After the global financial recession, the fashion and apparel industry has been facing a number of challenges. To remain profitable in an environment of keen global competition and increasing material and operational costs, shortening production lead time has become a new source of competitive advantage.

Fast Fashion Business Model

In recent years, the retail fashion industry has witnessed a revolution, with companies applying a quick response strategy known as “fast fashion”. Fast fashion refers to fresh fashions, shorter life cycles and faster and inexpensive production. The concept mainly serves the market segments of teenage and young adult women who want to buy trendy clothing at a relatively low price.

Fast Fashion Success Explained

Under strong global competition, various actors have supported the emergence and success of fast fashion. Most fast fashion retailers place their manufacturing locations close to the market so as to achieve speedy response to customer needs. It is essential to develop a rapid and accurate information communication system to transfer and share data within the supply chain. Lean manufacturing helps supply chain members to focus on eliminating waste which allows for shorter lead times and smaller lot sizes. An efficient distribution system is also crucial in order to have quick product delivery. The goal of fast fashion is to increase sales and gain competitive advantage by increasing the variety and turnover of products.

Fast fashion retailers need be able to anticipate new fashion trends and to identify potentially popular merchandise designs. Their stores usually stock limited quantities of merchandise, creating an exciting environment which can boost consumers’ impulse purchasing.

A Closer Look at the Supply Chains

Fast fashion retailers must rely on a quick and responsive supply chain. Some major players in the market, such as Zara, H&M, Mango, Forever 21, Gap etc., manage to fulfil customer demands by adopting quick response strategies at an affordable price. These companies have developed flexible supply chains that help them design, produce samples and start shipping products within a few weeks instead of months. The samples are manufactured in a day, small orders for market testing can be produced within a week, and products are usually tested in a single store. Demand for each design is recorded so that hot selling items can be rapidly supplied in larger quantities and production of low demand items can be terminated.

Facing the Future Challenges of the Fashion Industry

Currently, the fashion world is experiencing a number of challenges including:

  • Instances of unethical manufacturing to reduce production costs
  • The rising importance consumers place on quality and safety
  • Disposal of unworn clothes increasing the amount of textile waste in landfills
  • The constant manufacturing of new clothing contributing to global warming through high energy consumption and green house gas emissions

Fast-paced fashion can help tackle some of these challenges. Retailers can reduce environmental pollution during production, use fair labor and can ensure high product safety and quality. Customers should be encouraged to opt for sustainable fashion and improve their post-purchase behavior by reducing garment consumption and reusing and recycling unwanted clothes.

Sustainable fashion can only be achieved through the contribution of all parties along the fashion supply chain. Are you ready to face the challenges?

Find out more about SGS Solutions for Sustainable Fashion:

Karen E. Kyllo
t: +1 973 461 7934
f: +1 973 7 7175

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.