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Fast Fashion - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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"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 Designcouncil.org, fast fashion is "the trend for fashion retailers to buy their merchandise closer to the season, and respond to trends as they emerge. According to 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 trends 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.

Written by Regina January 2009

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