Sustainable Fashion vs Fast Fashion: How Sustainable Fashion Matters?

by Komail Noori on January 02, 2024

Do you know that the clothes you wear come at a hefty price of our planet? Yep that’s true, the fashion industry gulps down a whopping 20% of the world’s wastewater. That’s like filling 32 million Olympic sized pools every year just to create the clothes we like. And it doesn’t stop there. Emissions are thrown up by the fashion industry like they are nobody’s business, accounting for 10% of the global carbon footprint - this is more than the maritime and the international shipping combined!

At the center of this crossroad stands a battle between the two: Fast Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion. While on one hand, Fast Fashion with being trend driven and budget friendly had new collections dropping at a very alarming speed offering an endless variety at the price of rock bottoms making itself a source of instant gratification. But beneath the glitter lies a dark secret – Environmental degradation, unfair labor practices and a huge amount of clothing ending up in landfills.

Sustainable fashion, on the other hand is a part of slow fashion movement and is something different and unique. It is a responsible, quality conscious choice for our planet. While championing a slow and mindful approach of eco-friendly material choices, ethical production and the high quality pieces built to last, it is a healthy choice towards the reduction of the environmental footprint left by fashion.

Selecting between these two choices – Fast Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion - is not a matter of aesthetics but a decision made towards the world we want to inhabit. Every choice made by us speaks about our priorities and commitment to the wellbeing of our planet.

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast Fashion – promising endless trends at bargainable prices. Before getting swept away with it, let’s peel back the curtain and see what’s really making up this trend machine work.

It is a term that was coined in the late 1960s and since its origin it has become synonymous with the fast-paced advancement of the fashion industry. It is a model built on the production of trendy and stylish clothing at the expense of quality, ethics, and environmental harm.

Fast Fashion

Here are some key characteristics that may prove helpful in defining the term more precisely:

  • Affordability – the name of the game played behind fast fashion. Factories are cranking out clothes while using cheap materials and labor. This allows the retailers to snag you the trendy top for the price of a latte. While this might seem like a win but remember someone gotta pay the real price. It is the other folks working in unfair conditions or the environment suffering from the pollution.
  • Trend Driven – Fast fashion is all about following the latest trends – from the runaway’s haute couture to the celebrity outfit inspo’s. Clothing is produced in a lightning fast cycle as short as few days to weeks and it is all about capturing the fleeting trends before they go proof. This causes the garments to get tossed up after a few wears, thus creating a graveyard of textile waste.
  • Not Built to LastAs the main emphasis is on the speed of production and affordability, quality is what suffers the most. Clothes are often made from cheap, synthetic materials that are not built to last. This contributes to textile waste with 2 million tonnes of waste produced per year.

What is Sustainable Fashion?

The clothes in your closet are not just threads and fabrics but a story woven with responsibility towards a kinder future for our planet and its people. That’s what Sustainable Fashion is built on. It is not just about looking good, but also feeling good in knowing that the clothes you have worn are made on ethical and environmentally conscious fashion practices.

On the contrary to fast fashion, were the clothes are designed to worn once and tossed off, sustainable fashion is built on the production of mindful designs. It involves the creation of clothes that are built to last with high quality materials and techniques involving fair labor practices and working in safe conditions. Sustainable fashion brands champions ethical sourcing and is a cornerstone for basic human rights too.

Sustainable Fashion

Battle of Comparison: Sustainable Fashion vs Fast Fashion

Similarities between Fast Fashion and Sustainable Fashion

While on the surface if the two terms appear to have different pictures, beneath the surface they also have some surprising similarities that offers intriguing insights:

  • Staying on Trends: Both fast fashion and sustainable fashion taps onto the primal human desire to stay on trends providing the sustainable fashion brands an exciting opportunity to create the latest styles that are both fashion forward and planet friendly.
  • Reasonable: Budget friendly purchases remains a crucial factor for customers and both fast fashion and sustainable fashion acknowledge the pull of affordability. While the fast fashion offers fashion on a budget through questionable labor practices, sustainable fashion brands on the other hand are exploring creative avenues like the use of reworked clothing, second hand clothing, and ethical practices.
  • Utilizing Technology: technological advancements are utilized both by the fast fashion brands and the sustainable fashion brands to improve reach, after sales services and also in the design and production of clothing. Sustainable fashion brands are also leveraging the AI technology to analyze the material usage and track the impact of their productions on the environment.

Difference between Fast Fashion and Sustainable Fashion

While on the surface both fast fashion and sustainable fashion may seem like cousins sharing their common love for the latest trends but on the back, their approach to achieve the runaway fresh looks diverges differently.

   Rapid rate of production at the expense of quality is what prioritized most.

   Prioritizes slow and mindful production with the ethical sourcing of quality materials.

  Uses non-biodegradable and toxic synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon in their production processes.

   Natural biodegradable materials like hemp, and cotton that reduces the dependence on fossil fuels and decompose organically lays the foundation for the sustainable garments.

  Clothing made on the model of fast fashion is designed to be worn once or few times and then discarded. They are cheaply made and are prone to wear and tear.

  Longevity is ensured in the sustainable fashion model. The clothes are built to last and are made from quality materials that encourages upcycling and reducing the need for frequent replacements.


Fast Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion Statistics

  • A single cotton t shirt production requires an astonishing amount of 2,700 liters of water.
  • About 20% of the contribution in the global micro plastic pollution is made by the synthetic fast fashion clothing.
  • Polyester fiber has overtaken cotton in the textile industry with its production projected to exceed 92 million tons in the next 10 years – an increase of 47%.
  • Lack of recycling and unused clothing contribute to $500 annual loss by the fashion industry.
  • On average, 5 pounds of clothing is thrown away annually.

At Last…

As we wrap, it is clear now that the choices we make on clothing not just only impacts our wardrobe but also shapes the world. Fast fashion may hold a glam but sustainable fashion offers a path that is both charismatic and environmentally responsible.

You can make a step towards healthy future by supporting sustainable brands, researching about their certifications, exploring vintage clothing and giving them a new lease on life. Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last”. Let’s make this not just a mantra but a movement!


Q1. Is fast fashion ethical?

Answer: Investigating the ethical implications of fast fashion is complex as serious concerns are raised on its labor practices and impact on the environment, contrary to the benefits of fast fashion of being cost- efficient and trendy.

Q2. What are some alternatives to fast fashion?

Answer: Looking up for some eco-friendly brands that prioritizes sustainable production practices and embracing second hand clothing are some of the sustainable alternatives to fast fashion that promotes a culture of more conscious consumption.

Q3. Why is fast fashion an ethical issue?

Answer: On various basis, ethical concerns are raised upon the fast fashion practices including exploitative labor practices, and environmental degradation. The rapid clothing production often compromises the right of workers necessitating a critical reassessment of its ethical implication.

Q4. What are some most sustainable fast fashion brands?

Answer: Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, Reebok are some of the fast fashion brands that offers the benefits of sustainable fashion to their customers and utilizes environmentally friendly practices.