Whose Winning in Fast Fashion? Zara vs. Forever 21 vs. H&M

By Emily Wicks - Ward Melville

What is "fast fashion"? Its a trend that is putting the traditional fashion industry on its head. The term is used to describe cheap and affordable clothes - designs that go from the runway and onto store shelves at a historically fast pace. Who are the winners in this new space and what does it mean for you? Read on! 

H&M, Forever21, and Zara...

Present day fast fashion examples. These are the main players in this relatively new industry and the some of the most well run corporations in the world. So what makes them so successful?

H&M’s Edge: Celebrity Lines

H&M is easily one of the leading fast fashion companies as it has found a way to legally incorporate designer lines into this cost efficient business.  It’s main marketing strategy is to partner with high fashion designers and have them design a limited collection - for example the upcoming line with Balmain. It partners with top celebrities to then promote these exclusive collections - check out Kiley Jenner below showcasing the new designs:

The difference between this fast fashion company and most is the normal clothing stock and styles. H&M does not replenish its shelves with new things as often as others in this industry do, making stores less attractive to some people looking for the newest, best thing.  This could prove to be a potential downfall if other companies continue to introduce new designs each day.

Forever 21: Speed, Price, and Forever Changing

Forever 21 does not employ designers, they employ merchandise consultants. These consultants are hired to copy runway designs and produce them immediately - it takes only a few weeks to bring something from a merchandise consultant’s desk to a store. This quick production and distribution allows for stores to always be stocked with new and trendy things. Case in point:

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There is also a no exchange or return policy that is intended to prevent Forever 21 from losing money on possible returns. This family run business has yet to become public and is still run by founder Don Won Chang.

Zara: Number One For a Reason

Zara prides itself on its team of designers. These designers work to assess customer preference and demands weekly.  Zara uses a strategy called Vertical Integration, which means the company owns the whole process from the stores to the factories and is in charge of each step of the way. This control allows for quick adaptability and continuous flow of products.  

What’s the Cost?

Of course there are side effects to the fast fashion business - poor labor conditions are at the top of the list. But consumers are showing with their wallets that they prefer the perfect combination of stylish and cost effective clothing.

So who do you think is doing it best? H&M, Forever 21, or Zara? And more importantly, are these low prices worth it?