A theoretical investigation of slow fashion: Sustainable future of the apparel industry

  • Jung S
  • Jin B
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Environmental sustainability issues become important in the apparel industry. Primary practices involve replacing harmful chemicals with environmentally friendly materials, and reducing amounts of waste and resource consumption through apparel recycling. A more recent sustainable movement in the industry is slow fashion. It is a socially conscious movement that shifts consumers' mindsets from quantity to quality, encouraging people to buy high-quality items less often (Fletcher). Slow fashion encompasses slow production and consumption. Slow production does not exploit natural and human resources to expedite manufacturing speed (Fletcher), and slow consumption entails a longer product lifespan from manufacturing to discarding. Although the slow fashion concept may not be limited only to environmental sustainability, the conceptual distinction between slow fashion and environmentally sustainable fashion remains vague. This may be because academic understanding towards slow fashion is very limited despite the growing interests in slow fashion in practice. The purpose of this study is to explore the dimensions of slow fashion following Churchill's paradigm for measurement development. Through the scale item development measuring consumer orientations to slow fashion, this study attempts to define slow fashion theoretically with underlying dimensions. The initial scale items were generated based on a literature review and an open-ended survey. Then, via two surveys (i.e. with student and non-student samples) in the Southeastern region of the US, the items were purified and validated. As a result, 15 items of five dimensions accounted for slow fashion: equity, authenticity, functionality, localism and exclusivity. The identified five dimensions clearly show that slow fashion is a broader concept than environmental sustainability alone, encompassing (1) caring for producers and local communities for sustainable life (equity and localism); (2) connoting history for sustainable perceived value of the product (authenticity); (3) seeking diversity for the sustainable fashions world (exclusivity); and (4) maximizing product lifespan and efficiency for a sustainable environment (functionality). This study is one of the first attempts to seek underlying dimensions of slow fashion through scale development. This procedure may provide a basis for a theoretical definition of the slow fashion concept. Regarding practical contributions, slow fashion may be useful to foster US domestic apparel manufacturing and local economies. Furthermore, slow fashion may broaden the range of consumers' choices. When combining a young and independent designer's innovative spirit with local resources, slow fashion is likely to lead fashion diversity, beyond being driven by identical fashion trends. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Environmental sustainability
  • Scale development
  • Slow consumption
  • Slow fashion
  • Slow production
  • Small apparel business strategy

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  • Sojin Jung

  • Byoungho Jin

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