Just as fast food chains have fueled Americans’ hunger for more, bigger, faster when it comes to what we put in our bodies, fast fashion brands increasingly beguile shoppers the world over with options of what to put on our bodies. Over the past decade, rapidly made garments – sold at low prices and manufactured at even lower price points – have proliferated shopping centers across the nation. In some fast fashion shops, consumers can even buy an outfit for the price of a Happy Meal.
Consumers’ fascination with stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Uniqlo and Zara isn’t rocket science – who wouldn’t want to buy the latest trends for a fraction of the cost? Why pay $100 for a sweater, when you can get a near-replica for only $25? That’s how most shoppers understand fast fashion.
And that’s why earlier this year, fast fashion forefather Forever 21 opened the concept test store F21 Red, which boasts starting price points as low as $1.80 (selling $3.80 T-shirts, $5.80 leggings, and $7.80 denim jeans). Consumers are eating it up. Fast fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s growing. Already, Forever 21 operates 600 stores worldwide – and the company plans to double its global presence by 2017 – while Zara has 1,800 locations and H&M owns 3,400 stores. Annual revenue for those companies has risen by the billions in the past years, a significant contrast to the slow decline of the traditional apparel retail market.
Rather than follow the traditional apparel model of selling seasonal lines of clothing, manufactured and marketed months in advance, these bargain brands rapidly respond to the latest fashion trends, quickly address consumer demands, and live by just-in-time production. As a result, consumers get more, faster: A fast fashion shopper can get a dress, two scarves, a shirt and pants for the price of only one sweater from a traditional retailer.
While this model may be good for consumers’ pocket books and closets, incidents such as the collapse of Rana Plaza and the unnaturally dyed polluted rivers of China have shown that making clothes using low-cost labor in environmentally unregulated developing countries can come at great costs. What is the antidote to this apparel paradox? Click to continue reading »
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