Affordable Fashion
Affordable fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to acknowledge that designs move from catwalk to store in the fastest time to capture current trends in the market.[1] Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and the autumn of every year.[2] These trends are designed and manufactured quickly and cheaply to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at a lower price. This philosophy of quick manufacturing at an affordable price is used in large retailers such as H&M, Zara, Peacocks, and Topshop. It particularly came to the fore during the vogue for "boho chic" in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.[3]
This has developed from a product-driven concept based on a manufacturing model referred to as "quick response" developed in the U.S. in the 1980s [4] and moved to a market based model of "fast fashion" in the late 1990s and first part of the 21st century. Zara has been at the forefront of this fashion retail revolution and their brand has almost become synonymous with the term, but there were other retailers who worked with the concept before the label was applied, such as Benetton.[5][6] Fast fashion has also become associated with disposable fashion because it has delivered designer product to a mass market at relatively low prices.[7]
The primary objective of the fast fashion is to quickly produce a product in a cost efficient manner. This efficiency is achieved through the retailers’ understanding of the target market's wants, which is a high fashion looking garment at a price at the lower end of the clothing sector.[2] Primarily, the concept of category management has been used to align the retail buyer and the manufacturer in a more collaborative relationship.[8] Category management is defined as "the strategic management of product groups through trade partnerships, which aims to maximize sales and profits by satisfying customer needs".[8] This collaboration occurs as many companies’ resources are pooled to increase the market's total profit. The fast fashion market utilizes this by uniting with foreign manufacturers to keep prices at a minimum.
Quick Response (QR) was developed to improve manufacturing processes in the textile industry with the aim of removing time from the production system.[9] The U.S. Apparel Manufacturing Association initiated the project in the early 1980s to address a competitive threat to its own textile manufactures from imported textiles in low labour cost countries.[10] During the project lead times in the manufacturing process were halved; the U.S. industry became more competitive for a time, and imports were lowered as a result.[11] The QR initiative was viewed by many as a protection mechanism for the American textile industry with the aim of improving manufacturing efficiencies.[12]
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