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  • Anne Heaney, Director

Changing Consumer Trends Affects Fast Fashion Giants Zara and H&M


In recent months we’ve seen evidence that the seemingly unstoppable growth of fast fashion may be slowing, or at least changing.


It’s more than just conjecture that many of the mall’s stalwart brands have suffered at the hands of fast-fashion giants H&M and Zara. Now, in an unprecedented move, H&M, the world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer behind Inditex’s Zara, announced the closure of 160 stores.


The fashion giant was hit hard in mid-2018, after accumulating more than $4 billion in unsold inventory, forcing significant discounting to clear out the goods. The effect of this resulted in unexpected reductions in profits for the sixth straight quarter.


An annoyance for the two fast giants is the emergence of a whole new breed of online-centric players beginning to beat both H&M and Zara at their own game. These upstarts include brands like ASOS, Boohoo and Misguided in the U.K., who are building followings by cutting down supply chains to bring out offerings in as little as a week.


Another major disruptor, Fashion Nova, is supercharging its digital-first brand utilizing a social strategy, powered by Instagram. It has managed to build to more than 14 million social media followers, and in 2017, Fashion Nova became one of the most Googled brands in the world. The company has been able to introduce anywhere between 600 and 900 new pieces per week.


At the same time there is growing evidence of pushback by both Millennials and Gen Z, as awareness of the massive ecological damage that this throw-away fashion mindset is having on the planet increases. More and more environmental and consumer groups are impacting attitudes, raising awareness and altering purchasing patterns.


Not surprisingly, the other influence that is causing fatigue is the internet itself. As more and more of the star social media influencers are identified as "just normal folks," they are impacting the nature and trajectory of what’s cool. Trends appears to be changing from a top-down fashion evolution, to a bottom-up percolation, driven by social media and personal expression.


Other cultural influencers like Marie Kondo are teaching us to "love our stuff" and begin to look at what we have with new eyes. Combine that with a strong movement away from conspicuous consumption toward seeking out and enjoying experiences and you have the makings of a change wave.


Contrary to the forces behind fast fashion, there is evidence of movement by consumers of all ages and demographics toward investing in fewer, but higher-quality basics that can be mixed, matched and re-worn, even with the addition of some great vintage accessories.


There is indeed reason to believe that significant changes are underway—away from what’s trending and toward what’s stylish.

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