ⓘ Fast fashion


ⓘ Fast fashion

Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers for designs that move from the catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and autumn of every year.


1. Concept

Fast fashion brands produce pieces to get the newest style on the market as soon as possible. They emphasize optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain for the trends to be designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively and allow the mainstream consumer to buy current clothing styles at a lower price. This philosophy of quick manufacturing at an affordable price is used in large retailers such as H&M, Zara, C&A, Peacocks, Primark, and Topshop. It particularly came to the fore during the vogue for "boho chic" in the mid-2000s. According to the UK Environmental Audit Committees report "Fixing Fashion," fast fashion "involves increased numbers of new fashion collections every year, quick turnarounds and often lower prices. Reacting rapidly to offer new products to meet consumer demand is crucial to this business model.”

Fast fashion has developed from a product-driven concept based on a manufacturing model referred to as "quick response" developed in the U.S. in the 1980s and moved to a market-based model of "fast fashion" in the late 1990s and first part of the 21st century. The Zara brand name has become almost synonymous with the term, but other retailers worked with the concept before the label was applied, such as Benetton. Fast fashion has also become associated with disposable fashion because it has delivered designer product to a mass market at relatively low prices.


1.1. Concept Slow fashion counter

The slow fashion or conscious fashion movement has arisen in opposition to fast fashion, blaming it for pollution both in the production of clothes and in the decay of synthetic fabrics, poor workmanship, and emphasizing very brief trends over classic style. Elizabeth L. Clines 2012 book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion was one of the first investigations into the human and environmental toll of fast fashion. Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries. The 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, the deadliest garment-related accident in world history, brought more attention to the safety impact of the fast fashion industry.


2.1. Strategy Management

The primary objective of fast fashion is to quickly produce a product in a cost-efficient manner to respond to fast-changing consumer tastes in as near real time as possible. This efficiency is achieved through the retailers’ understanding of the target markets wants, which is a high fashion-looking garment at a price at the lower end of the clothing sector. Primarily, the concept of category management has been used to align the retail buyer and the manufacturer in a more collaborative relationship. This collaboration occurs as many companies’ resources are pooled to further develop more sophisticated and efficient supply chain models to increase the markets total profit. The fast fashion market utilizes this by uniting with foreign manufacturers to keep prices at a minimum.


2.2. Strategy Quick response method

Quick Response QR was developed to improve manufacturing processes in the textile industry with the aim of removing time from the production system. The U.S. Apparel Manufacturing Association initiated the project in the early 1980s to address a competitive threat to its own textile manufactures from imported textiles in low labour cost countries. During the project lead times in the manufacturing process were halved; the U.S. industry became more competitive for a time, and imports were lowered as a result. The QR initiative was viewed by many as a protection mechanism for the American textile industry with the aim of improving manufacturing efficiencies.

The concept of quick response QR is now used to support "fast fashion", creating new, fresh products while also drawing consumers back to the retail experience for consecutive visits. Quick response also makes it possible for new technologies to increase production and efficiency, typified by the introduction of the complementary concept of Fast Fit. The Spanish mega chain Zara, owned by Inditex, has become the global model for how to decrease the time between design and production. This production short cut enables Zara to manufacture over 30.000 units of product every year to nearly 1.600 stores in 58 countries. New items are delivered twice a week to the stores, reducing the time between initial sale and replenishment. As a result, the shortened time period improves consumers garment choices and product availability while significantly increasing the number of per customer visits per annum. In the case of Renner, a Brazilian chain, a new mini-collection is released every two months.


3. Marketing

Marketing is the key driver of fast fashion. Marketing creates the desire for consumption of new designs as close as possible to the point of creation. Marketing closes the gap between creation and consumption by promoting this as something fast, low priced, and disposable. The continuous release of new products essentially makes the garments a highly cost effective marketing tool that drives consumer visits, increases brand awareness, and results in higher rates of consumer purchases. Fast fashion companies have also enjoyed higher profit margins in that their markdown percentage is only 15% compared to competitors’ 30% plus. The fast fashion business model is based on reducing the time cycles from production to consumption such that consumers engage in more cycles in any time period. For example, the traditional fashion seasons followed the annual cycle of summer, autumn, winter and spring, but in fast fashion cycles have compressed into shorter periods of 4–6 weeks and in some cases less than this. Marketers have thus created more buying seasons in the same time-space. Two approaches are currently being used by companies as market strategies; the difference is the amount of financial capital spent on advertisements. While some companies invest in advertising, fast fashion mega firm Primark operates with no advertising. Primark instead invests in store layout, shopfit and visual merchandising to create an instant hook. The instant hook creates an enjoyable shopping experience, resulting in the continuous return of customers. Research shows that seventy five percent of consumers decisions are made in front of the fixture within three seconds. The alternative spending of Primark also "allows the retailer to pass the benefits of a cost saving back to the consumer and maintain the companys price structure of producing garments at a lower cost".


