An essential aspect of the fast fashion business model is the offering of hundreds of new products, every week, or even every day. At the time of writing, Pretty Little Thing’s website listed an incredible 284 items under ‘New In Today’, while Missguided listed 639 under ‘New This Week.’
The short lead times necessary to deliver such vast quantities of new designs mean that wash tests and wearer trials are usually not possible, which has implications for garment quality and durability. Furthermore, many of the products are made with materials that cannot be recycled.
While most fashion companies still source the majority of their garments from overseas, some fast fashion brands such as Boohoo, Missguided and ASOS, have ‘reshored’ a substantial part of their production, sourcing garments from the UK, with many products made in Leicester.
The city is one of the UK’s textile manufacturing hubs, employing 10,000 textile workers in 700 factories. Many of the large buildings where manufacturing takes place do not house just one factory, but a whole load of mini-factories, reportedly up to a hundred, each employing around 10 to 20 people.
The sourcing from the UK means these online retailers can drastically reduce their lead times, allowing them to quickly react to changes in consumer tastes. But how have these brands managed to source so much of their stock from the UK, where the costs of labour are substantially higher than other parts of the world, such as Asia, and yet keep prices so low?
True, online retailers have lower overheads costs since they don’t have physical stores, but this clearly isn’t the whole story.