In recent years another “zeitgeist-y” fashion term has emerged and found its way into our everyday vocab – fast fashion. Much like its better known relative, fast food, fast fashion brings connotations of something that is quick, cheap and dangerously delicious.
As a business model, fast fashion aims to “minimize the time between when a new item appears on the runway and when it becomes available to consumers” (Forbes.com)
With e-commerce growing at a faster rate than ever and designer collabs steadily bridging the gap between high and low fashion; trends are starting to hit the streets (and internet) quicker than you can say “Balmain”.
From its conception, fast fashion’s intent was to bridge the gap between the runway and the consumer and make what is considered fashionable, wearable. Yes, designers do release ready-to-wear and cruise collections made for people to actually purchase and wear, but for the everyday woman (and man), an embellished Alexander McQueen dress that could set you back two month’s rent is just not a realistic fashion choice. Unless of course, you’re Carrie Bradshaw and spend all your hard-earned cash on Manolos, leaving you face to face with the reality of becoming “the old woman who lived in her shoes”…
For “normal” people with even a slight interest in fashion, the high street is the quickest, easiest and most affordable place to shop for fashion. And this is where the fast fashion purveyors have so brilliantly placed their affordable fashion empires – slap bang in the middle of the shopping centres, streets, internet, and most importantly – right in our insatiable appetite for “the latest thing”. If the majority of your monthly pay cheque is spent on bills, bills and more bills, chances are you are going to retreat to the nearest high street chain store or your laptop rather than some upscale showroom to get your white T-shirts and skinny jeans. That isn’t to say that most people skimp on quality or price when shopping, but that somehow these shops with their fluorescent signs and pop music manage to lure us in and make our tendency towards convenience bigger and bigger.
In the last decade or so, these high street purveyors have come up with a brilliant way of bridging the gap between runway and fast fashion. In 2004 Swedish fashion giant H&M launched their first designer collaboration with none other than Karl Lagerfeld – and fashion lovers from all over the world fell head over heels (literally)! By offering clothes and accessories that wouldn’t otherwise have been readily affordable and available for the ordinary consumer, H&M filled a gap in the market that people didn’t know they needed. From Lagerfeld to Isabel Marant and Alexander Wang, H&M made sure that each year came with a different designer that catered to different tastes and customers. News spread, and these now famous collabs have grown to become the fashion highlight of the year. Fashion fans camp outside of their local H&M, queuing from the break of dawn, or frantically refresh the webpage at home in the hopes of getting through to fight tooth and nail in order to snatch up even the tiniest designer piece.
This year’s collab was one for the record books and saw the prestigious French fashion empire Balmain, (with Olivier Rousteing at its head), create an outstanding collection. Despite its slightly elevated price range, the collection was critically acclaimed for being true to the essence of Balmain, whilst aptly adapting it to the “everyday” H&M customer.
Olivier Rousteing also received his fair share of praise, and criticism, for his use of It-models (and friends) such as Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid in the campaigns leading up to the launch. Regardless of his ethical reasons, the marketing obviously worked wonders and a sparkly, long-limbed Kendall could be seen on billboards and advertisements worldwide.
And do you recall the enthralling commercial with Kendall and her Balmain buddies dancing on a futuristic subway? Take a look at when our very own editorial team recreated the scene on the Munich U-Bahn (Germany’s equivalent to the subway!).
“All” it took was some double-sided sticky tape (check out the neckline on that green Kendall dress), some steady posing on a moving train and some brilliant editing skills. But, as was their intent, the Stylight team proved that the Balmain H&M pieces are in fact wearable (albeit ridiculously heavy), poseable and oh so beautiful to photograph!
But just how are these fast fashion giants able to grow thanks to us consumers? Less than a decade ago, most of us still shopped in stores and physically browsed through the limited fashion choices offered by our respective local shops, malls and outlets. No one thought about online shopping, and buying clothes from a mail order catalogue was still the done thing. Whether it’s through designer ready-to-wear collections or their fast fashion equivalent, fashion and inspiration have now become seemingly immediate and infinite. Technology has brought fashion into the comfort of our own homes, and a never-ending selection of fashion items are available for purchase via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Take Topshop, for example, a fast fashion high street purveyor who not only is bridging the gap by hosting their own (incredibly popular) runway show – they also use tech to further improve their customer’s experience. Each year, the British label collaborate with a social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) that enables their customers to integrate the runway show into their shopping experience by features such as image sharing and browsing by “colour DNA”.
Thanks to the array of modern technology, it takes you less than a couple of minutes to imagine yourself wearing that new, lustworthy designer bag you saw on the runway or in Vogue; or, if it is more to you and your wallet’s taste, the fast fashion version of it. The truth is, the choice is now so wide and varied that e-tailers genuinely have the power to determine what the consumer wants, or at least feels like they want.
Before Rousteing’s collaboration with the Swedish chain was even announced, he was one of the most prominent advocates for fast fashion as a worthy way of bringing fashion to the people. As the Creative Director of such an iconic label as Balmain, he knows how quick his creations spread and are adopted by high street chains worldwide. For Rousteing, imitation is in fact the sincerest form of flattery. Speaking to The Independent last year, he was quoted as saying “I love seeing a Zara window with my clothes mixed with Céline and Proenza! I think that’s genius. It’s even better than what I do! I love the styling, I love the story… I watch the windows always, and it’s genius what they do today”.
Rousting seems to have perfectly captured why fast fashion is a great thing, not only for the consumers but also for designers. It is not just making trends available to the people – it is opening up a whole new world of inspiration, of mixing high and low-end and showing how fashion can also be fun and liberating if you let it!
|By Ellen Egeland|