Retail Trend: Cheap Chic Fashion, Part II

November 9th, 2005


In Part I of this article, we discussed the basics of so-called cheap chic fashion: what it is, and why it’s so appealing. Now that we have a background on why cheap chic is gaining popularity, we can discuss what it may mean from both a consumer and business perspective.

Consumer Perspective:

  • More clothes, less overall quality. Cheap chic, with its lower quality standards, leads to the wearing of clothes for a season or less, for so-called “disposable fashion.”
  • Reinforced acceleration of trends. Fashion information is moving faster, and so are physical items of clothing. The average time it used to take between the start and end of a trend used to be measured in years. Now, fashion trends come and go in months.
  • Challenge: Keep up with the speed of fashion. Since fashion trends are now measured in months, not years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the speed of fashion. More information sources will pop up (such as this blog) to keep people informed as to what’s in and what’s out.
  • Personal Style more important. As average consumers gain access to a larger number of garments and trends (due to the “cheap” in the chic), the idea of personal style is going to become more paramount. Now, anyone with a copy of Lucky magazine and access to H&M can deck themselves out head-to-toe in the latest trend. Is this true style? We think not. Fashion forward individuals will need to look for new means of expressing their style and individuality, be it through unique combinations of garments, status accessories, clothing alterations, or something else.
  • Importance of Editing. With so many trends flying around, one of the most important skills to have will be the ability to edit down the season’s trends to those that fit one’s personal style, lifestyle, and body type. Those that cannot or choose not to edit might fall under the…
  • New definition of “Fashion Victim.” Fashion Victims have traditionally been those who slavishly follow trends. They might wear one designer head to toe, or they might combine two or more contrasting trends into one outfit. But a new classification will likely emerge: the fashion victim as one who hops along after each fast-moving trend, trying to wear each look before it goes out of style. She’s the girl who doesn’t just keep up with what’s happening with fashion–she actually tries to wear Everything that’s new and stylish.

Business Perspective:

  • Improved supply chains needed. Companies like Zara have long been proponents of a supply chain based on the idea of postponing each production decision to the last possible moment to preserve production flexibility. Why postponement? It allows the retailer to more accurately forecast demand for a particular style good. Estimating December demand for a wool coat, for instance, would be easier and more accurate to do in November than it would be in June.
  • Need to address human rights issue. Cheap comes at a price, and it’s often at the cost of third-world garment workers. Sweatshops are an industrywide problem, unless something drastic is done, the human rights violations that they cause will likely only get worse with the growing popularity of cheap chic fashion.

Check back later today for our last post in this series, where we’ll be touch on wardrobe building in an era of disposable fashion.

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