Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
It’s the year 2009.
You just upgraded from Myspace and opened a Facebook account.
Someone probably sent you an .mp4 file of IGotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas via BBN Messenger.
Angry Birds is your favourite app.
And Lady Gaga somehow managed to pull off wearing a meat dress to the VMA’s.
A sure common experience we all shared was your local mall being the hotspot of the town, and not necessarily for just clothes & shoes. If it was grabbing food with your friends after school, boy stalking on the weekends or just catching a block buster movie on premiere night. The mall was where to go.
From rocking the standard neon green Abercrombie & Fitch Tee to mark your pre-pubescent years to getting fitted for your first bra at Victoria’s Secret. Hot Topic aiding your emo phase in both style and music choice and then ultimately levelling up to Forever 21, Top Shop, H&M, Primark, or Charlotte Russe goodies depending on where you were.
The mall was there for you through all your phases.
So, what happened?
Why are you suddenly so comfortable in not trying clothes on to see if they fit before buying them?
Why is it so much fun to watch other people try on clothes in Fashion hauls instead?
Why does getting clothes you ordered at the door feel like someone bought and left you a present?
Maybe it is not a coincidence at all that we unanimously paused malls specifically for Fashion items and went Online.
So, what exactly is Fast Fashion?
Fashion Houses usually produce runway collections for two seasons; Fall/Winter (FW XX) and Spring/Summer (SS XX), the XX being the year it is released. There are minor fashion seasons; Resort & Pre-Fall but these collections usually don’t feature in Fashion Week instead promotional shots are just released to the press.
It is worthy to note that runway collections featured in FW Fashion Shows, usually held in February, hit retail stores during the upcoming winter months, likewise clothes showcased during SS Fashion shows, usually held in September hit stores in the spring and summer of the next year, almost a 6-7 month wait period for consumers.
Fast Fashion is a catchment phrase for fashion brands that are able to replicate ready to wear runway high fashion designs and trends and distribute to consumers at lower prices.
Fast Fashion may have started out as a business model – which has been widely successful for several brands but has also left its mark in the fashion industry and in its own right become a niche.
These brands are not exclusive to only online retail fashion stores as the bigger names (Forever21, H&M, Zara, etc.) started out with and still have physical stores. The challenge with having physical stores is rent & utilities payments driving up the overall price of products, where strictly online retail stores heavily focus on marketing & warehouse inventory costs which come with a low cost advantage.
A Forbes article published in 2015 forecast the possible decline of Shopping Malls compared to online shopping specifically for Fashion items but it hinted at it with a catch. The decline would not be experienced in High End malls as the in-person shopping experience is still very desirable which I completely agree with.
If you take a look on Instagram, online influencers and even regular shoppers would often vlog and rave about their shopping experiences at Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc. on high end streets and would often rock and keep the branded shopping bags for photo-ops.
The article further pointed out that the decline is forecasted to happen in the middle market where customers would see little of the in-person shopping experience and may think shopping would be easier overall online.
It would be a bit presumptuous to conclude that everyone prefers buying clothes online. It truly is a personal preference.
However, for ‘my online retail therapy patients‘ I thought it quite intriguing to select a handful of the most relevant and sought after Fast Fashion Brands for a FUN review on criteria set by Yours Truly. So without further ado!
FAST FASHION BRANDS REVIEW
Marketing geniuses! This brand is EVERYWHERE. Fashion Nova was founded by Richard Saghian who originally started the brand to sell affordable clubwear in Los Angeles malls.
In 2013, he launched the e-commerce website which was heavily Instagram centric. Fashion Nova was one of the brands to heavily harness social media to its advantage flipping a cult like following to a massive online campaign.
Its massive advantage was its ability to appreciate and specifically market to body types that were often neglected in malls with the consistent use of curvy “Coca Cola’ bottle shaped ethnic models which was significantly rare at the time eventually leading to the launch of Fashion Nova Curve.
According to a Business of Fashion article, Fashion Nova works with 1000 different manufacturers, to release 600 -900 new styles per WEEK which they are determined to surpass.
Talk about fast!
FASHION NOVA RATING
You get what you pay for ultimately and it’s usually a Kardashian/Jenner Thierry Mugler knock off but it looks nice.
You would definitely find the outfit you saw on your Instagram Explore page.
Fashion Nova is pretty inclusive with size and height, Thickums get the best fitting jeans on here.
It’s not Wish/Shein cheap but it is affordable.
Customer Service: 5/10
The fact that you get returns in store credit is a major red flag and that’s all I have to say to the jury. Next case!
