Can fast fashion compete with entry-level luxury brands? – WWD

MILAN – When the TikTok account @trendswithtate posted a video commenting on a Massimo Dutti shearling coat that cost $2,000 on the brand’s website, the comments and likes soared, reaching nearly 50,000 interactions.

“I honestly never expected my video to blow up,” Tate Morrison, the creator of the account, told WWD. Commentators on the video were either pointing out that they would never buy a coat that costs this much from a fast fashion brand, or praising Massimo Dutti for his bold move.

Massimo Dutti's coat - screenshot taken from their official website

Massimo Dutti’s coat – screenshot taken from their official website.

Image courtesy

The gap between ultra-fast fashion and fast fashion has become more apparent than ever, and as brands like Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti and &Other Stories look to elevate their image, they’re raising prices too.

The term “ultra-fast fashion” was first used during the pandemic and describes brands such as Chinese online retailer Shein, which are producing huge quantities of clothing in a short amount of time. Every day, Shein introduces nearly 6,000 designs to the website, and it can take just three days for the company to plan, produce and market one piece of clothing, according to a report by McKinsey & Co..

But while ultra-fast fashion retailers are selling items that cost as little as $10, some more “traditional” fast fashion brands are attempting to move upmarket, repositioning themselves as more expensive.

Andrea Batilla, author of the books “Instant Fashion” and “The Fashion’s Alphabet”, former dean of the European Institute of Design and brand consultant, she said “I’m like the most beautiful girl with the worst reputation. Everyone wants them but we know they can be toxic, so they’re trying to clean up their image.”

Recently, Zara presented an Atelier collection shot by renowned fashion photographer Paolo Roversi with the aim of celebrating “high-end design and exquisite craftsmanship”. The items, mainly coats and dresses, were priced around $400.

“These fast fashion companies are able to position themselves above ultra fast fashion brands,” Batilla said.

According to Cécilia Moussy, a Paris-based fashion trend forecaster and consultant for luxury brands who previously worked at Tagwalk, the fashion search engine that gathers information on runway shows, designers, trends and new talent, “price alone it can no longer justify the high-end character of a clothing brand, and it is not the only indicator to define what a premium product should be”.

Indeed, customers, especially Gen Z, are acutely aware of the harms of fast fashion and have high expectations of transparency.

“The more these brands respect the prices of premium brands, the more consumers will expect transparency in materials and fabrics, true craftsmanship and an added value that will allow those brands to distinguish themselves from other competitors,” said Moussy.

Case in point: Morrison noted that while he does succumb to the convenience of fast fashion every now and then, he prefers to spend more on items that have “a certain sense of exclusivity, as well as guaranteed high-quality craftsmanship.”

In September, Swedish clothing brand COS debuted its first New York Fashion Week see now, buy now show in front of an audience that included Anderson .Paak, Angus Cloud and Emily Ratajkowski with a cast of supermodels including Paloma Elsesser. During the show, the retailer launched eveningwear, with dresses and accessories priced at around £200.

Showing during fashion week is a way for fast fashion brands “to build brand identity,” said Batilla. “Unlike other players, COS has a strong brand identity.”

Cos RTW Fall 2022 Collection

A look from the Cos Fall 2022 collection.

George Chinsee/WWD

Today, high-end retailers seek the relevance and proximity to customers enjoyed by high-end brands. To get there, brands are not only raising prices but also working towards more sustainable practices.

Last month Zara said it was entering the resale market with the aim of helping customers repair, resell or recycle their clothes. During the pandemic, the second-hand market reached its peak, as people started shopping more consciously and loving what they already owned. According to Boston Consulting Group, in 2022 the estimated value of the market is between $100 billion and $120 billion worldwide.

Zara's second-hand repair shop sustainability program.

Zara’s “Used” program.

Courtesy Zara

Morrison said he has recently “spent more time and energy trying to find secondhand pieces from thrift or vintage stores.”

These types of new services could help fast-fashion brands “acquire a more prestigious image,” Moussy said. And going forward, companies could “eventually split their offering into two ranges: a mass-market first range, accessible for its reasonable price points, and a second, more upmarket range with the promise of higher value clothing,” he noted. Mousse.

The line is thin between a strategic marketing move and a shift to truly elevate the brand as one more aware of sustainable and social practices. But some fast fashion brands are moving forward with greener manufacturing, eco-conscious lines and supply chain transparency.

Zara, for example, has said that by 2025 all of its linen and polyester fabrics will be sustainable, and by 2030 H&M has said it will recycle all of its products. Mango aims to use 100% sustainable cotton and 50% recycled polyester in its collections by 2025.

“The example of Massimo Dutti’s coat is perfect for understanding how it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad,” said Batilla. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about it.”

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