These Faster-Fashion Brands Plan To Beat Zara At Its Own Game

Photo: Courtesy of Missguided.
From Topshop to Zara to Forever 21, the top fast-fashion brands share several universal qualities: They’re affordable, they're everywhere, and, thanks to a constantly-changing stock of clothes, the collections always feel fresh. Over the years, these retail giants have nearly perfected the art of selling instant gratification to the masses. But, now a whole new crop of online-only brands is taking this strategy to an even faster (and cheaper) level.

Dubbed the "second generation" of fast fashion, labels such as Missguided and Boohoo have built their businesses on the idea that speed trumps all. As Nitin Passi, the founder and chief executive of U.K. brand Missguided, told The Guardian, “I like to say we’re the quickest. If [the high-street retailers] are fast fashion, we’re rapid fashion.” Rather than pioneering trends, these labels fight to be the first to copy them. “We update our site once a day with new stock, but in my eyes, we should be updating it every hour. If a trend comes, we need to have it on our site in under a week.” Whereas retailers like Zara take cues from the runway, this new wave of stores focuses mainly on celebrity fads. They're able to design, manufacture, and start selling a celebrity-inspired outfit in just a few days — something that even Forever 21 can't quite do yet.

Their secret? Working in close proximity to the factories that manufacture their clothes. The Guardian reports that over half of Missguided and Boohoo's stock is made in the U.K. (usually in nearby Leicester), which allows these brands to produce small quantities of clothing at first, then arrange for larger orders later if an item takes off. Unlike Zara (whose clothing is mostly manufactured in Spain or Portugal) or Forever21 (which owns factories all over the world, including L.A., India, and China), the brands keep manufacturing close to home to expedite turnaround. The fact that Boohoo and Missguided are online-only allows them to replenish their stock almost immediately, without having to wait for clothing to be delivered to stores. Not to mention that making clothes locally means brands technically need to adhere to the oftentimes more ethical labor regulations of the developed nations they're selling in. 

It remains to be seen if this new shortcut to faster fashion will inspire the current top tier of retailers to change their production practices. At the breakneck speed fast fashion is going, we only hope our closets can keep up. (The Guardian)
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