Find out which are the most famous fast fashion brands: we will tell you their history, styles and what differentiates them. We will also tell you the problems of fast fashion and what the future of these fashion brands will be like.
What is Fast Fashion?
Before knowing which are the most famous fast fashion brands, we must know what fast fashion is as such. Translating from English we have the definition: fashion made quickly. In this, the brands are aware of what the new fashion trends are or what the consumer requires at a certain moment and have it manufactured at the moment to have it in stores before the fashion goes out.
A fast fashion brand has to have an incredible manufacturing, distribution and logistics team to keep up. The prices of these types of brands are usually very low, but in return the quality is not the best and just as it is produced quickly, many of their garments do not last long.
Most Famous Fast Fashion Brands in the World
Without a doubt the most recognized fast fashion brand in Europe and Latin America is Zara, also with a presence in Asia, the United States and Canada. This Spanish brand was founded by Amancio Ortega, being the beginning of the Inditex empire, the largest of all within the global fashion industry.
But becoming one of the most important brands internationally does not come for free. In the case of Zara it was for something that sounds very easy on paper, but you have to know how to do it: give the consumer what they want and give it to them quickly.
This is based on the data they collect in their stores about what is best sold or what customers ask the employees there. It quickly makes its way to the design team and is in production in a matter of days.
The Giant of Fast Fashion
However it is also known that Zara loves to base themselves (some would say appropriate) on the designs of other brands to adapt them to their own. Zara also owes much of its success to its logistics team . Thanks to an extraordinary group of professionals and the use of the most advanced technologies, it is possible to bring your models to your stores around the world in record time.
Its stores are more “elegant” than the rest of its competitors in the world of fast fashion, taking more care of the details to give a more upscale tone to the brand. They do not focus on one segment of the population but rather there is something for everyone so from babies, teenagers and even the elderly they can find something they like in the brand. The resounding success of the original brand led the company to found other brands also focused on fast fashion, which we will tell you about later.
Another of the most famous fast fashion brands is the Swedish H&M. Its almost 5,000 stores are located all over the world, from exclusive shopping centers to middle streets in Europe. There is everything in H&M stores: underwear, printed t-shirts, work dresses, maternity, children’s and baby clothes and even suits and ties.
Something that makes H&M special is its annual collaborations with great fashion designers. These launch collections of clothing and accessories made exclusively for the brand and which usually sell out in minutes. The prices are higher than the rest of the brand’s clothing but it is worth it compared to what these designers’ clothes can cost.
It started with the legendary Chanel designer, Karl Lagerfeld and since then we have seen the collections of Stella McCartney, Versace, Balmain and Kenzo. Lately, in addition to this great annual collaboration, we have seen more collections with other lesser-known international designers, but thanks to the opportunity that H&M gives them, more people around the world appreciate their designs.
The last few years have not been good for H&M. Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, their sales were declining little by little, with this decline accentuating in 2020. That is why they have made several changes in the company.
Like many, they have preferred to invest more in their e-commerce division, increasing their collections made in an ecological and sustainable way in addition to focusing on their premium brands such as COS, Monki and & Other Stories. Like Zara, H&M also has its home products section called H&M Home. Although they started with spaces within their largest stores, little by little they have opened independent stores.
A strong competitor has arrived from Ireland to the power of H&M and Zara. We are talking about Primark, one of the cheapest fast fashion brands with the largest number of products. It is characterized by its gigantic stores where you can find everything.
Of course, its clothing collections for women, men, babies and children stand out. New products arrive every day so every time you go to one of their stores you will find new things. In their collections there is a combination of basics that you will always find with things with more design and models in accordance with the trends of the moment.
Their prices are very low, it is almost impossible to compete with them. The quality is quite decent for what you pay in most cases, sometimes even superior to its competitors.
But it’s not all about clothes, since Primark dedicates a good part of its stores to home products, be it decoration, pillows or bedding. In addition, there are a large number of accessories and fashion accessories also at quite low prices. They also collaborate to sell products from movies or series such as Harry Potter, Friends or Disney movies.
It is worth noting that at the moment Primark is one of the very few stores that does not have e-commerce so you can only buy their products in their physical stores. They started in Ireland and the United Kingdom, later opening a large number of stores in European countries such as France, Spain or Germany.
Little by little they have expanded to the American continent, opening large stores in cities in the United States such as New York, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. At the moment they have no plans to enter Latin America in the short term.
Practically considered the phoenix of fast fashion, Forever 21 has been able to rise from the ashes . This company has its origins in the city of Los Angeles, California. It was founded by a South Korean couple in the 80s. Its target was people from the city’s Asian community but it was a complete success among the entire population.
