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Speed Up or Slow Down? The Fast Fashion Tug of War

Our predictions for 2014 outlined the idea of a fast fashion slow down, and our Q1 trend report this year detailed moves from Forever 21 into high quality footwear, and Uniqlo —the self-proclaimed “anti-fast fashion chain”—towards tech-integrated clothing called LifeWear. While on one hand some aspects of fast fashion are looking like they will slow, trends often run in parallel, and now we’re seeing increased activity happening on the other side of the spectrum. If you thought fast fashion couldn’t get any speedier, you are sorely mistaken. Consumption of clothes increased by almost 50% from 2002 to 2010, and since most Millennials don’t have the personal finances to fund the new closets they want each season, they are supporting even cheaper fashion alternatives. At the end of the day price is most important to young consumers, as evidenced by quotes from today’s Instant Poll. When asked if they would pay more for environmentally friendly clothing, Millennials responded with: “[Environmentally friendly is] not important to me. It’s all about looks,” “I’m for the concept, but I don’t have money to spend,“ and “I already over-pay for clothes.” While certain fast fashion brands in order to embed high quality and sustainability into their ethos—and perhaps cater to those young consumers who do have a little more in their pockets, other brands are speeding up turn-around and becoming even cheaper. But if the battle will be won with low price tags, the following brands already have it in the bag. Here are some of the ways we’re see fast fashion becoming hyper-fast:

 

ZARA

Zara is already 700-stores deep into rolling out a stock control system that uses radio frequencies to tag clothing. This means less lag time in seeing what sells out, and more opportunity to replenish and produce. The new system will be integrated into the brand’s 6,300 stores at a rate of 500 stores per year, making it sooner than later that the fast fashion brand will recreate popular street and runway styles almost literally as they are happening. Zara is known to copy designer items, and while in the past the penchant for fast fashion knockoffs was looked down on by those creating the trends, young designer Olivier Rousteing of Balmain is changing the tides by heralding Zara for pairing his designs with those from other elite designers in a way that is accessible to the mainstream market. Not knocking knockoffs is huge, and for Rousteing to say, “I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes mixed with Céline and Proenza! I think that’s genius. It’s even better than what I do! I love the styling, I love the story…I’m really happy that Balmain is copied,” is a big thumbs up for faster fashion.

 

BAUBLEBAR

10 million dollars can go a long way, and a recent round of funding for BaubleBar is ramping up their fast fashion jewelry growth both on and offline. Originally founded on the ideal that “women shopping for jewelry were brand agnostic, and just wanted something of quality with some style that didn’t break the bank,” BaubleBar operated on a very short supply chain, turning over trends from design to consumers in as little as four weeks. Consumers are responding: the site has over 1,000 orders per day on average, around 1.3 million monthly visitors, and has seen sales triple since last year, with repeat purchases adding up in a snowball effect. The e-tailer’s growth online is thriving, and at the same time BaubleBar will be increasing their presences in brick-and-mortar at Nordstrom and Anthropologie, inserting the fast fashion mindset into the traditional retail setting. BaubleBar will soon be in every one of Nordstrom’s U.S. locations, and will make a step towards opening its own standalone store to offer a place for women to find jewelry at a moment’s notice.

 

F21 RED

Forever21 pushed fast fashion into must-stop shopping for Millennials, so it’s no wonder that the brand has more tricks up its sleeve to slash prices. F21 Red popped up in LA this spring as a test store, boasting an industrial atmosphere and warehouse price tags to match. With jeans for $7.80, tees for $3.80, and camis for $1.80, The New Yorker noted, “Every tag looks like it’s missing a digit.” Basics from the brand have long been this cheap, but the new store concept concentrated these low-priced items in one area, magnifying the degree to which clothing has become disposable in terms of price and quality. Forever 21’s past is littered with labor and wage disputes, and although consumers know that outsourced labor is often unethically managed, they are not as likely to protest when they know that it may be all they can afford right now. The popularity of haul videos online displays the want for quantity over quality, and Millennials are finding ways to deal with cheap clothing that falls apart: just buy more.