This article traces some of the historical roots of ‘slow’ through changes in ecology, design thinking and practice and implications for fashion and design histories. It sees ‘slow’, as present in slow design and slow fashion, as a contemporary idea that marks renewed interest in sustainability debates whilst indicating additional shifts since the second wave of environmentalism in the mid-twentieth century. As fashion and design history expands to incorporate environmental history, this article presents a historical case study of the material culture of the American activewear brand Patagonia. Their logo and early catalogues highlight some of the tensions between the differing schools of ecological thought and the problems presented by applying those values to design and sportswear practice. Similarly, sustainability has been linked to a variety of issues from environmental preservation and waste to sweated labour. Therefore, this article uses slow and its focus on locality and mindfulness as theoretical touchstones for environmental thinking in the histories of design and fashion.