Fast fashion refers to the cheap fashion clothing that embodies ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and becomes available in large street stores at breakneck speed. The main features of fast fashion include replicating high-end fashion designs and using low–quality materials, which allows manufacturers to offer affordable clothing to customers. Manufacturers are trying to speed up the production and delivery to satisfy the consumer demand for low-priced trendy clothing. Nowadays, many fast fashion brands have 52 micro-seasons a year, meaning new trends emerge every week.
High fashion clothing brands that bring their own unique pieces into the market are also influenced by the phenomenon of fast fashion and suffer from it.
Fast Fashion explained
Earlier, people used to go shopping for clothes when the seasons changed and new collections came up. In other words, it wasn’t a regular event. Most consumers didn't splash money on new items of clothes every week. At that time, fashion shows were held to present to the audience and specialists the results of the work of fashion houses, acquaint viewers with future trends, and spread awareness about new fashion items.
In the late 1990s, the consumer society, the social structure in which people buy more goods and services than they need for everyday life, began to take shape. The youth tasted the joy of buying inexpensive things that appeared in a large assortment every season. In the late 1990s and 2000s, fast fashion reached its peak. Such brands as H&M, Zara and Topshop became extremely popular. They replicated models of the leading fashion houses and offered low-price items. It made consumers feel that they are dressed like models or celebrities.
Innovations in supply chain management (SCM) played a great role in the development of fast fashion. SCM is a set of approaches that helps effectively integrate suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and sellers. Supply chain management, taking into account the requirements of customers, ensures the availability of the right product at the right time in the right place with minimal costs. Consumers couldn’t afford the apparel of famous brands, that’s why they wanted to shop for more affordable clothing. Such an increase in the rate of production inevitably leads to the poor quality of goods.The clothes are made from cheap materials and companies do not have enough time for testing the quality of the goods.
Fast fashion is based on the category management. This is the concept of close cooperation between the manufacturer and the buyer, when product categories are considered as separate business units to identify the potential of each category and, at the same time, consumers’ preferences influence the process of grouping products together into the categories.
Fast Fashion brands
Fashion Nova, Zara, Topshop, H&M, and other brands were among the leaders in fast fashion. They stayed on trend and offered affordable clothing. Most brands are involved in both manufacturing items and selling them to the customers, but sometimes their production can be outsourced.
Zara. The Spanish clothing empire Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, etc.) has been improving its “fast fashion” marketing strategy for thirty years, violating generally accepted retail rules. The company pays attention to every chain in the distribution chain. This allows them to achieve the amazing speed of introducing new products in the market. It takes only four weeks for them to display the garment in the stores all around the world. It happens because Zara's supply chain provides flexibility and high responsiveness.
Besides, the brand strives to provide stores with a constant stream of new items. Every month, the brand creates more than 500 new "fast" designs. It produces 11,000 different products annually, while the industry average is 2000-4000 items.
The company reported net sales of €19.6 billion for 2021.
H&M. H&M is one of the pioneers of the "fast fashion" movement that combined fashion and affordable prices. Nowadays, it is an international brand and a manufacturer of fashionable clothes, which has over 4,000 stores around the world. H&M Group is comprised of six independent brands: H&M, COS, Monki, etc.
It is a Swedish company that produces clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and household goods in the mass market segment. The company does not own manufacturing factories and contracts with independent factories from China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc. In addition to this, the corporation signs leases for store locations.
H&M often announces new collections inspired by different designers and their fashion ideas.
According to the company’s report, the H&M group's net sales increased to about $18.9 billion.
Pros of Fast Fashion
- The fast fashion industry is intended to generate a profit. Сonsumers are attracted by a variety of products, they spend more time shopping in stores and it influences purchasing decisions.
- Since new items arrive in stores every few days, consumers are aware of the fact that if they don't buy the item right now, they will most likely miss their chance, since the old collection will no longer be available.
- Fast fashion is focused on producing inexpensive clothes, that’s why it’s easier to make shoppers purchase more clothes and bring them back to the retail market.
- It gives corporations an opportunity to generate an incredible amount of money by incorporating the trend into the brand’s strategy before peer companies adopt it.
- If companies that employ the fast fashion model suffer any financial losses, they can just deliver a new collection to the market.
- It should be mentioned that consumers now have easy access to clothes, they have the opportunity to choose among brands and stores. Besides, fast fashion allows those who want to follow fashion trends to buy new arrivals at an affordable price.
- Because of the fact stated above, it has had a positive impact on democratization of fashion, allowing a broad range of consumers to look like their favorite designers or celebrities at a fraction of the price.
Cons of Fast Fashion
- By contrast, the fast fashion industry has created a lot of negatives. According to statistics, the average person buys 68 items of clothing a year and wears it only 7 times. Then he throws it away to buy a new one. The consequences of such unconscious consumption are terrifying.
- The following question may arise: is it really less expensive to buy several mass-produced fashion garments than purchase one more expensive trending high-quality item?
- Polyester, nylon and viscose fabrics have their advantages. But their use has a negative impact on the environment. Now some people prefer to just throw away unnecessary things. It leads to the release of greenhouse and poisonous gas into the atmosphere, pollutes the air, water and land. Some landfills have been growing for years and they may not seem to disappear.
- Some unscrupulous manufacturers still make a choice in favor of financial gain rather than ethics. For example, in China and Bangladesh, thousands of employees work in harsh conditions for minimal pay and suffer from bad working conditions.