Why Your Favorite “Cheap” Stores Aren’t What They Used To Be…

Only a few short years ago, it would have been unheard of to walk into a store like Zara, Topshop, or Forever 21 — places we frequented to pick up last-minute pieces that were stylish, but also fit within our budget — and find an item of clothing that cost more than $100. But today, a quick scan through any of the above retailers' e-commerce sites will regularly lead to a selection of goods that cost upwards of $200 (and occasionally, $2,000).
It may seem odd that amidst the $20 T-shirts we tend to think of as impulse-buy fodder are items with prices that rival that of luxury labels. What's truly surprising, though, isn't their mere existence — but rather the fact that people are actually buying them.
Sure, it may be difficult to understand how fast-fashion retailers can actually compete with designer labels, but there is some truth to the fact that a pair of shoes from Zara (remember these mules, anyone?) has become just as covetable as ones from Prada — and not just because they're offering up more affordable replicas of runway styles. Rather, they've (whether we like it or not) continued to revolutionize the way we shop, learning along the way that being cheaper doesn't necessarily equate to retaining customers. In fact, after speaking with insiders at four of the world's largest retailers — Topshop, Zara, Forever 21, and H&M — we learned that it's actually the opposite.
Found yourself wondering why your favorite mass retailers now offer clothes that cost hundreds of dollars? Ahead, we take an in-depth look into fast-fashion's evolution towards higher prices to understand exactly why shopping has gotten so damn expensive.

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