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The fashion among most people has lost its magic

This is the second and last post about manufacture cost in fashion and how the prices on fashion have decreased last 100 years because of cost minimization in the bottom of the pyramid, particular poor cotton farmers, and low-cost production places. The high turnover has led to poorer quality and the life cycle of a garment both new and second-hand clothing has declined steadily since the 1950s.  The demand for fast fashion has increased market value, a business such as Inditex group with eight store formats whereof Zara is the most well-known has more than 6000 stores and 120.000 employees. Their strategy is a rapid turnaround and adjusts to changing market demands, nevertheless, does not mention the low price in their business concepts. Another large company is H&M with their 2900 stores and aggressive growth strategy opened 325 new stores (2012) last year, according to their growth strategy an estimated number of stores by 2020 will be almost 6000. H&M is also one of the companies promoting heavily their green. Recommended post; H&M are playing tricks with their figures in the sustainability reports.

Nevertheless, H&M sustainability reports highlight neither their aggressive growth strategy nor any other fact that might be in conflict with their wishes to be regarded by media and consumers as a green and responsible company as fast fashion.  I admire H&M for their business success, but I will never consider the company as a green and responsible unless they move away from a fast fashion business strategy. A difficult task, H&M  is successful and as a public company, the real decision makers are their investors, and they would hardly change a winning team.

How can a fashion brand with a fast fashion strategy claim to be a responsible company?

Fast fashion, has changed the way we look, wear and buy clothes, hardly any consumers purchase because of quality, durability, protection or weather conditions; they wear it for acceptance and successful living. Wearing the same outfit and clothes more than a few times has become a symbol of those down and out.  In a TV show, a few nights ago a celebrity was asked about her always a fresh style whereof she replied that one of the most important things was never to be seen in media with the alike out outfit twice as it gave a signal to fans and journalist whom she was not hot anymore. Her statement has a tremendous impact on teenagers, in particular, young girls.

Is it possible to make a fundamental change in business strategy and at the same time be a profitable company? Fast fashion has over the years led to a decline in garment lifespan; less good quality, the unacceptable working condition in low-cost locations.  Whereof the increased demand from companies to produce effective, faster and fewer costly force factory owners and government’s willing sacrifice risks health, safety standards and environmental protection. The result of this insane race to the bottom of the pyramid is tragic; Bangladesh death toll last year, cotton worker’s sad suicide rate, local pollution, the dead and dry river only touched the surface. Are these country’s government, politicians or people to blame or do they, in reality, have the possibility to say no?  A country depended on international textile production in Bangladesh, approximately 70% of GDP comes from clothing; vulnerable and unfortunately depended makes them willing to accept global brands increasingly demand lower prices, faster delivery, etc. These brands are not known for loyalty and always look at an opportunity for low cost, leaving behind economic chaos and environmental damage


Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans

Are fashions next steps to be sold in supermarkets?

Historically, a household spent  14% percent on apparel in 1900, in 1950 it decreased to 12% percent and more than 50 years later in 2003, a household used only 4% percent of their income on apparel. Fashion is one of the few industries where prices have led to lower average spending on a household’s total income. Since the 1950s,  the consumer price index shows that spending on clothes and footwear has declined steadily. For example, the relative price of clothing fell by some 60 percent between 1975 and 1999. Spending on ‘basic’ goods such as food, fuel, and clothing has declined from more than 40 percent of total non-housing expenditure to less than 27 percent, with food exhibiting the largest overall fall.

People by contrast spending more on services than ever. In addition, the digital revolution led to many different consumer’s electronic devices as mobile, I –pads, laptops, Internet subscription. Modern electronics and especially mobile phones have become fashion objects and expression for taste and style. They are influencing the “what’s hot” factors and replaced the fashion role of cool. Low price garments, production has to meet several criteria; short production time, easy to manufacture, low SKU, minimize the cost of fabrics and other elements making large-scale production as cheap as possible. These criteria’s have led to a very homogeneous style of fashion, which is easy to spot among most high street brands.

Experienced or perceived quality?

Low price product is often seen by the consumer as poor quality, over time this has changed our perception of quality, and we accept to a higher degree bad quality and therefore, the word erodes and loses the meaning.  Most people can afford to buy clothes today; it does no longer differentiate status or class. Low price combined with fast production has taken the originality out fashion, the endless garment being copied, big fashion brands buy trend reports from the same research agencies. Scared to make mistakes, designers are bound to a rigid set of criteria’s (low price, limited fabrics, color story, sales targets, and trend analysis) and short deadlines. Therefore, to guess what comes next in style is easy, consumers do hardly need to make any decisions. The magic has been taken out of fashion. Compare today’s fashion with the 1960’s or 70’s and see the difference. Recommended posts on fashion and youth culture from the 1970s: Fashion lookbooks and youth culture from the most exciting decade of last century  To turn and rebuild the meaning of quality, is difficult and can only be done over a long-period  therefor, I believe a good thing is to start by increase manufacture cost for many reasons, there are of course many other actions needed to create a successful sustainable fashion future.


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Source and Useful Information (Click and Open)

The Textile Market

  • The world clothing and textile industry – encompassing clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods – reached almost $2,560 trillion in 2010, according to MarketLine.
  • The apparel, luxury goods and accessories portion of the market, which accounts for over 55% of the overall market, expected to generate $3,180 billion in 2015, with a yearly growth rate in excess of 4%.
  • Inditex, Zara company website
  • H&M facts
  • The blog freedom lightbulb – documentary movie Lightbulb Conspiracy Documentary by Cosima Dannoritzer

Check out the new Dictionary with More than 1000 illustrated terms on Eco Fashion Design
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