Just How Fast is Ultra-fast Fashion?
As fast fashion takes flight, trends have been a crucial defining factor for how retailers strategise their assortments.
Source: Daily Front Row. The runway, root for all trends.
Historically, the runway was where trends were birthed. The fashion trickle theory suggests that trends ‘trickle’ down in chronological order: from designer pieces to the clothes sold in department stores. This process took around 6 months, and another year of dissemination to mass markets, so a trend lasted way longer back then.
This changed with the rise of fast fashion.
The ‘concept to sales’ process is much faster. Trends can come from many verticals, including social media influencers and pop culture. Although the runway still holds importance in paving the way for trends today, the flow is blurred – with the timeline shortened tremendously.
Technology Played a Part
The retail industry is no stranger to what modern technology has to offer. Major retailers like Zara and Nike have been quick to adopt in machine learning and artificial intelligence. This enables them to monitor the movement of trends online and instantaneously migrating that information to stock production.
Consumers are also quick to view trends shown on the runway due to functions like live streams from attendees and even the brands themselves. Seeing such trends on the runway birthed the “see now, buy now” mentality, in which retailers have to cater for at top speed in order to hold consumers’ interest.
Speed Above All
In fast fashion, speed holds the highest importance for consumers. Retail giants like Uniqlo and H&M have resorted to slashing their production chain to a much shorter period as a response to the consumers’ demand for speed. In fact, the need for everything new has challenged the ability of even the swiftest retailers to produce trends at lightning speed. Rebecca Minkoff, for example, experimented by adopting the “see now, buy now” model and saw a 211% increase in sales during their first season.
Zara and Missguided are no strangers to supplying to the demands of consumers at lightning speed. Both brands are synonymous to fast fashion, being one of the key retailers to churn out the latest trends.
From Missguided and Zara (left to right): Neon Pink Bandage Zip Up Mini Dress, Neon Dress
From Missguided and Zara (left to right): Black Cycling Shorts, Cycling-style Bermuda Shorts with Zip
The images above show prominent fast fashion trends, neon and bike shorts, that took flight in 2018. Similar looking designs and colours were selected for a more compatible comparison. However, upon analysing the new-in dates for both trends, it is apparent that Missguided was quicker to churn out trends with an average of being two months ahead of Zara.
Ultra-fast Fashion over Fast Fashion
While Zara remains as a behemoth fast fashion label, speed is no longer the Spanish retailer’s forte. Missguided seems to have beaten Zara at speed.
Online retailers such as Boohoo, Fashion Nova and Missguided are now top players in ultra-fast fashion, granting consumers instant gratification for trendy attire. Online-centric stores as such resonate better among digital natives due to their superior ability to not only supply the latest trends to their consumers but also doing so at a much quicker speed.
Source: Missguided. Missguided is able to bring new in items daily, straight from the runway.
It takes about five weeks for Zara to get their design into a physical or online store for purchase, beating its competitor such as H&M. However, Zara’s speed is significantly undermined by ultra-fast fashion retailer’s shorter period of two to four weeks. Moreover, ultra-fast fashion retailers’ social media prowess has allowed them to rapidly ride the waves of any fashion trend online and instantly migrate that to production.
Zara’s inability to catch on and produce trends could be costing them. A slower turnover rate could potentially send trendy savvy consumers to the arms of their younger and significantly faster competitors.
Speed is Nothing without Accuracy
While speed is important, that doesn’t mean accuracy should be compromised.
For example, if a retailer decides to increase speed for production rapidly but also relying on personal preferences and assumptions, it will eventually lead to more loss and excess stock. Producing a whole range of assortments without solidifying the bridge between supply and demand may result in a poor response from consumers. Worst? Retailers will have to resort to slashing the prices of assortments to clear stock.
Leveraging on plain numbers and facts provide crystal clear insight on how a retailer can make data-backed decisions in ensuring that the assortments fit the demands of consumers.
It is a constant race for speed in fast fashion. Competition remains high. With the advancement of technology, who is to say that ultra-fast fashion will continuously lead the race? As retailers gear up to pick up the pace and cater to the demand of speed from consumers, hitting the target with full accuracy goes hand in hand and nothing is more accurate than pure data.
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