Slow but sustained: The emerging slow fashion movement on social media

17 července, 2023 • English language content • by

The depiction of what has been happening in fashion lately shows that for some people it is no longer taboo to use second-hand products such as thrifting, swapping, upcycling, and recycling fashion. They would make an extra effort to support circular fashion after considering how badly the fashion industry yields waste that contributes to global climate change. Nevertheless, not all people behave the same way.

This condition is not irrespective of the social media presence, especially Instagram, which is a virtual platform for promoting sustainable consumption practices of fashion because consumers regularly access the latest trend through it. According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2020, with the established social media platform, the fashion industry is pushed to develop attention-grabbing content for different target markets. To do this, it uses compelling calls to action and provide a seamless way to purchase.

Social media as a networking tool for the slow fashion movement

Social media has conjured slow fashion campaigns into a reality. If people used to find second-hand fashion at a flea market, they now could quickly get into it through their gadgets because social media gives them convenient access. In Prague, for instance, we can find numerous Instagram accounts offering slow fashion services, namely @genesis_eshop, @secondroundprg, @byla.jsem.sukne,, and many others. From the accounts, people can be provided services regarding thrifting, swapping, upcycling, or recycling their clothes. Even more so, people can subscribe to get their regular services and will easily catch up with other global organisations to get information about slow fashion movements, such as @fash_rev (fashion revolution) or @slowfashion.movement.

Social media enables a circular fashion economy by providing a network for people to access. Manuel Castells (2009), a professor of sociology, said network power within a network society is derived from such a communication protocol through the social network, which can create a communication network and boost an ability to influence people. Prior studies indicate that social media is an effective tool for network building and mobilising the masses (Dey, 2019; Menteş, 2019). It has enormous potential to help transform society more sustainably (Stuchtey et al., 2016).

A power struggle of slow fashion terms and frames on the social network

A study in Poland by Anna Jupowicz-Ginalska in 2019 shows that consumers, especially the young generation, are also naturally active in response to the brand message on social media because of fear of missing out. Social media, such as Instagram, is used to acquire knowledge of fast fashion products and connect with other consumers. Thus, it could be a public space to struggle for the power between slow fashion toe-to-toe fast fashion industry. The slow fashion movement must compete with fast fashion’s public relations and content marketing, which has been in a long cycle. Consequently, slow fashion is often described as the opposite of fast fashion.

Slow fashion content on the social network is problematic to understand. The slow fashion term is misleadingly perceived by consumers. They equate slow fashion with sustainable fashion, which actually has a distinct focus. Therefore, people tend to purchase sustainable fashion products to represent their pro-environmental behaviour instead of focusing on sustainability activities of fashion production and consumption as wanted by slow fashion. This could be critical for slow fashion activists and experts to give enlightenment.

The true slow fashion movement challenges apparel firms to make efforts in a sustainable practice of design and production methods, as well as to educate consumers in consuming fashion with a conscious concern for environmental sustainability (Fletcher, 2007; Pookulangara & Shephard, 2013).

In addition, a study in Australia by Ellen Lee and Franzisca Weder (2021) about #slowfashionaustralia seeks to analyse a framed message of slow fashion on Instagram. The study showed a framing of slow fashion is associated with environmental and resource awareness, categorised into three, namely eco-marketplace, the experience of self-expression, and sustainable value in the community.

The implication is yet unknown

I reckon that slow fashion on social media is framed to tackle the environmental problem by raising consumers’ awareness to prioritise investment and longevity in fashion. However, we also need to induce slow fashion as a lifestyle. From prior studies, the younger consumers who stated that they were concerned about the environmental crisis paradoxically preferred the fashion trend relevant to their peers. Thus, consumers’ education about circular fashion should evolve to understand the slow fashion lifestyle to reduce fashion waste and avoid impulse buying new clothes.

Even though the slow fashion movement on social media is becoming more visible, its implication is still unknown due to a lack of specific empirical research. Scholars doubt that online movements can lead to a collective action. It can undercut a social movement’s value leading to meaningless activism instead, such as clicktivism or slacktivism. It might be super active in online conversation and support, but inadequate to generate impact on society in bringing to bear the consumers’ behaviour change. In the future, it is crucial for media communication scholars to study the cultural complex of the digital world in constructing slow fashion and the impact of the networked slow fashion movement on consumers’ behaviour for real.

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