In previous years, consumers were willing to purchase products from brands that guaranteed quality. However, thanks to the social media phenomena of Instagram and Facebook, fashion has become a lot more 'fast', with many people not holding quality in the same regard that they once used to. There became a willingness to purchase replicas and items of a lower standard, with chief operators of fashion giants seeing an opportunity in the market. In an effort to match customer desires, the concept of ‘fast fashion’ was born.
The speedy turnover of catwalk to current fashion trends became extremely popular in the early 2000s. Many retailers lowered their standard and quality with the aim to increase profit by focusing on key elements of the supply chain with an emphasis on increased manufacturing speed at a low price. The concept has changed the industry dynamic dramatically, but people are now starting to realise that fast fashion is in fact detrimental to the environment, with the pressures to reduce costs meaning environmental concerns are cut.
At Sarah Haran, sustainability is hugely important to us. All our customers know that our products are of exceptional quality, and this is because we don't cut corners. Our restyle concept allows customers to simply update their bag each season, rather than continually buy new ones for every occasion. Our bags are incredibly well thought out in their design, and we give them a lifetime guarantee because we stand by our promise that they are made to last.
We caught up with fashion management consultant, Emma Reed, to talk about just that. Through her 25 years experience in the industry, she knows a thing or two about how it operates and what the future is for fashion!
Hey Emma! You're a fashion management consultant - that sounds very exciting indeed! What does your role involve?
I've been in the fashion industry for over 25 years, as a buyer and a head of buying and now as a consultant. I work with brands and retailers to improve all aspects of product creation within an organisation. It’s a fab job because I have the opportunity to work with many different companies and I still get to be involved in the development of new and exciting products. What exactly is ‘fast fashion’? ‘Fast fashion’ is an accelerated business model that involves increased numbers of new fashion collections every year, quick turnarounds and is often associated with lower priced products, although ‘fast luxury’ also exists!
So why do you think fast fashion has become such a phenomenon?
The concept took off in the 80's has made fashion extremely accessible. It has empowered people from all sorts of backgrounds, with any level of income, to freely express their identity through clothing and accessories. There is no denying that this is an extremely positive outcome but unfortunately ‘fast fashion’ also has a number of negative side effects.
Why has ‘fast fashion’ increasingly become a concern?
It encourages over-consumption and generates excessive waste. Products are offered at pocket-money prices. They are developed and produced extremely quickly, and this doesn’t allow for adequate testing or wearer trials, all of which has quality implications. It’s not intended to last. Many ‘fast fashion’ products are made from low-cost man-made fabrics instead of single fibre materials and can’t be recycled as a result.
You mentioned ‘fast luxury’ earlier. What does this mean?
The success of the concept is being copied by luxury brands, many of which offer small collections of limited units every few weeks, with the intention of never again repeating them. Social media drives the demand for exclusive, expensive product and some customers become so caught up in the cycle that once they have posted an outfit on Instagram, they won’t wear it again. The fact is that much of this luxury product is made in the same factories that produce the cheap ‘fast fashion’.
What’s the solution to this problem?
Inexpensive, disposable product causes excessive waste, and this is starting to irritate the more environmentally conscious amongst us. The actual value of a ‘fast fashion’ product is very low in terms of quality and emotional satisfaction. There is little or no value in passing the product on. It can’t easily be re-cycled and even charity shops are unable to resell it. Consumers are now aware of these side effects and feel guilty about throwing their possessions in the bin (which effectively means landfill), once they are no longer useful. Many are taking the decision to buy a little less frequently, to spend a little bit more and to make sure that the product they invest in is sustainable. This is great news for the environment.
How does the Sarah Haran brand support this solution?
We all like to update our wardrobes and express ourselves through colour and design and Sarah makes this a guilt free experience: By offering products that are sustainably sourced, ethically produced, built to last and infinitely changeable, Sarah has created a range of highquality, interactive bags and accessories, that is genuinely impressive. She satisfies her customers’ desire for newness by enabling them to easily update her products, by switching a strap, or an accessory, or by attaching one bag to another for a completely different look. The members of Sarah’s social media group, the Bags of Joy Club, do an amazing job of showing the versatility of the product by sharing photos of the many different looks they manage to achieve with their own collections of Sarah Haran bags and accessories.
Does that mean that Sarah Haran product is ‘slow fashion’?
I’m not entirely sure that’s a thing! But Sarah Haran is definitely not ‘fast fashion’. It could be described as slow in terms of the time it takes to develop the product. Each style is thoroughly considered at the design stage. The leathers, the trims and the colours are carefully selected so that they are on trend but not trendy. A prototype of each design is made with scrupulous attention to detail and is tested for up to 6 months before a product goes into production. All of this amounts to a superb quality product, which has long-lasting appeal and stands the test of time
What’s the future of ‘fast fashion’?
I work in fashion and I love it, so I want it to thrive and be accessible. The entire sector employs over a million people in the UK alone, and accounts for 6% of consumer expenditure. I’d like to think that the consumer will drive a reduction in ‘fast fashion’ as awareness of its negative impact on the environment gradually increases. My hope is that creativity thrives and the standard of products on sale improves, as ‘fast fashion’ becomes unfashionable.