PrettyLittleThing, or should I say Collab Chasers, I kid, is owned by Boohoo Group and was founded in 2012 and started off as an accessory only brand.
With consistent social media presence with numerous collaborations with celebrities and influencers (i.e. Kourtney Kardashian, Hailey Bieber then Baldwin, Ashley Graham, Maya Jama, Olivia Culpo, Molly Mae Hague, Ms Banks, Saweetie- the list truly is endless.)
PLT got more than sufficient traction from the press and general public eventually being recognised by Hitwise as one of the top three fastest growing companies beating Gucci and Louis Vuitton in consumer “search interest” ranking.
PRETTY LITTLE THING RATING
PLT Quality honestly is a hit or miss so a quick check on the type of fabric used in the product details section is recommended. Your patent leather pants could very well be polished polyester.
Extremely trendy apparel, a breath of fresh air with current yet original pieces. PLT clothing tend to go viral and make trends rather than riding them. Ode to the face mask dress featured in the post header.
Size does matter with this brand but not in the way you would think. From personal experience, sizes (12-16), which is at the end of normal range and included in PLT Plus are more likely to fit differently from how they are advertised.
Additionally, being Apple shaped and plump chested could pose problems as bust sizes are usually cut too small.
Extensive range of prices that are affordable and are within budget. Regular discounts and sales throughout the year.
Customer Service: 9/10
PLT Customer Service is just *chef’s kiss*. Shipping Speed, Return policy, Brand Awareness on socio-political issues, Inclusivity, all full marks.
I SAW IT FIRST
You may not have heard of this brand but I thought them fit to belong on this list. I got to know about ISAWITFIRST watching Love Island Season 5 as they were the major fashion sponsors for the show. ISAWITFIRST was founded by Jamal Kamani- co-founder of Boohoo.
There’s very little corporate information of ISAWITFIRST online, no Wikipedia page but they do have a considerable online presence with multiple collaborations with celebrities & social media influencers.
A very in depth blog about Fast Fashion brands, written by Besma on Curiously Concious details ISAWITFIRST produces huge amounts of clothing; (847 styles of dress, 1147 styles of tops) for significantly low prices where 1097 styles are £10 and under, 154 styles in £5 pounds and under)
Basically, they are allies of your savings bank account.
Quality is directly proportional to price point but in ISAWITFIRST’s case, the original price is usually slashed through on most items advertised on the site probably to give consumers a sense of securing a bargain and to drive up sales. The overall quality of clothing on the site is very average. Shoes and accessories however tend to be of higher quality.
This site is specifically targeted for 18-24 year old women and caters sufficient looks to that demographic with options on the site sorting fashion attire by seasons through the year, holidays and occasions.
The sizing chart seems to be from Mars for this brand. Extremely inconsistent. A size Small graphic t-shirt can come labelled in Large and fit oversized. Clothes tend to fit looser for this brand so bear that in mind. Remember, this is my personal experience with ISAWITFIRST and is my opinion. If this is different for you, I would love to know with you leaving a comment down below.
This brand is purse friendly. There’s always a discount, a timer, a wheel of fortune or a flash sale happening. Amazing deals!
Customer Service: 6/10
Customer service could be a bit strained especially with shipping orders. There’s a high frequency of order mix-ups or orders not being shipped after order confirmation. Refunds on items returned may be lower than what was originally paid as there are so many sales and discounts that the original price of item could change. However once emailed, there is usually a decent response and follow up action.
One of the OG’s of Fast Fashion, a quiet necessity of a brand. H&M is extremely versatile as it carries both male & female apparel; lounge wear, casual, basics, corporate, urban, gym wear and intimates to name a few. This is the first brand mentioned on this list that juggles h physical and online stores.
As of November 2019, H&M was reported to have 5,000 stores operating in 74 countries. It is also the second largest global retailer, behind Inditex (parent company of Zara).
It seems H&M is finally jumping on the bandwagon, much later than never. According to a Business Insider article, H&M plans to close 350 stores in 2021, a net decrease of 250 stores as they still plan to open new stores in strategic locations to focus on online sales. Changes in consumer behaviour have been accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic and fashion retailers especially physical ones would have to adapt or suffer loss.
Interestingly enough, H&M has collaborated with big name Fashion houses to produce affordable clothing lines to the masses. Collaborations with Commes des Garcons, Alexander Wang, Moschino, Versace, Balmain, Kenzo are extremely notable.
H&M very well deserves utmost credit for being able to operate in different pockets of the fashion world and not just merely operate but excel.
H&M quality is out of this world on all items. No slacked necklines, No loose threads, No inconsistent stitching, No shiny fabric. Absolutely A1!
