Traditionally there were two important dates in the clothing industry: the fall “fashion week” which presented the next spring-summer collections and the spring “Fashion week” for the next fall-winter collections. To this base was added two “Pre-Fashion weeks” interspersed between the two mentioned above. The world of clothing has lived with these four dates for a long time.
Enter Fast Fashion, which can be translated into French as “ephemeral mode” or “express mode”. It refers to clothes that have the particularity of being cheap and being put on sale very quickly following the various fashion shows or new outfits worn by the “people”. It allows middle-class consumers to be dressed in cheap, trendy clothes. Of course these are average quality clothes. They are not made to be worn for a long time and to last. They correspond to the desire of the consumer who constantly wants to renew his wardrobe. In the extreme, for some consumers, a garment can only be worn once. As a result, we now see brands specializing in Fast Fashion carrying out up to 52 mini Fashion Weeks per year, ie producing one collection per week. Clothes that are produced, sold and worn in the same week. That's fast!
A new niche in the clothing market!
Until the middle of the 1980th century, fashion was reserved for the wealthy classes, the “High Society” and, for the vast majority of the population, novelty was not a need. Most often the consumer buys a garment to replace the one that is worn out. Rather than change, he seeks continuity. Everything changed in the 90s and XNUMXs when “shopping” became a leisure activity and dressing was also a way of expressing oneself.
At the same time, at the economic level, appear, on the supply side: new inexpensive materials, mainly synthetic, rapid manufacturing methods, greater speed and lower transport costs; on the demand side: an increase in consumer purchasing power and a strong attraction and taste for novelty, especially among young people.
The advent of Fast Fashion is a new demand that an offer is ready to satisfy: a new market to conquer. Companies like Zara, H&M Group, UNIQLO, GAP, Forever 21, rush into it and see their turnover explode. The market shares of the various companies in the clothing industry are redistributed. In the fifteen years between 2000 and 2014 the production of the Fast Fashion part of the clothing sector doubled. Thus in 2020, Zara, with 2136 stores in 96 countries, achieved a turnover of EUR 19,5 billion, while H&M achieved a turnover of EUR 20,5 billion during the same period, that is to say the economic weight of the Fast Fashion sector.
Controversies around Fast Fashion
Fast Fashion is blamed for a lot of pollution, huge amount of waste and encouraging a wasteful mentality. You should know that the clothing industry is the most polluting industry after that of hydrocarbons and that Fast Fashion only reinforces this harmful aspect of the clothing sector. The fact that the materials used by Fast Fashion are of average quality means that a significant part of the production cannot be recycled to supply the second-hand market. They will be directly part of the waste, once their short life has passed. This is all the more damaging since currently 75% of the world's population wears clothes bought by users. On the other hand, it is estimated that there is in the wardrobes of consumers in rich countries the equivalent of 47 billion dollars of unworn clothing. What to wonder about the functioning of our society.
Finally, the Fast Fashion industry is criticized for being mostly "relocated" and for not being too careful about the working conditions of the workforce it employs, whether directly or indirectly. , in low-income countries. But again, this is not unique to Fast Fashion, but to the entire clothing industry. Let us remember the collapse in 2013 of the Rana Plaza in Daca, capital of Bangladesh, which caused the death of an appalling number, 1127, of workers, mainly workers of course, women who did not work for the clothing but not for its Fast Fashion part.
This is in fact a feature of the entire clothing industry. In addition, it is not always a practice specific to relocated factories, as illustrated by the troubles of Boohoo, a major Fast Fashion company, in Leicester, England, where a large part of the clothing sold by Boohoo is produced. Employees worked in appalling conditions, were forced, against government guidelines, to come to work during the 2020 lockdown even though they were sick, and all for £3,50 an hour, less than half the guaranteed minimum wage. A media campaign against Boohoo denouncing these practices did not prevent Boohoo from announcing a 39% increase in sales between February 2020 and February 2021, helping the pandemic, for a turnover of 2 billion euros .
Like what it is very difficult to go against the Fast Fashion, a market which for the moment to the enthusiasm at the global level of a large segment of consumers. The global youth market is a growing market. We should not think of Europe where the population is aging but Asia, for example, think of India where more than half of the population is under 25 years old and more than 65% are under 35 years old. That ! It's a market! The average age in India is 29, 37 in China and 48 in Japan.
This enthusiasm for Fast Fashion is due to the fact that it allows a significant portion of consumers to get the clothes they want and when they want them. Fast Fashion has also had the effect of bringing down the price of clothes, but not just any clothes, innovative and stylish clothes. With Fast Fashion, being dressed in the latest fashion, being “well dressed”, having a full wardrobe is no longer the exclusive prerogative of the “rich and famous”. Thanks to Fast Fashion, even those with average incomes can regularly buy “classy” clothes, dress in “fun” and extravagant pieces and, if necessary, wear different outfits on a daily basis. As such, Fast Fashion has participated in the democratization of fashion and thereby of society.
Recently, Fast Fashion has started working with some of the greatest designers of the moment. Thus H&M collaborated with Alexander Wang as well as with Giambattista Villi. Giambattista who has dressed Rihanna, Amal Clooney, Ariana Grande and Emma Stone, among others. The articles, for women as for men without forgetting the accessories, of these two stylists are sold exclusively through the sales network of H&M throughout the world. As they should, they are aimed at a young clientele, opening up “High Fashion” through “Fast Fashion” to new social classes.
Fast Fashion and me
For me, as a Coach and Image Consultant, no matter what outfits you wear, whether in terms of color, silhouette, style, there are principles and rules to know and respect if so much is that we want our outfits to be in keeping with who we are, contribute to giving us presence and credibility and, icing on the cake, make us feel comfortable whatever the circumstances. It must be said that by nature I am more into the durable than the ephemeral. But that doesn't prevent me both from understanding and appreciating that one can be in the "fun" and want to change clothes almost daily and do so over a relatively long period without ever really putting the same outfit back on. I think that there too I have my say for the greatest benefit of my ladies!