4.1. Production "Supermarket" market

The consumer in the fast fashion market thrives on constant change and the frequent availability of new products. Fast fashion is considered to be a "supermarket" segment within the larger sense of the fashion market. This term refers to fast fashions nature to "race to make apparel an even smarter and quicker cash generator". Three crucial differentiating model factors exist within fast fashion consumption: market timing, cost, and the buying cycle. Timings objective is to create the shortest production time possible. The quick turnover has increased the demand for the number of seasons presented in the stores. This demand also increases shipping and restocking time periods. Cost is still the consumers primary buying decision. Costs are largely reduced by taking advantage of lower prices in markets in developing countries. In 2004 developing countries accounted for nearly seventy five percent of all clothing exports and the removal of several import quotas has allowed companies to take advantage of the even lower cost of resources. The buying cycle is the final factor that affects the consumer. Traditionally, fashion buying cycles are based around long term forecasts that occur one year to six months before the season. Yet, in the fast fashion market the quick response philosophy can result in higher forecast accuracy because the time period is significantly shortened. A higher sell-through for the goods produced is also a result of the shortened production period.


4.2. Production Supply chain

Supply chains are central to the creation of fast fashion. Supply chain systems are designed to add value and reduce cost in the process of moving goods from design concept to retail stores and finally through to consumption. Efficient supply chains are critical to delivering the retail customer promise of fast fashion. The selection of a merchandising vendor is a key part in the process. Inefficiency primarily occurs when suppliers cant respond quickly enough, and clothing ends up bottlenecked and in back stock. Two kinds of supply chains exist, agile and lean. In an agile supply chain the principal characteristics include the sharing of information and technology. The collaboration results in the reduction in the amount of stock in the megastores. A lean supply chain is characterized as the correct appropriation of the commodity for the product. The combination of the two supply chains is called "leagile".


4.3. Production Vendor relationships

The companies in the fast fashion market also utilize a range of relationships with the suppliers. The product is first classified as "core" or "fashion". Suppliers close to the market are used for products that are produced in the middle of a season, meaning trendy, "fashion" items. In comparison, long-distance suppliers are utilized for cheap, "core" items, sometimes referred to as "capsule" clothing, that are used in collections every season and have a stable forecast.


4.4. Production Internal relationships

Productive internal relationships within the fast fashion companies are as important as the companys relationships with external suppliers, especially when it comes to the companys buyers. Traditionally with a "supermarket" market the buying is divided into multi-functional departments. The buying team uses the bottom-up approach when trend information is involved, meaning the information is only shared with the companys fifteen top suppliers. On the other hand, information about future aims, and strategies of production are shared downward within the buyer hierarchy so the team can consider lower cost production options. The buyers also interact closely with merchandising and design departments of the company because of the buyers focus on style and color. The buyer must also consult with the overall design team to understand the cohesion between trend forecasting and consumers wants. The close relationships result in flexibility within the company and an accelerated response speed to the demands of the market.


4.5. Production Sustainable labour costing and efficiency dilemma in fast fashion

Published by University of Manchester, the Working Papers of "Capturing the Gains, global summit" brings together an international network of experts from North and South. The Working Paper 14 focuses on a specific feature of buying behaviour in the UK fashion retail industry: the negotiation of a manufacturing price with suppliers that does not separately itemize labour cost. This practice, tacitly supported by both buyers and suppliers, is examined against the backdrop of ongoing wage defaulting and import price deflation in the global apparel industry. For obvious reasons, the make-up of standard time using Predetermined Time standards PTS, Predetermined motion time system PMTS; is highly technical and synthetic’. According to the International Labour Organization ILO, as of 1992 there were some 200 different PTS systems, offered by consultancies for adoption by manufacturing companies. In apparel manufacture, three PTS aka PMTS consultancy firms specializing in methods-time measurement MTM appear to be operating in the sector– the US-based Modular Arrangement of Predetermined Time Standards MODAPTS, the Sri Lankan-based Seweasy and the UK-headquartered GSD Corporate Ltd. All three forms of work measurement for arriving at a standard time should normally make provision for relaxation, contingency and special allowances.


