The Tortoise and the Hare - Why do they matter?

Do you remember the classic Aesop’s fable of
“The Tortoise and the Hare”?

Remember how we were told about all the ways the tortoise was ultimately smarter? He didn’t slouch off, didn’t brag, and didn’t try to take the shortcut. The hare, on the other hand, was generally characterized as the one who was looking for the easy way out. His folly was his assumption that he was unbeatable, so corners could be cut without consequences.

The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race.

This parable inspired me around the ideas of fast and slow fashion. (I know: the comparisons seem so obvious, right?)...But wait!

As I started to dig down into what the two terms mean, I also began to see something else emerge.

First, let’s review the two terms, to make sure we are on the same page:

Fast fashion generally refers to cheaply made, low priced fashion that is racing to keep up with the insatiable lust for new and of-the-moment trends. It’s non-transparent in how it sources materials, treats people, and gets rid of waste. It’s everywhere, and at times it can feel like a machine we can’t find the kill switch for.

Slow or conscious fashion generally refers to fashion that is produced with keeping the planet and people top of the list. Generally, brands are also able to show you how those things are made, have a bigger mission they want to share, and are conscious of pricing and consumption.

So based on these terms, if you were to search, “Fast Fashion Vs. Slow Fashion” you’ll find great articles that have been written and quoted from all over the world. There’s good stuff out there.

But, when I was first reminded of the story of The Tortoise and The Hare and how it related to fast and slow fashion, I wanted to re-read the parable.

I went into google and typed in “The Tortoise Versus The Hare”.

And then a funny thing happened. Google politely corrected me with, ‘Did you mean, “The Tortoise and the Hare?”Touché.

Why yes, I guess I did mean “and” rather than “versus”, little google bots. Thanks for the nudge.

And as I re-read the parable, I realized there is something in there for us right now, in 2022 and beyond.

The tortoise and the hare occupied the same space and they were running the same race, at the same time. They didn’t run it separately and compare times and notes at the end. 

Their journey was intertwined and they shared a common objective: to win the race. The difference between them was in how they defined winning:

  • The hare thought he would win because he made an assumption about his fellow racer: that his way of doing things wasn’t an efficient or useful way. And, most of all, that it wouldn’t be received well at the finish line. He was wrong.
  • The tortoise defined winning as the reward for the understanding and thoughtful preparation he had put into the race ahead of time. He came from a long line of tortoises who knew about keeping it slow and steady. In effect, the tortoise was drawing on historical evidence about how to finish strong.

Fast Fashion and conscious fashion are also in the same race, sharing the same space. As industries, we both share the goal of creating things that customers will love and be willing to invest in. We also both know the terms of the race, whether we acknowledge them or not.

But the race we are in is for the future of people and the planet. It’s about connection, freedom and opportunities to share in the victory of what we can accomplish. In fact, it’s fair to say that the difference between fast and conscious fashion is a question of what gets valued.  

Fast fashion defines success with a profit line that demands to be kept at all costs:

  • It’s okay if you don’t feel attached to what you own because it’s not attached to you.
  • Efficiency is measured in how much is produced and how quickly it rolls out
  • Neither the buyer nor the seller need to care how an item was made that was cheap enough to be worn once and forgotten.
  • Perhaps the greatest issue with fast fashion is the space that it’s taking up in all the places it will never be valued again: from the backs of closets to the bottom or landfill piles.

If you value an outdated version of how profit matters above all else, then you won’t see a problem with fast fashion. It’s simply a means to an end.

But profit is not the problem. Profit is indifferent to how it happens.

Slow and conscious fashion sees profit as a multi-dimensional value that wants to include everyone:

  • How much are the makers paid AND does it offer them a quality of life that is above the minimum?
  • When those items are priced, are they priced fairly enough that people can see the value in what they are buying?
  • What’s being measured that matters to the earth and the future?
  • Are we producing in a way that is consistent with what we all now know to be the best way for the planet?

“Fast fashion” is simply a label we use because we don’t have any other way to concisely talk about the thing that is hurting us the most: our lack of understanding and connection to our choices and what we own. 

Many years ago, a wise man named Elie Weasel said, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.” This is a truth that matters now, more than ever.

Is it possible that the issue isn’t just about ‘fast fashion versus slow fashion’?

Perhaps it’s actually about people consciously deciding that they want to be more connected to what they own and value the power of their own choices.

Thanks for being one of those people, now let’s get out there and find more of us among the masses.

Christal Earle