Fast fashion is a retail concept for moving clothing from the catwalk to consumers quickly at an affordable price with rapid turnover of product. Fast fashion products begin in fashion shows and appear in stores quickly based on what is trending socially. It's made possible by consumers desiring cheaper clothing, trendy or fashionable clothing, and by the purchasing power of the consumer combined with economic and technological innovation. Fast fashion companies often release new seasonal, monthly, and weekly fashion products to stay relevant and trendy. Notable fast fashion brands include H&M, UNIQLO, GAP, Zara, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21.
The development of fast fashion coincided with the rise of consumers shopping for clothing as entertainment combined with advancements in supply chain management by fashion companies. Fast fashion allows retailers to capitalize on fast-moving consumer trends quickly, and influence new consumer trends while maintaining an affordable price for their fashion products. Retailers selling fast fashion products tend to have customers visiting their stores more often due to the constant release of new products leading to the sale of more products without the need to lower their price compared to competing non-fast fashion retailers.
The foundation for fast fashion was laid during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s when textile machines, such as sewing machines, and factories began to expedite the process of making clothing. These devices allowed for clothing to be made in bulk rather than custom-made and thus the prices for clothing began to decrease.
World War II also had an impact on the origins of fast fashion as it became the norm to mass produce clothing due to fabric restrictions and the need for more functional styles. As decades passed, there was an increase in demand for "trendy" clothing by younger generations. With fashion trends changing quickly and there being a market for affordable clothing, retailers began outsourcing labor and opening textile mills around the world.
Major fast fashion companies, such as H&M, started as small shops in Europe around the middle of the 20th century. The Industrial Revolution and World War II influenced the companies in the aforementioned ways and the small shops grew to the major outlets they are today. The term "fast fashion" was coined in the 1990's by the New York Times to describe Zara's operation for its business, which was to take a garment from the design stage to being manufactured, and finally available in stores in a span of just 15 days.
While fast fashion has grown in years such as between 2014 and 2017, that trend has slowed in 2019 and 2020. Multiple factors play into market trends including global pandemics, such as COVID-19, and societal trends, such as younger generations understanding the impact their buying habits have on the environment and others worldwide. It is projected that the fast fashion market will be valued at $44 billion in 2028 and other apparel markets, such as second-hand clothing, will see an increase in value at an estimated $64 billion.
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