Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing collections which are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and the fall of every year. These trends are designed and manufactured quickly, and in an affordable way, to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at a lower price. This philosophy of quick manufacturing at an affordable price is used in large retailers such as H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and Primark. Recently however, these retailers have been in pending lawsuits over violations of Intellectual Property rights. The alleged violations are brought on as pieces of merchandise at the large retailers are considered to be knockoffs of designs from Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui and Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers line and many other well-known designers.
Fast Fashion and Category Management The primary objective of the fast fashion is to quickly produce a product in a cost efficient manner. This efficiency is achieved through the retailers understanding of the target market's wants, which is a high fashion looking garment at a price at the lower end of the clothing sector. Primarily, the concept of category management has been used to align the retail buyer and the manufacturer in a more collaborative relationship. Category management is defined as "the strategic management of product groups through trade partnerships, which aims to maximize sales and profits by satisfying customer needs". This collaboration occurs as many companies resources are pooled to increase the market's total profit. The fast fashion market utilizes this by uniting with foreign manufacturers to keep prices at a minimum.
The Quick Response Method The concept of Quick Response (QR) is used to create new, fresh products while also drawing consumers back to the retail experience for consecutive visits. Quick response also makes it possible for new technologies to increase production and efficiency. The Spanish mega chain Zara has become the global model for how to decrease the time between design and production. This production short cut enables Zara to manufacture over 30,000 units of product every year to nearly 20,000 stores in 58 countries. New items are delivered twice a week to the stores, reducing the time between initial sale and replenishment. As a result, the shortened time period improves consumer's garment choices and product availability since, in Zara's case, a new mini-collection is released every two months. New technologies are constantly being pioneered to accelerate quick response. Recently, the continuous inkjet printing process was introduced from the combined effort of Dutch printing company Osiris, and the French inkjet specialist Imaje. The process uses image editing software to convert screen printing into continuous digital printing. The digital printing continuously recirculates the unused ink back into the system instead of the stop start method used by the traditional screen printing method. As a result, the recirculation results in a reduction of preparation time and a reduction in ink costs because of fewer waste products.
Element of Fast Fashion Marketing
Marketing is another key element in the production of fast fashion. Two approaches are currently being used by companies as market strategies; the difference is the amount of financial capital spent on advertisements. While some companies invest in advertising, fast fashion mega firm Primark operates with no advertising. Primark instead invests in store layout, shopfit and visual merchandising to create an instant hook. The instant hook creates an enjoyable shopping experience, resulting in the continuous return of customers. Research shows that seventy five percent of consumer's decisions are made in front of the fixture within three seconds. The alternative spending of Primark also "allows the retailer to pass the benefits of a cost saving back to the consumer and maintain the company's price structure of producing garments at a lower cost".
Fast Fashion's "Supermarket" Market
The consumer in the fast fashion market thrives on constant change and the frequent availability of new products. Fast fashion is considered to be a "supermarket" segment within the larger sense of the fashion market. This term refers to fast fashion's nature to "race to make apparel an even smarter and quicker cash generator". Three crucial factors exist within fast fashion consumption: market timing, cost, and the buying cycle. Timing's objective is to create the shortest production time possible. The quick turnover has increased the demand for the number of seasons presented in the stores. This demand also increases shipping and restocking time periods. Cost is still the consumer's primary buying decision. Costs are largely reduced by taking advantage of lower prices in markets in developing countries. In 2004 developing countries accounted for nearly seventy five percent of all clothing exports and the removal of several import quotas has allowed companies to take advantage of the even lower cost of resources. The buying cycle is the final factor that affects the consumer. Traditionally, fashion buying cycles are based around long term forecasts that occur one year to six months before the season. Yet, in the fast fashion market the quick response philosophy can result in higher forecast accuracy because the time period is significantly shortened. A higher sell-through for the goods produced is also a result of the shortened production period.
Supply Chain, Vendor Relationships and Internal Relationships
Efficient supply chains are a crucial element within fast fashion. The selection of a merchandising vendor is a key part in the process. Inefficiency primarily occurs when suppliers can't respond quickly enough, and clothing ends up bottlenecked and in back stock. Two kinds of supply chains exist, agile and lean. In an agile supply chain the principle characteristics include the sharing of information and technology. The collaboration results in the reduction in the amount of stock in the megastores. A lean supply chain is characterized as the correct appropriation of the commodity for the product. The combination of the two supply chains is called "leagile".
The companies in the fast fashion market also utilize a range of relationships with the suppliers. The product is first classified as "core" or "fashion". Suppliers close to the market are used for products that are produced in the middle of a season, meaning trendy, "fashion" items. In comparison, long-distance suppliers are utilized for cheap, "core" items that are used in collections every season and have a stable forecast.
Productive internal relationships within the fast fashion companies are as important as the company's relationships with external suppliers, especially when it comes to the company's buyers. Traditionally with a "supermarket" market the buying is divided into multi-functional departments. The buying team uses the bottom-up approach when trend information is involved, meaning the information is only shared with the company's fifteen top suppliers. On the other hand, information about future aims, and strategies of production are shared downward within the buyer hierarchy so the team can consider lower cost production options. The buyers also interact closely with merchandising and design departments of the company because of the buyer's focus on style and color. The buyer must also consult with the overall design team to understand the cohesion between trend forecasting and consumer's wants. The close relationships result in flexibility within the company and an accelerated response speed to the demands of the market.
Design Lawsuits and Legislation
Forever 21 Faces Lawsuits
Fast fashion giant Forever 21 has had at least twenty lawsuits alleging Intellectual Property rights as of January 2006. Intellectual Property (IP) is associated with many copyright laws. The permits to Intellectual Property are bought and sold as licensing, which in turn protect the owner, inventors, creators, and/ or designers. Copyrights are enduring forms of Intellectual Property, and are the "economic rights to the creator" of the product. Lawsuits have included conflicts with Diane von Furstenberg, Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers line, Anna Sui, Bebe and Anthropologie. Forever 21 has not commented on the state of the litigation but initially said it was "taking steps to organize itself to prevent intellectual property violations". Forever 21 does not employ its own fabric design team, instead the company purchases textiles from the designs of outside manufacturers. Consequently, the majority of the lawsuits files involve copyright infringement of fabric prints.
Learn about Fashion Copyrights.
H.R. 5055: Design Piracy Prohibition Act
H.R. 5055, or Design Piracy Prohibition Act, is a bill proposed to protect the copyright of fashion designers in the United States. The bill was introduced into the United States House of Representatives on March 30, 2006. Under the bill designers would submit fashion sketches and/or photos to the U.S. Copyright Office within three months of the products "publication". This publication includes everything from magazine advertisements to the garment's first public runway appearances. The bill as a result, would protect the designs for three years after the initial publication. If infringement of copyright was to occur the infringer would be fined $250,000, or $5 per copy, whichever is a larger lump sum. The bill was suspended after the House of Representatives session concluded in 2006, this resulted in H.R. 5055 being cleared from the agenda.
The Design Piracy Prohibition Act was reintroduced as H.R. 2033 during the first session of the 110th Congress on April 25, 2007. It had goals similar to H.R. 5055, as the bill proposed to protect certain types of apparel design through copyright protection of fashion design. The bill would grant fashion designs a three-year term of protection, based on registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. The fines of copyright infringement would continue to by $250,000 total or $5 per copied merchandise.
Learn about another era in fashion:
Designer Definition (from U.S Department of Labor)