5. List of fast fashion brands

  • New Look
  • Forever 21
  • Renner
  • Pull & Bear
  • H&M
  • Fashion Nova
  • Topshop
  • Gap Inc.
  • Guess?
  • Boohoo.com
  • Peacocks
  • PrettyLittleThing
  • Rainbow Shops
  • Next
  • NewYorker
  • Shasa
  • s. Oliver
  • United Colors of Benetton
  • Riachuelo
  • Inditex
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Massimo Dutti
  • Primark
  • Uniqlo
  • Bershka
  • Missguided
  • ASOS.com
  • Charlotte Russe
  • Cotton On
  • Zara
  • Oysho
  • Bestseller
  • Nasty Gal
  • C&A
  • Stradivarius clothing brand
  • Esprit
  • FIVE FOXes
  • River Island
  • Metersbonwe
  • Uterque
  • Giordano
  • Mango clothing
  • Miss Selfridge

6. Environmental impact

Journalist Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and one of the earliest critics of fast fashion, notes in her article Where Does Discarded Clothing Go? that Americans are purchasing five times the amount of clothing than they did in 1980. Due to this rise in consumption, developed countries are producing more and more garments each season. The United States imports more than 1 billion garments annually from China alone. United Kingdom textile consumption surged by 37% from 2001 to 2005. The Global Fashion Business Journal reported that in 2018, the global fiber production has reached the highest all-time, 107 million metric tons.

The average American household produces 70 pounds 32 kg of textile waste every year. The residents of New York City discard around 193.000 tons of clothing and textiles, which equates to 6% of all the citys garbage. In comparison, the European Union generates a total of 5.8 million tons of textiles each year. While As a whole, the textile industry occupies roughly 5% of all landfill space. The clothing that is discarded into landfills is often made from non-biodegradable synthetic materials.

Greenhouse gases and various pesticides and dyes are released into the environment by fashion-related operations. The United Nations estimated that the business of what we wear, including its long supply chains, is responsible for 10 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions heating our planet. The growing demand for quick fashion continuously adds effluent release from the textile factories, containing both dyes and caustic solutions. In comparison, greenhouse gas emissions from textile production companies is more than international flights and maritime shipping combined annually. The materials used not only affect the environment in textile product, but also the workers and the people who wear the clothes. The hazardous substances effect all aspects of life and release into the environments around them.Optoro estimates that 5 billion pounds of waste is generated through returns each year, contributing 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.


7.1. Sustainability Recycling

Due to the amount of pollution and waste caused by the fashion industry, for-profit groups, like Viletex, and retailers, such as H&M, are working to decrease the industrys environmental footprint and adopt sustainable technologies. Both companies have created programs that encourage recycling from the general public. These programs provide consumers with bins that allow them to dispose of their unwanted garments that will ultimately be transformed into insulation and carpet padding, as well as being used to produce other garments. While these brands are taking initiatives towards sustainability, the authenticity of these initiatives are questionable. By offering this discount, H&M is further promoting or encouraging people to shop more, hence making the intent behind such initiatives taken by fast-fashion brands questionable.

Advances in technologies have offered new methods of using dyes, producing fibers, and reducing the use of natural resources. To decrease the consumption of traditional textiles, Anke Domaske has produced "QMilch," an eco-milk fiber; Virus has produced high-tech sportswear from recycled coffee beans; and Suzanne Lee has created vegetable leather from fermented tea. Many companies have also created various ways to reduce the amount of dyes emitted into the worlds waterways as well as the level of water consumption. For example, AirDye saves between 7 and 75 gallons of water per pound of textiles produced while digital printing reduces water usage by 95 percent.


7.2. Sustainability Technology

Fast fashion brands like ASOS.com, Levi’s, Macys, North Face have turned to sizing technology that use algorithms to solve sizing issues, and give accurate size recommendations on their website to reduce environmental impact on returns. H&Ms design team is implementing 3D design, 3D sampling and 3D prototyping to help cut waste, while artificial intelligence can be used to produce small garment runs for specific stores.


