Shein. Asos. H&M. Most of us have seen the ads and paid posts for trendy, affordable, quick to ship fast fashion apparel. And despite the steady drip of design theft allegations and quality complaints levied against its top brands, fast fashion companies continue to gobble up more market share each year. In fact, according to the most recent Fast Fashion Global Market Report, from 2021 to 2022, the sector expects to gain a compound annual growth of 8.8%, and future growth up to at least $133.43B by 2026.
Fast fashion is a market that’s thriving amongst consumers – but does that also make it an attractive one for fashion designers? That generally depends five things:
Age and size of the fashion brand
Manufacturing budget and capacity
This guide (part one of two) covers what clothing brands and designers should know about the fast fashion sphere of today’s garment industry. Whether you work for a high end apparel brand evaluating whether or not to create products for a more price conscious, mass production market or you’re weighing entering into fast fashion as a new designer, this guide will give you a bird’s eye view of fast fashion, its appeal to consumers, its risks for clothing brands, and its impact on the fashion industry and the world as a whole.
What Is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is an umbrella term used to describe clothing, shoes, or accessories that are peak trendy and cheap to buy, but even cheaper to make. The designs are typically produced offshore, and are often low quality copies of looks featured on luxury runways or garments created for celebrities to wear to events or award shows. Sometimes these fast fashion designs hit the market so quickly, that the Fashion Week from which the design came hasn’t even ended yet.
While wildly popular due to cost and trend timeliness, there’s ongoing conversation about the impacts that fast fashion has, for better or for worse, in three different areas:
The professional fashion business world,
The environment, and
The international labor market
To a certain extent, these impacts are unavoidable given fast fashion’s scale of demand and production. Each is multifaceted and requires serious evaluation from clothing brands and designers considering entry into that market. Researching fast fashion’s impact in these areas before launching your products is a best practice that will help:
Maximize your brand’s positive impact on the industry, environment, and global labor market
Position your fast fashion company ahead of competitors in terms of brand and product sentiment
Enable you to secure better and more impactful marketing and influencer opportunities
Better Business Practices Trending in Fast Fashion
Despite the challenges that scale and demand have forced onto fast fashion, many clothing brands are already working to right some of the sector’s most glaring issues. From shifting to more sustainably produced raw materials, to diversifying and near(er)shoring the supply chain, future-focused fast fashion leaders are attempting to position themselves as the best choice in an increasingly crowded market.
However, one of the most impactful strategies that fast fashion brands could take to reduce their negative labor and environmental impacts may seem counterintuitive: slowing down.
While that may not be realistic given the competitive nature of the sector, focusing on strategies like diversifying supply chains and rethinking fashion materials can help both classic and emerging fast fashion brands not only stand out to customers, but also better respond to the demands made of the fashion industry writ large. Learn more about the potential benefits that a fast fashion evolution could bring in this featured blog:
What Does It Take to Profit in Fast Fashion?
The trendy, cheap products that characterize fast fashion demand significant, reliable design, operations, and supply chain support to turn a profit. Fast fashion giants like Shein and H&M may seem like they’ve exploded overnight, but product fulfillment to a multibillion dollar market takes planning, resources, and scale. And for new clothes designers, or pivoting apparel brands, competing with the giants already in the space requires not only a big investment in marketing, influencer relationships, and creative; it also requires advanced trend forecasting capabilities and incredibly nimble and competitive product fulfillment and support.
Fashion and logistics tech assists with much of that. From AI scans of social media for early trend prediction, to smart warehouse product tracking and verification, to personalized app-enabled shopping experiences, tech can optimize nearly every aspect of fast fashion’s production, sales, and delivery models.
The most successful fast fashion brands in the space have been able to achieve this on a global scale. In doing so, they have established new standards for efficient operational best practices, and given birth to a new industry model: ultra fast fashion. Learn more about what this involves, and how it uses tech to help fast fashion brands perform at the top of their game in this featured blog:
Check out part 2 of this guide as we continue to explore fast fashion, how it works, and what to consider before pivoting your apparel company into the fast fashion sphere.