from screen to store in seven days
When super-influencer Kim Kardashian posts a photo of herself on social media wearing an outfit that ticks all the trending boxes, a flurry of activity begins. As the first comments and likes start to arrive, retailers and fast fashion brands are quickly assessing whether they can – or should – replicate the outfit and put the items straight into production, powered by social media and intended largely for young women.
However, while this approach allows retailers in the highly competitive fast fashion industry to deliver the latest celebrity-focused trends to their customers within days, it also comes at higher costs – both for the business and the environment – and the risk of crossing the legal threshold. border between inspiration and copy.
It’s about being the first on the market
Bobby Samari, Luxury Woman
Many emerging fast fashion retailers have built their models on the ability to turn trends at breakneck speed, often by sourcing from the UK.
A March 2018 report from research agency McKinsey & Co found that the top 20% of fashion retailers surveyed made speed to market a priority in their development, and sales in the traditional fashion industry. fast have increased by more than 20% in the past. three years.
“Buy, test, repeat”
Young women’s fashion retailer I Saw It First, which launched in the UK in 2017, can have samples of celebrity-inspired styles at head office within 24 hours.
The buying team sends images from social media to a network of UK manufacturers, who produce the first samples and bring them back to headquarters the next day. If the first swatch is perfect and does not require any adjustment or style adjustment, the style can be photographed on a model and uploaded to the site for pre-orders the same day. A customer could receive it a week after it appeared online.
Likewise, rival Femme Luxe can offer new products in a week, thanks to its network of British manufacturers.
We’ve seen fashion brands alter their production cycles to meet instant demand
Anusha Coutigane, Senior Fashion Analyst at Kantar
“It’s about being the first in the market,” says Bobby Samari, who founded the company in 2015. “If a celebrity posts things in a style similar to the type of clothing we sell, we look at them. posts, and the average comments and likes on each, to see which items are of most interest.
Once an item goes live, Femme Luxe operates a “buy, test, repeat” pattern on styles, starting by ordering a small number – often 15 to 20 styles – and increasing that number based on the size. customer demand. This speed helps build customer loyalty and harness demand, making the production investment profitable.
Despite the potential additional costs, Anusha Couttigane, Senior Fashion Analyst at Kantar, notes that retailers see a return on investment when they develop rapid response production runs: “It’s very clear that brands and retailers are feeling this pressure to react as quickly as possible, and they see the benefit of taking on that investment to react.
“We’ve seen fashion brands change their production cycles and the ability of their infrastructure to meet instant demand. “
Other brands are taking advantage of vertical business models to ensure speed.
Mike Branney, CEO and co-founder of womenswear retailer Oh Polly, says control over the design and manufacturing process allows him to be more agile: “We are vertically integrated – we have our own factories across the country. Bangladesh and China, so we can tell them to stop or start production as we need.
Designers and our Creative Director spend all the time they don’t design looking at Instagram trends
Mike Branney, CEO and co-founder of women’s clothing retailer Oh Polly
He describes the typical response to detecting a promising style online: “The next day our sources were in the Zhongda Fabrics Market. [in Guangzhou, China] and you can pick up the sample cards that evening.
“We give them to the design team and they can start working within 24 hours of putting a particular type of fabric online.
“Designers and our Creative Director spend all the time they’re not creating looking at Instagram trends. When a celebrity lines up with your fashion and trend predictions, then you know it’s going to be huge and you jump on it.
While he has the infrastructure to put a product on sale within seven days, Branney says the turnaround time would typically be 24 days, as the brand seeks to distance itself from the ‘fast-fashion’ label: “We will never rush something to make a quick buck. For us, quality is the number one thing. This is how we differentiate ourselves from the market.
Samantha Frost, co-founder of women’s clothing retailer Pretty Lavish, says speed is the best way to build customer loyalty. When a trend takes off, Pretty Lavish can fly products from its suppliers in the Far East to capitalize on immediate demand if they expect it to be a short-lived success.
“Fashion is so fast, especially for young audiences,” says Frost. “When customers want something, they don’t wait for the brand to grow and launch it slowly. They’ll buy what’s in the market right now.
Production cycles are accelerating at all levels of the fashion industry, and Couttigane gives the example of
Italian luxury brand Moncler, which has gone from semi-annual showcases to monthly collections: “Consumers want this novelty, and [Moncler] want to be able to react more quickly to trends. As a result, they had to invest in expanded production facilities that are closer to the base of business in Italy, so that they can then produce collections much closer to the season that they will be releasing in stores. For the year ended December 31, 2018, Moncler’s revenues increased by 22% and Adjusted EBITDA by 34.5%.
Primark, which announced in March that 220 UK-based product roles were to be moved to its Dublin headquarters, is another retailer in search of efficiency.
Many thought it was a Brexit decision, but Couttigane suggests an ulterior motive: “The functions they merge move design, product and merchandising functions under one roof with analytics. and logistics. There’s an efficiency to be created there: you have all of the components that play a role in responding to trends and what consumers say they want, and then you can deliver it in a really responsive and fast way.
However, while taking into account the cost implications, retailers should be careful about pursuing a super-fast model at the expense of ethical and legal considerations.
In February, Kardashian filed a $ 10million (£ 7million) lawsuit against fast fashion retailer Missguided, accusing the retailer of profiting from a replica of an outfit she posted on Instagram. Missguided had posted a version of a gold dress worn by Kardashian and designed by Kanye West, with the caption: “The devil works hard but Missguided works harder” – pointing to a pre-order page for the style.
Missguided responded to the complaint with a statement, “Missguided buyers know the score. We’re on the look, minus the celebrity dollars. For the record, although we love her style, we don’t work with Kim on anything.
Sally Britton, partner and head of the brands group at Reya law firm Mishcon, is warning retailers to be cautious in this area: of the original designer’s investment in the piece.
“In terms of design rights assertion, you are asking whether the article that you say copies your article creates the same overall impression.”
Pretty Lavish’s Frost says her own designs have been copied in the past, so she takes that into account in their own work of creating celebrity-inspired items: “It’s so disheartening to see retailers literally just doing it. copy it exactly and sell it for half the price. We always keep this in mind and make sure to use trends and styles only for inspiration, not just to copy them. Our designers spend a lot of time making sure everything looks new and looks “Pretty Lavish” – we don’t want to be like everyone else. “
While these production models provide quick results, Couttigane notes that retailers need to be careful as the sustainability benchmarks of disposable fashion practices are scrutinized, contributing to waste and perceived as unsustainable, ”she said. “And I think there are different ways for companies to respond to this trend.”
She says despite the controversy, demand shows no signs of slowing down, but that smart merchandising and ‘momentization’ – where brands leverage existing ranges to exploit cultural trends – are possible ways for brands. to offer celebrity style with less environmental impact.
The demand for instantly accessible celebrity styles is booming, and although it continues to grow, retailers will continue to find innovative and creative ways to give their customers access to the styles they want, as soon as possible. they want it. Celebrity culture has changed the way retailing works, and only those who are able to meet the need for speed will manage to grab a market share.