8. Overconsumption

In contrast to modern overconsumption, fast fashion traces its roots to World War II austerity, where high design was merged with utilitarian materials. The business model of fast fashion is based on consumers’ desire for new clothing to wear. In order to fulfill consumers demand, fast fashion brands provide affordable prices and a wide range of clothing that reflects the latest trends. This ends up persuading consumers to buy more items which leads to the issue of overconsumption. Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis, stated that Americans spent 340 billion dollars on clothing in 2012, the same year of the Rana Plaza collapse.Planned obsolescence plays a key role in overconsumption. Based on the study of planned obsolescence in The Economist, fashion is deeply committed to planned obsolescence. Last years skirts; for example, are designed to be replaced by this years new models. In this case, fashion goods are purchased even when the old ones are still wearable. The quick response model and new supply chain practices of fast fashion even accelerate the speed of it. In recent years, the fashion cycle has steadily decreased as fast fashion retailers sell clothing that is expected to be disposed of after being worn only a few times.

A recent article about fast fashion in Huffington Post pointed out that in order to make the fast moving trend affordable, fast-fashion merchandise is typically priced much lower than the competition, operating on a business model of low quality and high volume. Low quality goods make overconsumption more severe since those products have a shorter life span and would need to be replaced much more often. Furthermore, as both industry and consumers continue to embrace fast fashion, the volume of goods to be disposed of or recycled has increased substantially. However, most fast-fashion goods do not have the inherent quality to be considered as collectables for vintage or historic collections.


9. Sweatshops

A sweatshop is a factory where manual workers are employed for their hard labor under very poor working conditions with severe health and safety risks, at extremely low wages, including child labor. The fashion industry is known as the most labor dependent industry, as one in every six person works in acquiring raw materials and manufacturing clothing. With an annual revenue of 19.8 billion dollars last year, H&M - a fast-fashion conglomerate, is the largest producer of clothing in under-developed countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia and is incapable of paying their workers with fair wages. Bangladesh – a country known for its cheap labor, is home to four million garment production workers in over 5000 factories, out of which 85% are women. These women are forced to work in unsafe and poor working conditions while receiving a minimum wage of less than US$3, being unable to provide themselves with a livelihood. The only justification for this is the need to achieve unfathomably low costs in order to sell at low prices, which in turn leads to mass impoverishment.

There is a long history of the ongoing abuse in todays textile industry stemming from fast fashion brands, with the abuse not only taking place in Asia where most of the horrifying stories stem from but also in Los Angeles where immigrant workers go through wage theft and exploitation.

The Rana Plaza was a garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013, killing over a thousand workers and being recorded as the deadliest garment-factory incident in history. The five-story building collapsed due to a structural failure. Although the workers noticed cracks appearing on the walls and it was declared as an unsafe environment to work in, employees were still forced to come to work the next day. Garment factory owners do not abide by health and safety regulations due to the fear of disrupting production and losing profits.


10.1. Design lawsuits and legislation Lawsuits and proposed legislation in the U.S.

As of 2007, Forever 21, one of the larger fast fashion retailers, was involved in several lawsuits over alleged violations of intellectual property rights. The lawsuits contended that certain pieces of merchandise at the retailer can effectively be considered infringements of designs from Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui and Gwen Stefanis Harajuku Lovers line as well as many other well-known designers. Forever 21 has not commented on the state of the litigation but initially said it was "taking steps to organize itself to prevent intellectual property violations".


10.2. Design lawsuits and legislation H.R. 5055

H.R. 5055, or Design Piracy Prohibition Act, was a bill proposed to protect the copyright of fashion designers in the United States. The bill was introduced into the United States House of Representatives on March 30, 2006. Under the bill designers would submit fashion sketches and/or photos to the U.S. Copyright Office within three months of the products’ "publication". This publication includes everything from magazine advertisements to the garments first public runway appearances. The bill as a result, would protect the designs for three years after the initial publication. If infringement of copyright was to occur the infringer would be fined $250.000, or $5 per copy, whichever is a larger lump sum. The bill was suspended after the House of Representatives session concluded in 2006, this resulted in H.R. 5055 being cleared from the agenda.


10.3. Design lawsuits and legislation H.R. 2033

The Design Piracy Prohibition Act was reintroduced as H.R. 2033 during the first session of the 110th Congress on April 25, 2007. It had goals similar to H.R. 5055, as the bill proposed to protect certain types of apparel design through copyright protection of fashion design. The bill would grant fashion designs a three-year term of protection, based on registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. The fines of copyright infringement would continue to be $250.000 total or $5 per copied merchandise.