DEFINITION of 'Fast Fashion'

"Fast fashion” is a term used by fashion retailers to describe inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged. Today, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week to stay on-trend.

BREAKING DOWN 'Fast Fashion'

Fast fashion is made possible by innovations in supply chain management (SCM) among fashion retailers. Its goal is to quickly produce an item that is both cost-efficient and responds to fast-shifting consumer demands. The assumption is that consumers want a high-fashion styled article of clothing at a low price. Fast fashion follows the concept of category management, which more closely links the manufacturer with the consumer in a mutually beneficial relationship. The speed at which fast fashion happens requires such a collaboration, as the need to refine and accelerate supply chain processes is paramount. There is also considerable pressure to keep costs as low as possible.

From the perspective of retailers, fast fashion is advantageous because the constant introduction of new products encourages customers to make frequent visits to stores. Collections are often based on designs seen at the spring and autumn Fashion Week events. Fast fashion enables mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at an affordable price. The speed at which fast fashion moves tends to help retailers avoid markdowns, which cut into margins. The company does not replenish, but replaces items that sell out with new items. Accordingly, consumers know to purchase an item they like when they see it because it's not likely to be available for long.

Despite the advantages for customers, fast fashion has also been criticized on the grounds that it encourages a “throw-away” attitude via the built-in obsolescence of its products. Some contend that such disposable fashion contributes to pollution, poor workmanship and poor working conditions in developing countries. The trend has also been criticized on intellectual property grounds, with some designers alleging that their designs have been illegally mass-produced by retailers.

Fast Fashion Leaders

Spanish chain Zara (owned by Inditex) is all but synonymous with fast fashion, serving as an exemplar of how to cut the time between design, production and delivery. Other big names in fast fashion include H&M of Sweden, UNIQLO of Japan, GAP and Forever 21 of the United States, and Topshop of England. In addition, more traditional department stores, such as Macy's Inc., J. C. Penney and Kohl's in the U.S., have taken a page from Zara's book and have shortened design and production times to better compete.

  1. Frugalista

    Frugalista is a a modern term for somone who keeps up with fashion ...
  2. Chain Store Sales

    An indicator that provides information on the monthly sales volumes ...
  3. Trickle-Down Effect

    The trickle-down effect, in marketing, refers to the phenomenon ...
  4. Supply Chain Management (SCM)

    Supply chain management is the management of the flow of goods ...
  5. Planned Obsolescence

    Planned obsolescence is a purposeful strategy to ensure the current ...
  6. Scientific Retailing

    The use of technology by retailers in order to make decisions ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    Fashion Week: A Snapshot

    New York Fashion Week is in full swing, and provides and economic windfall for the city.
  2. Personal Finance

    The Best Websites For Fashion Jobs

    If working in fashion is your goal, these websites can help you make it a reality.
  3. Investing

    Walmart Doubles Down on Fashion

    Eyeing Target and Amazon, Walmart is seeking out more affluent and fashion-conscious shoppers.
  4. Insights

    Fast Food Versus Fast Casual: Which is More Profitable?

    Between fast food and fine dining lies the rapidly growing fast casual business sector. It's market share is growing. Are profits growing too?
  5. Investing

    Amazon Struggles to Sell Apparel, Shoes in Europe

    Amazon is having a tougher time selling apparel and footwear in Western Europe.
  6. Small Business

    How Agile Project Management Changed Zara

    Zara has created a competitive advantage in the retail industry by using a supply chain centered on agile project management.
  7. Investing

    Target Announces Posh New Celebrity-Designed Line

    In a crowded retail space where online retailers have been stealing market share, one way for brick-and-mortar chains to get attention has been by making deals with celebrities. In recent years, ...
  8. Investing

    Sears Partners with Jaclyn Smith for Fashion Line

    Give Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) credit for going down fighting. Even as the retailer continues to lose customers, money, and stores, it continues to try new things to turn things around. The ...
  9. Investing

    Amazon's New Prime Wardrobe Lets You Try Clothes for Free

    The new service is further notice of the e-commerce giant's intentions to dominate clothing retail.
  10. Insights

    Best Times To Go Shopping

    Whether you love it or hate it, we'll tell you when the best times are to go clothes shopping.
  1. Who are Chipotle's main competitors?

    Learn about Chipotle's four main competitors in the fast casual dining sector of the restaurant business, and how fast casual ... Read Answer >>
  2. Who are Target's (TGT) main competitors?

    Take a look at the battle of discount retailers. How Target is different from its competitors such as Walmart and Costco. Read Answer >>
Trading Center