Large stores opened throughout the United States, even expanding to almost fifty countries. They generated sales of more than $4 billion in their best years. Its main market has always been teenage girls and young women, over time also integrating collections for men.
But after years of bad management decisions such as opening more stores than certain markets could support, paying high rents for gigantic department store-sized spaces, and falling out of favor with consumers, Forever 21 went bankrupt. . Their multiple controversies did not help either, including claims of plagiarism, use of toxic materials or even including weight loss bars in orders for extra sizes.
And although many predicted that it would be another distinguished guest in the retail pantheon, Forever 21 lives on. The company was rescued by a group of North American investors including the main owners of shopping centers in the country. They closed hundreds of stores, stopped operating in some European and Asian countries, and changed control of their subsidiaries around the world. These decisions have helped Forever 21 finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
C&A is the fast fashion brand with the longest history, having its origins in the Netherlands more than 180 years ago. It is still from the same family that founded it then, starting as a textile company. Since then they opted to compete in the clothing market at low prices. Although it stopped operating in several countries, such as England, and has more than 1,500 stores in the world, especially in Europe.
It was one of the first European fast fashion companies to expand internationally, betting heavily on opening stores in the American continent (mainly Mexico and Brazil) and Asia. He never entered the United States.
The Dutch brand has remained one step below the rest of its competitors in the sector. It is one of those that has the worst perception by the consumer, a thought that they have wanted to change in recent times, in addition to being one of the companies in the sector that has fallen the most in sales.
Most consumers complain about its lack of design (compared to Zara, Primark and H&M) which does not compensate for the price. Likewise, within the same company they have complained that they do not operate with the same logistical speed as their competitors, which is a mortal sin when your business is fast fashion.
C&A has no choice but to renew or die. One of the changes they have made is to return their production to Europe. This is in order to guarantee the quality of their garments and have the added bonus of being made in Europe.
They have focused on their stores in Europe, where more than half are in Germany. They have also left their subsidiaries in Mexico and China in the hands of third parties. They also seek to rejuvenate their image with a new store concept, manufacturing their clothing using sustainable materials and looking for new fashion designers in order to re-enter popular taste.
Uniqlo is without a doubt the great Japanese reference not only in fast fashion but in all fashion in general. They are increasingly expanding internationally and you can see their large stores in the most important shopping avenues in cities such as Tokyo, New York, Paris or Barcelona.
Their star product is undoubtedly their ultra-light down jackets that you can store in a small bag. But that’s not all they are famous for, but also for their basics of good quality and price, as well as sports clothing. In terms of quality, it is considered to be a step ahead compared to other fast fashion brands. Their garments have greater durability and by focusing more on basics it makes them more timeless.
One of its biggest advantages has been its collaborations with international artists to have exclusive designs on t-shirts and other clothing. They are called UT collections where you can also see designs inspired by American TV series and Japanese anime.
They have also invested heavily in personalization since in many of their stores you can print clothes with your design, name or even a photo that you like. Uniqlo is the brand that sponsors the Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, the best in history, so it also has relevance in the world of sports.
Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius
As we have said, Inditex, the group that owns Zara is the fast fashion giant. But in addition to its main store it has other brands that are also of this type. We are talking about Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius. These 3 focus on a younger market, mainly teenagers, and their prices are lower than those of their older sister.
There is also Lefties, which began as the group’s outlet store, becoming just another brand that, however, the group has stopped investing in and will close many of its stores in the coming months.
It should be noted that not all Inditex brands are the same since Massimo Dutti and Oysho are not fast fashion brands. Pull & Bear and Bershka produce both women’s and men’s collections, however Stradivarius is exclusive for the women’s market.
For many years GAP was the great accessible fashion company in the United States. Everyone wore their t-shirts and sweatshirts with the brand logo and on every trip to this country their stores were a must-see stop.
As the years went by, the brand lost strength and in recent times it has operated practically in the red. But one of its sub-brands was GAP Inc’s saving grace so much so that it became a separate entity that allows the company to stay afloat. Old Navy was born in the early 90s as GAP’s response to the low prices that supermarkets like Target offered on clothing.
Although they started as a section within the GAP stores, little by little they opened independent and large stores. Years passed and now they double the number of the main brand and the group’s other brand, Banana Republic. Old Navy designs could be defined as everyday clothing.
They are good, pretty and cheap clothes. You will not find the super dress to wear to your next party or the shirt that will attract everyone’s attention. But if you are looking for clothes at a fairly affordable price that can be worn either at home, having a meeting or going to work comfortably and looking good, it is a great option.
We end up with a brand that became one of the main fashion companies in the United Kingdom, but also one of the ones that has had the most problems in recent years: Topshop. It opened with its first concept more than 50 years ago, evolving to become one of the leading British brands in the accessible fashion sector.
