"Fast fashion" is a term that refers to affordable
basics and disposable trends. It has also been used as a term to
describe clothing collections which are based on the most recent fashion
trends. According to a definition listed on
fast fashion is "the trend for fashion retailers to buy their
merchandise closer to the season, and respond to trends as they emerge.
Accessmylibrary.com "fast fashion" became a buzzword in UK
clothing retail between 1997 and 1998—a period during which the dominant
high street player Marks & Spencer began to flounder as the gray
collection (the fashionable color at the time) did not resonate with
consumers. The same period saw the UK debuts of the vertically
integrated Spanish retail chains Mango and Zara.
What set these chains apart from the others was
their flexibility and speed in turnaround from design to product and
onto shop floor (Zara claims to have pared this time down to 15 days for
some of its collections). The traditional model was firmly season-based
with buying for spring finalized in August/September of the previous
year, but these chains would stagger the buying process leaving a
significant (typically 20-30) percentage of the budget to be allocated
to reacting to current trends during the season.
This carried the obvious benefit of being able
to alter the thrust of a store's merchandise if, as in the case of the
Marks & Spencer's gray collections, it appeared to be striking the wrong
chord with consumers. Therefore, retailers such as Mango and Zara were
updating collections throughout the year, and were able to react to new
in fashion and pop culture through complete control of their supply
chain—from design concepts through to putting the
clothes on the racks.
Logistics are also key to the fast fashion
process. For example, at press time, Mango operated a high-tech
warehouse system that can sort and pack 12,000 folded items and up to
7,000 hanging garments an hour, which are ready for shipping to stores.
Shops can be replenished in less than 72 hours in Europe and lead times
for new production can be as little as four weeks.