Published 14 September 2017 Category: Business Insights, Entrepreneurs, SMEs

Fast Fashion - The Game Changer

Fast Fashion Pioneers: Forever 21, H&M, Zara.
“My grandmother has only one shirt in her wardrobe. My mother has three. My daughter’s generation, 50. And 48% of them, she never wears.“ - Jack Ma Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.

How Much Do We Love Clothes?
According to MarketLine, a business information company, the global apparel industry is now valued at nearly 1.4 trillion dollars in sales for 2017 and shows no signs of slowing as the market is projected to experience 5.91% yearly growth over the next three years.

By 2020, the market size of the apparel industry is expected to reach a mind-boggling 1.65 trillion sales in US dollars worldwide. I was shocked when I discovered this as it amounts to a whopping 60% increase in the market size since the 1.05 trillion dollar pool in 2011.

Fashion is evolving and if we want to understand why sales figures keep getting higher and higher, we might learn something from examining the emergence of fast fashion in the 21st century. So let’s examine fast fashion: the place where cheap and trend-heavy outfits are king.

Welcome To Fast Fashion
When it comes to clothing it’s no secret that people want to be trendy. We want to look good in front of our friends and we also want to flex our fashion muscles when it comes to meeting strangers. But in a world of Balenciaga, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, and Rolex how does one look swanky without breaking the bank? Look no further than the precarious world of fast fashion.

Fast Fashion retailers produce clothes that embodies the style and fashion trends of the modern world. They transform the designs of high society brands (such as Louis Vuitton or Prada) into their own mass produced items that are inexpensive for consumers and bear a strong aesthetic resemblance. Companies like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo and Forever 21 fit this mold as these sorts of brands tend to produce low-cost mimics and basic essential pieces that rotate company shelves frequently.

How Do They Do It?
Fast fashion brands are able to keep their prices low by relying on streamlined supply chains, globally integrated guidelines and policies as well as a quick implementation process.

If we use Zara as a case study, we can definitely see this quick implementation process in the brand’s logistic operations. Zara is known for being able to create a new design and have the finished product (based on said design) shipped to all 2,213 stores in just two short weeks. In these two weeks, Zara is able to design, produce, market and distribute a brand new item that reaches all 93 countries that the clothing giant operates in. This ridiculous efficiency has given an edge to fast fashion companies that traditional retailers will always struggle to mirror.

How Far Has It Spread?
Fast fashion is not unlike fast food: the product is addicting, suitable, cheap to purchase and can be found almost anywhere. It’s amazing to think that globalisation has brought us to a place in which fast fashion retailers are able to integrate their product offerings so seamlessly among the globe. The eminence of fast fashion retailers is not unlike the prominence of fast food tycoon McDonald’s; whose unparalleled appeal has led to the presence of over 33,000 restaurants operating worldwide.

In 2016, H&M opened 427 new stores. Four hundred and twenty-seven stores! That’s almost 1.17 stores a day. This fast fashion retailer employs over 160,000 people in 62 different nations and continues to grow their prominent business both physically and online.

Believe it or not, H&M isn’t even the apex of brand expansion as Zara plans on growing even faster. Blueprints have been made for Zara to open 500 new stores by 2017's end. This sort of rapid expansion is common practice for the many competitors in the industry as territory is vital in the pursuit to attain a healthy presence in the market.

Fast Fashion is Growing Faster Than The Entire Apparel Industry
Amancio Ortega, created Zara in 1974. Dropping out of school at the age of 14, he learned how to make clothes by hand and took a chance by own company. Today he has a net worth over 86 Billion dollars. He is the 4th richest man in the world.

What will the he Future of Fashion Hold?
As far as the future of fashion, nobody knows for sure. When it comes to understanding the next big movements, we’re just going to have to follow the trend.