Like H&M, they had collaborations with important designers or celebrities and their sales improved year after year. In addition to its clothing collections (including its Topman men’s section), the brand also entered the cosmetics sector with force, being one of its products with the best reviews and sales.
The Fall of a British Fashion Great
However, despite having been successful in its region of origin, its internationalization was not as prosperous as other brands. It has entered and left numerous markets without being able to establish itself as a real competitor to the majors in practically no territory other than the British.
In the United States it arrived in 2009, opening stores including on Fifth Avenue in New York. Their adventure only lasted 10 years, closing all their stores in 2019 and currently it can only be found in the luxury department store chain Nordstrom.
It began to close stores in more countries but it was not the end of the problem, just the beginning. Their crisis reached such a point that they had to leave their iconic flagship store on London’s Oxford Street in 2019, declaring bankruptcy months later. At the beginning of 2021 Topshop was bought by the e-commerce company Asos.
It is not known what the group’s intentions will be for the brand, but what is almost certain is that it will be the end of Topshop’s physical stores and they will focus only on online sales. Although there are also rumors that an external partner could reach an agreement with Asos to operate its physical stores.
The Dangers of Fast Fashion
Yes, fast fashion clothes are very cheap, but that also has bad things. First of all, these low prices have something behind them: the employees who produce the clothes are not well paid or work in poor conditions or the quality of the clothes is poor.
The large companies in this fashion sector suffered a great depreciation in their image, with good reason, after the tragedy of the Rana Plaza collapse. In this building, garments from brands such as Primark or H&M were manufactured.
Thanks to this, it became clear that the low cost had a price behind it. The workers worked in almost slave-like conditions, receiving a pittance of wages in return. It doesn’t feel as good to pay €15 for a pair of pants when you know that those who make them are so mistreated.
The Price Behind the Low Price
But that’s not the only bad thing about fast fashion . Producing so much clothing in such a short time is not good for the environment. And it doesn’t help that the quality is low, since those clothes that don’t last long end up in the trash and aren’t even suitable for recycling.
It also usually happens that when brands follow a micro trend, that is, an extremely fleeting fashion. It’s a type of clothing that everyone wears for a month and then no one remembers.
Brands can manufacture more of this model, causing a big problem. By the time the furor is over, they don’t even come out with a big discount in the outlet stores because simply no one wants to carry them anymore.
Furthermore, to guarantee the speed of production, the factories work at full capacity, generating long emissions of greenhouse gases. They also use large amounts of water to produce or give color to certain garments.
This is why many people concerned about the environment shy away from these types of brands. This also explains the emergence of other fashion brands that are the complete opposite: slow fashion brands. These are committed to creating limited collections, many made in an artisanal and sustainable way in order to harm the planet as little as possible.
They look above all for the quality of the garment and generally look for a timeless design that can continue to be worn for many years without going out of style or breaking. The prices are higher but they make that investment worth it.
The Future of Fast Fashion Brands
It is time for all fashion companies to change once and for all. Adopt a real change in your production, in the consumption of natural resources and in the treatment of your employees. The pandemic came to change our entire way of life and shopping is one of them. Just as we analyzed in our article on the future of physical stores, we will see that the fast fashion industry will have changes.
It will reduce the number of stores, seeking only truly profitable locations. This also helps avoid overproduction of products which will be good for both the company itself and the environment. This is because natural resources do not have to be used on clothes that no one will end up using or that even end up in the trash.
Uniqlo and H&M have been among the fast fashion brands that have most wanted to bet on the sustainability of their products in recent years. It is already very common to see that brands (and more and more are joining them) see collections made mostly of recycled materials such as plastic bottles in order to affect the environment as little as possible.
Likewise, some brands make known how they manufacture their clothing, certifying that it is made under fair conditions and in accordance with international regulations. Realistically, the vast majority do it to change their image with the consumer and the media rather than out of their own conviction. But at the end of the day, whatever your intention, the planet will appreciate that little respite.
A Change of Mindset
It is not only an issue for companies, but also for the consumer. Those of us who buy the clothes are just as guilty as the companies that sell the products. Change the ideology of quantity over quality, in addition to worrying about the origin of the products they buy.
And in the end, what do you prefer, buy three denim pants that will last for years or ones that will tear the third time you wash them? Yes, clothing made sustainably and under fair conditions for workers is more expensive. But it has many more things in its favor, which makes paying that extra percentage not hurt as much.
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In this way, if companies realize that consumers prefer these types of products, they will bet on them, improving the industry and everything that surrounds it. And in the end we will all win. Companies will continue to sell, consumers will have better products and the environment will not suffer so much from everything behind the production of clothing.