This brand admittedly has fallen off in keeping up with the cool kids. It definitely caters to a specific niche of clothing mainly basics- jeans, tops, summer dresses, sweaters and hoodies and corporate wear.
If you are looking for a Deep V ruched see through club dress to tension your ex, H&M is not the one sis.
How H&M clothes fit is tricky to explain and I may understand why that is. H&M has stores in several countries with their respective sizing charts.
For me personally, H&M High waisted jeans all fit differently in the UK, US & Russia H&M stores.
Clothes tend to run larger in the US compared to the UK . I can easily find size 10/12 jeans in US stores but would have to climb two flight of stairs to find corresponding UK size jeans (14/16) in Edinburgh.
H&M is affordable and is definitely worth the quality of the clothes. Prices are slightly higher than the average fast fashion brand but worth IT! Discounts and Sales are usually Clearance sales at the end of Summer and Winter seasons.
Customer Service: 9/10
Customer service is incredibly note worthy both in store and online. A worthy thing to note with H&M is their continuous effort to push recycling of purchased store clothes where there are buckets in-store to donate used clothing. Very different for a fast fashion brand where most have been criticised for their negative contributions to the environment in their production operations.
Primark embodies everything that Fast Fashion traditionally is meant to be. Extremely cheap, frequent style releases and remarkably on trend. Primark is pretty much embedded in the UK shopping experience so it might come as a shock that this brand is Irish owned, founded in 1969 and called Penney’s instead of Primark only in Ireland.
A little history lesson for you!
Primark owns 370 stores across 12 countries, 191 stores contained in the UK and the rest spread across Europe and 12 in the United States.
What’s different about Primark is their adamancy on running operations strictly from physical stores despite their competitors doing otherwise. Primark does have a website but it serves as a catalog for new releases. Products that consumers may be interested in can be checked for at their nearest Primark using the location finder function prior to their shopping visit however there is no add to cart option.
Now why would they do that?
I believe that it is very cost related. The reason why Primark prices are so low is because they have made that sacrifice to not migrate online and continued to cater to their target audience in stores. Online retailers have to budget for warehouses, delivery systems, courier services, shipping insurance and additional staff to make sure the online process runs as seamlessly as possible. Primark prices would have to go up in juggling those additional costs with having so many physical stores open.
It would be interesting to see their standpoints on going online after COVID-19 as it was definitely something they did not preempt with their main base of operation – UK & Ireland going through major lock downs through the year.
Primark quality is decent when compared to the price point of their products. A two piece set of a matching hoodie and joggers at NIKE could be well over £100 whereas I can get a trendier nude minimalist set for £10 at Primark. Granted the crotch area might rip apart in a month or my thighs rub the wrong way and split the joggers open but I can always go back and replace the joggers for £5. That’s fair.
Primark does extremely well to stay on trend which is commendable as they have a wide demographic. A 13 year old girl and a 45 year old woman could most certainly walk into Primark and find exactly what they are looking for. Primark also carries babies, boys and men’s lines and goes past even fashion but homeware in bedsheets, duvets, throw pillows & other home décor.
Primark fits relatively well compared to their counterparts. They are extremely inclusive to both petite and plus sized body types in their fashion lines for the same price. Typically, plus sized clothing especially when it gets to the end of the spectrum tend to become expensive but Primark keeps it at a flat price.
I know this first hand with the struggle of finding a UK size F bra. Debenhams had specific basic bra lines that only ran from A to D and the plus sized bra line starting from E was more expensive. Stepped into Primark and saw £6 bra lines that ran from A to FF.
Primark price point is absolutely ridiculous as if I have not mentioned that enough. The price advantage has been their biggest selling point and for good reason. It’s extremely affordable on all products; bags, shoes, clothes, coats, jackets, corporate wear – you name it.
Customer Service: 7/10
Primark is 9 times out of 10 jam-packed except if you are an early bird that loves to go shopping on a random Tuesday morning. So, it is without doubt that attenders both on tills and in dressing rooms may often look over-worked especially on weekends. However, I can attest to customer service improvement over the last two years in Primark with organised and speedy check out lines with attentive staff.
And that’s it! I hope you found my review helpful. If you have any other comments, you agree or disagree with my opinion, I would love to know and you can leave it below.
Leave a comment below on other Fast Fashion Brands you have tried and your thoughts on them. I’m really interested to hear the tea y’all have on Zara, Boohoo, Oh Polly, ASOS, Forever 21, Mango, TopShop, New Look, Romwe, Oh Polly, Meshki, Shein etc.
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Till next time! Ciao.