If you’ve ever wondered when fashion trends began moving at a dizzying speed, it was the 1960s, as young people embraced cheaply made clothing to follow these new trends and reject the sartorial traditions of older generations. Soon, fashion brands had to find ways to keep up with this increasing demand for affordable clothing, leading to massive textile mills opening across the developing world, which allowed the U.S. and European companies to save millions of dollars by outsourcing their labor.
The fashion apparel industry has significantly evolved, particularly over the last 20 years. The changing dynamics of the fashion industry have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality, and speed to market, key strategies to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly demanding market. Fast fashion refers to cheap, trendy, popular clothing chains which rapidly change their inventory and styles. These trends change incredibly fast, often causing new styles and trends to become obsolete in a matter of weeks.
The fast pace of product changing causes problems with the environment, labor laws, and costumer over-consumption and ignorance of the effects of their shopping habits. Fast Fashion gathered pace from the end of the 1990’s when brands began to look for new ways to increase profits. Globalization had grown rapidly in the 80’s and 90’s – paving the way for value and mid-price brands to shift the bulk of their production to the developing world where labor and overheads cost are a fraction of those in Europe. High street brands were coming under increasing pressure from supermarket chains developing their own lines of low cost clothing. Initially they sold items like simple T shirts and underwear, however the move of George Davies from Next to Asda signaled a new era for supermarket clothing and a move into high fashion, low cost items.
Fast fashion is hard to resist. Low-cost retailers have transformed the way that we shop, enabling customers to keep up with runway trends without breaking the bank. But as quickly-changing trends and low prices become the norm, we are consuming and discarding more than ever before. Americans buy five times more clothing than they did in 1980, and are tossing them out just as quickly. It is this rampant consumerism that drives Forever 21 to stock 529 new products each week and H&M to open more than one store a day on average. H&M for example, is leading the fast fashion charge around the world. On track to open 400 new stores per year, the major growth markets for H&M are currently China and the U.S.