Fast fashion brands have entered a period of major transformation. Operating high-end sub-brands, improving the quality of clothing, adopting environmentally friendly raw materials and production models, and improving design and fashion are all necessary strategies. Whether it can successfully transform into a fashionable and sustainable enterprise, time will tell.
Taipei, TAIWAN (Merxwire) – COS (Collection of style), the highest-level sub-brand of the well-known Swedish fast-fashion brand H&M, is famous for its simplicity and high quality. In late February, the recruitment information was posted on the official website and recruitment website, which aroused many discussions in the outside world. Fashion observers have speculated that COS is about to enter the Taiwan market. The general manager of Taipei 101 officially confirmed last week that COS will be stationed on the second floor of the shopping center this fall to establish Taiwan’s first large-scale specialty store. Brand lovers are looking forward to it, and people believe that there will be a big storm for Taiwan’s fast fashion industry.
The fast fashion trend began to rise in the late 2000s and is mainly characterized by low prices and fast style updates. Clothes are constantly updated in response to trends to meet consumers’ demands for innovation and change. At the same time, they can have more clothing that can be replaced and worn. Clothes have become like items that can be replaced at any time, with less emphasis on sustainability and value preservation. Brands often bring waves of fashion trends through the wear of celebrities or internet celebrities. According to a 2017 survey by London-based environmental charity Hubbub, 41% of young people aged 18 to 25 wear different clothes when they go out. A statistical survey in 2019 by Barnado also found that Britons spend £2.7bn on clothes they only wear once in the summer, which shows just how prevalent the fast fashion trend was at the time.
But in the past three years, the fast fashion industry has faced many difficult tests. The first is to offer lower prices so customers can easily buy, and they are exposed to low wages or poor production conditions. Then there is the most controversial issue of environmental pollution and waste of resources. The average annual production of polyester textiles emits about 706 million tons of greenhouse gases, and the manufacture of cotton clothing consumes hundreds of gallons of water, even if it is not completely used for the fast-fashion industry, but in terms of production intensity, they are to blame. Coupled with the type of quick update styles, the speed of consumers’ clothing replacement has been accelerated and the problem of unsold clothing being destroyed conflicts with the concept of green environmental protection and sustainable earth in recent years. Fast fashion brands began to adjust their business policies. In addition to promising to intervene to ensure that workers have a safer and more reasonable working environment, the use of environmentally friendly materials, reducing surplus inventory, and assisting in the recycling of second-hand clothing have all been listed as important business strategies by brands such as H&M and Zara.
People’s increased requirements for the texture, material, and design of clothing and accessories are also an important driving force for transformation. From the young generation to the white-collar class, there is a trend of pursuing high quality. According to a survey report by fashion agency Thredup, 54% of Gen Z who were born between 1995 and 2009 want to buy high-quality clothing. Therefore, in the fast fashion tradition, basic styles, cheap but ordinary materials, or styles without uniqueness can no longer meet their requirements for dressing.
The COVID-19 epidemic that began to spread in 2020 also catalyzed the pace of change in fast fashion. The performance of brick-and-mortar stores has declined rapidly, and various brands have begun to reduce the number of stores, integrate virtual and real, strengthen online shopping functions, and focus on major brands and high-end brands that conform to the trend of environmental protection and texture design. The parent group of Inditex, to which Zara belongs, has closed 1,200 stores around the world including Zara, Bershka, PulllandBear, and Massimo Dutti. H&M has also closed 170 stores around the world, and its brand Monki has also announced its withdrawal from the Chinese market. UNIQLO has made every effort to develop “epidemic wear”, including epidemic prevention sweatpants, T-shirts for home video conferences, and a “home office” series of products, so that performance can be stabilized during the epidemic.
This is also the main reason for the rise of H&M’s high-end brand COS. With the unique minimalist aesthetics and the pursuit of natural beauty style, the consumer group has expanded from the young generation to the middle-class group who care about texture and have the ability to afford mid-to-high-priced goods. Only launch new products in spring & summer and autumn & winter a year, tending to the business model of boutique brands while being environmentally friendly and fashionable, the timeless product design claims that it will not be out of fashion for ten years. It has become the first fast-fashion brand to stand on Milan Fashion Week and enhance the added value of the overall brand, and permeate the luxury fashion style. The store design continues the simple and elegant white, using geometric square wardrobes, ornaments, and steel hangers, and the clothing is placed according to the style, color, style, and size, which is clear and concise. The location of the store is adjacent to famous brand boutiques, to create a sophisticated and high-end image in the minds of customers. Sponsor various art activities, enhance the brand texture and aesthetics, and promote the purchase of better quality products to achieve longer-lasting companionship. At the same time, it also follows the corporate sustainability goal. It is expected to use 100% recycled and sustainable raw materials by 2030 and try to reverse the fast fashion image that was originally stereotyped.
In addition to the development of high-end brands, there have also been many changes in the use of clothing materials. To move towards a high-quality and environmentally friendly image, the main development direction is the use of high-grade and recyclable materials. Leading brands ZARA and H&M increase the use of high-end fabrics such as leather and wool, while COS uses mulberry silk and cashmere to enhance the quality and sense of luxury. At the same time, recyclable materials are gradually adopted. 20% of the raw materials in ZARA’s dress series this year are made of environmentally friendly polyester fibers. They try to extend the life of clothing and reverse the image of waste of resources. The two major brands have also set a target of all raw materials being sustainable, recyclable, or organic by 2025 and 2030 respectively.
Various brands also cooperate with designers of different styles to launch unique and recognizable joint products, hoping to increase the sense of design and attack the spring and summer clothing market. Such as Zara’s Studio series, this time with romantic and beautiful lace, showing high quality. From the Paul & Joe series, which is full of romantic girly hearts in spring, the JW Anderson series, which is a sea resort-style, to the Theory series, which is in cooperation with the New York fashion brand, UNIQLO focuses on simple and easy wearing. H&M and Indonesian artist “Martcellia Liunic” collaborated to launch a joint series of children’s clothing, combining colorful and environmentally friendly creative prints with sustainable material fabrics. In addition, it also collaborated with 100-year-old fashion designer “Iris Apfel” to launch a dream avant-garde Co-branded apparel and accessories.
In addition to the original Z-generation young people and white-collar workers, the brand positioning has also stepped into the new middle class and is committed to enhancing the brand’s sense of luxury. Clothing styles range from casual to formal to meet the needs of dressing at different times. They adjust materials, recycle second-hand clothes, change the frequency of purchase and production methods, and hope to be closer to green environmental protection. The design styles gradually escape popularization and show different types of design. Using technology to integrate virtual and real, online and offline simultaneous sales, and reducing inventory waste are the current policies of various brands Strategies. Although we can’t predict whether the transformation of fast fashion can reverse the predicament and create a lot of business opportunities. But we’re all optimistic about getting closer to sustainable businesses, improving the quality of products, and adding a sense of design.