Topics: Supply chain management, Marketing, Fashion Pages: 14 (4764 words) Published: August 25, 2013
The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research Vol. 20, No. 1, February 2010, 165–173

Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry
Vertica Bhardwaj* and Ann Fairhurst
Retail and Consumer Sciences, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA (Received June 2009; final version received October 2009) The fashion apparel industry has significantly evolved, particularly over the last 20 years. The changing dynamics of the fashion industry have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality, and speed to market, key strategies to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly demanding market. This article reviews the literature on changes that have happened in the fashion apparel industry since the 1990s, highlighting the emergence of a concept of ‘throwaway’ or fast fashion. It describes fast fashion from a supplier as well as a consumer’s perspective, and draws attention to several potential research issues. Keywords: fast fashion; supplier; consumer; quick response; fashion season

The fashion apparel industry has significantly evolved, particularly over the last 20 years, when the boundaries of the industry started to expand (Djelic and Ainamo 1999). The changing dynamics of the fashion industry since then, such as the fading of mass production, increase in number of fashion seasons, and modified structural characteristics in the supply chain have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality, delivery and speed to market (Doyle, Moore, and Morgan 2006). In addition to speed to market and design, marketing and capital investment have also been identified as the driving forces of competitiveness in the fashion apparel industry (Sinha 2006). Franks (2000) suggested ‘sense and respond’ as the key strategy to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly dynamic and demanding market. A key defining characteristic of rapid responsiveness and greater flexibility, in this context, is to maintain closer relationships between suppliers and buyers (Wheelright and Clark 1992). Looking at the basic structure of the fashion industry until the late 1980s, traditionally fashion apparel retailers used their capability of forecasting consumer demand and fashion trends (known as ready-to-wear) long before the actual time of consumption in order to compete in the market (Guercini 2001). However, recent years have seen fashion retailers compete with others by ensuring speed to market with their ability to provide rapidly the fashion trends revealed by fashion shows and runways. According to Taplin (1999), such retailers could be credited with the adoption of ‘quick fashion’ that is an outcome of an unplanned process on the reduced time gap between designing and consumption on a seasonal basis.

*Corresponding author. Email:
ISSN 0959-3969 print/ISSN 1466-4402 online Ó 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09593960903498300


V. Bhardwaj and A. Fairhurst

Today’s fashion market is highly competitive and the constant need to ‘refresh’ product ranges means that there is an inevitable move by many retailers to extend the number of ‘seasons’, that is, the frequency with which the entire merchandise within a store is changed. With the emergence of small collections of merchandise, fashion retailers are encouraging consumers to visit their stores more frequently with the idea of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’. This indicates a shorter life cycle and higher profit margins from the sale of fast selling merchandise, skipping the markdown process altogether (Sydney 2008). In addition, desire to have variety and instant gratification with price mavenism is motivating consumers to prefer retailers such as Zara and H&M (National Post 2009). Several studies have examined various aspects of the buyer-supplier relationship with quick or fast fashion, such as the apparel design process relative to quick response (Forza and...

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