouraging mindful consumption and reducing excessive buying. By investing in high-quality, timeless pieces that last longer, we minimize textile waste and the demand for fast fashion. Embracing a capsule wardrobe fosters a shift towards conscious and responsible fashion choices, contributing to a more sustainable industry.

Slowly transform your wardrobe

Slowly transforming your wardrobe to embrace sustainable fashion offers several advantages. It allows you to make informed choices, research ethical brands, and invest in quality pieces that align with your values. This gradual shift promotes mindful consumption, reducing the urge for impulse buying and minimizing textile waste. Embracing sustainable fashion enables you to curate a versatile and timeless wardrobe that stands the test of time, fostering a more eco-conscious and responsible approach to dressing.

The future of sustainable fashion is filled with promise and optimism as more people embrace ethical and eco-friendly choices. With growing awareness of fashion's environmental and social impact, consumers are demanding transparency and responsible practices from brands.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why is fast fashion not sustainable?

Fast fashion is often deemed unsustainable due to its rapid production methods, which prioritize speed and low costs over environmental and ethical considerations. This approach typically results in significant environmental harm, including high water usage, pollution, and waste generation. Additionally, fast fashion often involves poor labor practices, contributing to social sustainability concerns. The industry’s focus on quick-turnaround, disposable clothing leads to overconsumption and a heavy carbon footprint, making it a major contributor to global environmental issues.

What is fast fashion vs slow fashion?

Fast fashion refers to a business model that emphasizes rapid production and turnover of low-cost, trend-driven clothing. In contrast, slow fashion advocates for a more intentional, ethical approach to clothing production and consumption. Slow fashion focuses on quality, sustainability, and fair labor practices, often involving timeless designs, durable materials, and a transparent supply chain. It encourages consumers to buy less, choose well, and make clothes last longer, in stark contrast to the disposable nature of fast fashion.

Is slow fashion and sustainable fashion the same?

Slow fashion and sustainable fashion share similar principles but are not exactly the same. Sustainable fashion broadly focuses on minimizing the environmental impact of clothing production, including the use of eco-friendly materials and processes. Slow fashion, on the other hand, emphasizes a slower approach to consumption, prioritizing quality and longevity of garments, ethical production methods, and a reduced pace of collections. While all slow fashion is generally sustainable, not all sustainable fashion adopts the slow fashion model of reduced production speed and volumes

What is considered sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. It involves the use of eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient production processes, reduced waste, and ethical labor practices. Sustainable fashion also considers the full lifecycle of a product, including its durability and end-of-life disposal. The goal is to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.

Should we boycott fast fashion?

Boycotting fast fashion is a personal decision that can be part of a larger strategy to promote sustainability. While a boycott can send a strong message about consumer dissatisfaction with unsustainable practices, it’s also important to consider alternative actions like supporting ethical brands, advocating for industry change, and promoting sustainable fashion practices. A more nuanced approach might involve reducing dependence on fast fashion, educating oneself and others about sustainable alternatives, and pushing for systemic changes within the fashion industry.

What is the difference between sustainable and ethical fashion?

Sustainable fashion primarily focuses on environmental aspects, aiming to reduce the ecological footprint of clothing production, use, and disposal. It involves using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and minimizing energy consumption. Ethical fashion, on the other hand, focuses on the social impact of fashion, including fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and fair wages for workers. While there’s a significant overlap, with many brands striving to be both sustainable and ethical, each aspect focuses on different, albeit interconnected, facets of responsible fashion.