Slow fashion is a movement in contraposition with fast fashion. Where in fast fashion, it’s all about speed from design to manufacturing and distribution, in slow fashion instead, quality and sustainability of the supply chain are the key elements.
A quick timeline of how Slow Fashion came to be
By the 2000s, a company building up its supply chain for decades had become the mammoth of fashion.
That company was Zara. Zara epitomized the fast fashion industry, as its business model sat on top of a few key principles (like the fast following, low price, and variety) and a core objective: speed.
By fast following fashion trends, shortening the manufacturing cycle, and setting up just-in-time logistics serving its flagship stores, Zara became a behemoth:
As the 2010s came, a new trend started to shape the fashion industry.
That was the social commerce trend. As in countries like the UK, the penetration of e-commerce was high; some UK players, like ASOS, led the way in this transformation, from fast fashion to ultra-fast fashion:
The ultra-fast fashion business model was epitomized by ASOS, among others, and it further prioritized the supply chain’s speed and efficiency with a strong online twist. In short, no more flagship stores to operate.
The money that other fast fashion players like Zara were spending to operate these stores were instead used by ultra-fast fashion players to run their online operations and further optimize manufacturing and logistics to serve a global audience:
From there, another, further evolution, this time headed by China, came with real-time retail, a further “improvement” from the ultra-fashion business model, where timing from idea/fashion meme to distribution got shortened further:
In parallel, an opposite movement has been developed with the fast fashion business models from the 1990s to the 2020s.
A player that highly emphasized the slow fashion movement is Patagonia, which, as it highlighted in its Sustainable Apparel Coalition:
An apparel industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.
The Slow Movement evolved in parallel with the fast fashion movement as an alternative business practice. Indeed, as explained on the Patagonia website:
Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. We’ve awarded over $140 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. In 2002, founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same.
How does this translate into practice in terms of the supply chain? As Patagonia highlights:
The purpose of Patagonia’s Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility Program is to measure and reduce the environmental impacts of manufacturing Patagonia products and materials. We implement our program at supplier facilities all over the world and cover a broad range of impact areas, including environmental management systems, chemicals, water use, water emissions, energy use, greenhouse gases, other air emissions and waste.
The attempt to build a more sustainable supply chain moves along a few key areas, what Patagonia calls a “4-Fold Approach to Supply Chain Decisions,” which, as the company highlighted:
This process includes screening potential new suppliers for the ability to meet our (1) sourcing, (2) quality, (3) social and (4) environmental standards.
To execute this, Patagonia built a Social and Environmental Responsibility team (SER) to ensure these practices are implemented.
Related Case Studies
- Fast Fashion
- Ultra Fast Fashion
- Real-Time Retail
- SHEIN Business Model
- Luxottica Vertically Integrated Business Model
- Nike Business Model
- Brunello Cucinelli
- LVMH Group Business Model
- How Does TOMS Shoes Make Money?
- Family-Owned Prada Business Model
- Tiffany Business Model
Other business resources:
- What Is Business Model Innovation
- What Is a Business Model
- What Is A Heuristic
- What Is Bounded Rationality
- What Is Business Development
- What Is Business Strategy
- What is Blitzscaling
- What Is a Value Proposition
- What Is a Lean Startup Canvas
- What Is Market Segmentation
- What Is a Marketing Strategy
- What is Growth Hacking