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After several years of fast fashion dominating consumer trend headlines, the pendulum appears to be swinging back, away from constant, low cost purchases and toward a preference for fewer, higher quality, more expensive fashions. This shift results from several factors.

Article 8First, the Millennial consumers who made fast fashion so popular are getting a little older, meaning that they are entering the professional workforce, requiring a more sophisticated look than they might find at H&M or Zara. With their increased purchasing power, they appear willing to invest in higher quality, foundational clothing items that they can keep in their wardrobes for years.

Second, the drive to purchase inexpensive items constantly has led some shoppers to feel a sense of what we might call closet fatigue. Because they have so many items, their closets are constantly full, which makes it far more difficult to select an appropriate outfit to wear each morning. In addition, some consumers have expressed a sense of moral discomfort; one well-known fashion blogger explained a vast purge of her closets by noting simply, “No person needs as much stuff as I had.”

Third, another moral quandary has arisen with regard to the conditions in which retailers produce their clothing. International stories of irresponsible supply chains and terrible working conditions prompt some consumers to demand more information about how the clothing is produced. In many cases, such demands can only be met by more deliberate, transparent clothing brands. One observer compares this drive to the farm-to-table or slow food movement—a slow fashion movement that enables consumers to know exactly where and how their clothing has been produced.

Fourth, some consumers are rejecting the notion that they must follow every trend that emerges, which eliminates one of the advantages of fast fashion. Call this influence fashion fatigue: Keeping up with each new shift in hemlines or colors can be exhausting. In addition, as they become more confident in their styles, adult shoppers might realize that a particular style—skinny jeans, for example—will never look good on them, so they perceive no reason to purchase items in that style.

Yet these trends do not spell the end of fast fashion altogether. Fast fashion retailers still can get trendy clothing on their shelves more quickly than anybody else. Furthermore, because spending on clothing competes with spending in other categories, such as technology, in ways it might not have previously, many consumers continue to demand lower cost options. Finally, some fashionistas will always want the latest trends, whether they wear them exclusively or pair them with classic pieces that they have invested in as a foundation for their wardrobe.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How will shifts in consumers’ demand preferences affect assortment planning for apparel retailers?
  2. From a personal perspective, where do you stand on the wearability continuum from “fast fashion” to “lifetime investment”?


Source: Elizabeth Holmes, The Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2014