#TBT Fashion: The Role of Nostalgia in Slow Fashion Consumption

Rebecca Beech, Patsy Perry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Fashion’s negative environmental impacts in terms of pollution and depletion of natural resources are exacerbated by the rise of fast fashion, where the accelerated pace of change in trends encourages more frequent consumption and generates more textile waste as items are not retained for long (Niinimäki et al, 2020). Solutions to create a more sustainable fashion industry require consumer behavioural changes as well as industry action. Pockets of resistance to fast fashion are found in the slow fashion movement, advocating a longer lifespan between manufacture and disposal with existing clothing retained in use for longer (Jung and Jin, 2014).
Modern life’s increased speed of change makes recalling the past a type of luxury (Cui, 2015). Nostalgia, originally a diagnosis for homesickness (Starobinski and Kemp, 1966), is understood in marketing terms as a longing for or favourable affect toward things from the past (Holbrook and Schindler, 1991) and has also been defined as a positive emotional state (Davis, 1979; Sedikides et al, 2006). There is comfort to be found in the familiarity of nostalgic clothing, especially in hard times (Turra, 2020). Nostalgia could also support the shift to slower fashion consumption within a circular economy. Current enactment of nostalgia is seen in the reuse of past fashions such as wearing retro or vintage dress and thrift store shopping (Jenß, 2013). However, international fast fashion brands also use nostalgia marketing to offer new nostalgic-themed products to tap into Millennial consumer appetite for ‘throw-back’ styles (Velasquez, 2019) while luxury brands take inspiration from past fashions for new designer collections (Turra, 2020), which are arguably part of the problem rather than the solution to fashion’s environmental problems.
This paper explores slow fashion through the concept of nostalgia within the context of consumers’ reciprocation in an online community. How does a desire for temporal return support a shift to slower forms of consumption, given the oxymoron of sustainability and fashion’s “internal logic of regular and systematic change” (Entwistle, 2000, p.45)? How do online communities of practice encourage fashion consumers to practice more sustainable behaviours?
A qualitative research design was undertaken. Two focus groups and twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain in-depth insights of consumers’ lived experiences and perceptions. Data analysis followed Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six steps to thematic analysis.
Findings evidence consumers' growing awareness of fashion sustainability and their active pro-environmental behaviour towards fashion consumption, and their empowerment to share knowledge about past experiences related to mending, charity shopping and clothing reuse, driven by a sense of melancholy to ‘slow fashion’ with family and friends. They revealed reminiscent behaviour due to a perceived ‘safe-space’ in the online community with like-minded others who advocate greening of consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Marketing
PublisherAcademy of Marketing
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021
Event2021 Academy of Marketing Annual Conference: Reframing Marketing Priorities - Online
Duration: 5 Jul 20217 Jul 2021


Conference2021 Academy of Marketing Annual Conference
Internet address


  • Sustainable Fashion
  • Sustainability
  • Nostalgia
  • Slow Consumption


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