Fast fashion trend is now dominating apparel business around the world. Rapid changes in the production and consumption of ready-to-wear clothing in the 20th century cut the clothes’ price down. That allows more people to increase their level of fashion consumption sharply.
According to data from sustainyourstyle.org in 2021, garments produce as much as 80 billion pieces annually, and apparel production has increased 400% compared to 20 years ago. Consequently, sustainability problems are going to happen. It leads the fashion industry to contribute up to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as stated by UN Fashion Alliance.
Slow fashion and the media
In environmental communication, media are a space where scholars, activists, government, corporates, and other stakeholders communicate environmental problems, including slow fashion as a reflection of fast fashion counter hegemony. However, it is a big challenge for the media to extract what slow fashion means.
Kate Fletcher and Hazel Clark, the two experts in slow fashion, said that slow does not only refer to time consuming fashion, as the opposite of fast fashion means, but also different approaches when designers, buyers, retailers, and consumers are more aware of the impact of products on workers, communities, and ecosystems.
It represents a vision of sustainability in fashion consumption that requires an integrated process of design planning, sourcing for production and consumer awareness. It encompasses three key dimensions. Namely valuing local resources and economies, transparency of production systems and creating products with a long life cycle.
Media as the battle-field
Media are the battle-field of fast fashion vis a vis slow fashion. The growing fast fashion brands often promote their product through media to encourage purchase decisions as part of public relations or advertising.
On the other hand, the media also portray ‘do the right thing’ in fashion as the matter of fact that fashion can cause environmental impact.
My writing of a book chapter entitled Slow Fashion Movement: Is It Still a Tug of War Between Responsibility and Profit? stated that consumers‘ demand for slow fashion depends on knowledge and consciousness which could be evoked by information in the media.
In order to evoke sustainable consumption in fashion, the role of the media is supposed to mediate between brands to disclose any information about their production process and consumers to access the information encouraging consciousness in consuming fashion.
In her book, Fashion Media and Sustainability: Encouraging Ethical Consumption via Journalism and Influencers, Anastasia Denisova has identified ten patterns of unsustainable fashion coverage.
Concisely, the ten patterns show us that magazines or other media sometimes led to promote trend setting and fairytale in fashion that everyone had dreamt of. It encourages readers toward purchasing fast fashion.
Furthermore, editor’s selection in picking up the word could lead consumers in getting more passionate to be fashionable which referred to fast fashion. In addition, affiliated links by mentioning brands and embedding advertisements in media are also strengthening the fast fashion dominance, such as The Sun has 90% rate of affiliated links in its press releases from brands, The Times has a half of their coverage affiliated linking to brands, and so on.
Media coverage on slow fashion
Meanwhile, how slow fashion is conveyed by the media is still at the ethical level in the way to do the right thing regarding fashion, yet evoke the desire to do slow fashion. I would not consider it a bad way to introduce slow fashion. However, media content might overlook the eco-positioning style, market, and pricing possibly constituted by slow fashion existence in a frame.
Referring to Denisova’s writing, media often use words sustainable, ethical, and investment piece in misleading way so that it is strongly suggested to regulate the correct use of eco-vocabulary. Furthermore, magazines and other media must offer more restyling advice as opposed to urging new purchases. Not to mention, we still rarely discover slow fashion terms which are clearly distinguished from sustainable, eco, or ethical fashion in the media. Whereas, slow fashion is the whole process of design, production, and consumption in which sustainable and ethical processes are involved.
Moreover, there should be a regulation of the use affiliate links in journalism. Based on these explanations, I reckon that the media are supposed to have more spots to inspire consumers and evoke their emotion to engage with slow fashion. They should not only cover an ethical way in fashion consumption. Because it is never enough to convince people to enact slow fashion by having a rational argument.
Also, there should be a label in paid advertisement content which differentiates it with regular content. That would educate consumers by enabling them to consciously choose not only impulsive buying due to the advertisement persuasion embedded in the media content.
In conclusion, media have the potential to evoke consumers‘ engagement in practicing slow fashion. But it is seemingly way too far to be concreted.
Slow fashion struggles to exist in the global capitalism system besieging that puts fast fashion into dominant people’s consumption, while the slow fashion has not been crystal clear in deploying by the media. Whereas, we need consumers’ consciousness for mainstreaming the slow fashion attitude into everyday life which is derived by knowledge and information availability, one of which is from media.