The high-stress world of fast fashion was laid bare last week in the first episode of a six-part BBC Three documentary on womenswear etailer In The Style.
It showed the intense pressure fast fashion players put themselves under to turn around product from design to launch within a few short weeks, to stay ahead of the competition.
In The Style’s team was filmed scrabbling to get samples in time for a shoot ahead of launching a new collection with influencer Lorna Luxe. They pulled it off despite the “impossible deadlines”, and the pay-off was £64,000 of sales in the first hour of the collection’s launch.
The documentary underlines just how fierce competition is in the fast fashion market. There is huge demand to secure the ideal influencer, land the latest trends quickly, and keep prices low. It is a dog-eat-dog world.
And yet, there is another school of thinking emerging in fashion. Increasingly, I hear retailers speak of the need to park their competitive instinct, and share ideas and resources. This is being driven in large part by the sustainability agenda, but is also a response to the cost pressures facing the industry.
At a roundtable hosted by logistics firm Clipper last week, it was pointed out that retailers often use the same suppliers and the same freight forwarders as their direct competitors. If they shared these resources, they could reduce costs and waste. It is a subject we will be exploring more with Clipper at the Drapers Fashion Forum on 10 October.
This would in effect be a return to the “lean thinking” business methodology that became popular in the 1990s. Lean thinking encouraged companies identify and minimise inefficiencies in the supply chain, such as over-production and wasted journeys, to simplify their operations with the ultimate goal of improving the customer experience.
To an extent, this is what is behind the rise of the marketplace in fashion, which is both driving sales at Next and forms part of the strategy for growth at Oasis and Warehouse Group. Marketplaces tap into the sharing economy and give the customer more choice, while creating economies of scale in the back-end.
Cut-throat competition for consumer spend is certain to continue, but taking a longer-term view that favours fresh thinking and collaboration would benefit all concerned.
Meet the game changers
The Drapers Fashion Forum invites industry leaders to explore the world of the consumer on 10 October at County Hall, offering a platform to reflect on and address today’s challenges, and examine the opportunities that will help take their business forward into the future.