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Fast fashion and knockoffs

Exploring fast fashion and knockoffs to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current fashions at a lower price.

Fast fashion is a phrase used to describe apparel and accessories trends that are designed and manufactured quickly and affordably to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current fashions at a lower price.

Fast fashion

This philosophy of quick manufacturing at affordable prices is the business model of many large retailers, such as H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. Fast fashion is achieved through the retailers’ understanding of the target market’s wants, in that the latest runway trends and new variations of products the customer is buying are delivered to the sales floor as fast as possible.

In most cases, the product developer’s first objective is a high-fashion-looking garment at a mass-market price. His or her second objective is often to create modifications of the items that sell and have these manufactured quickly. The product developer, buyer, and manufacturer collaborate to maximize sales and profits by satisfying customer needs.

Fast fashion brings more product options to the consumer more frequently. Initially, retailers who developed their own product lines ran into some roadblocks. There is a long tradition in the fashion business of knocking off the hot or successful designs offered by top designers, rather than creating new looks.


A knockoff is a copy of another style, often of lesser quality and with minor modifications. Knockoffs of Hermès’ Birkin and Kelly bags, carried by celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Sarah Jessica Parker, can be found at mid-priced retail stores.

A display of fake, or knockoff, designer handbags, purses, and wallets. There are markers on the display with the word "Fake" printed on it.

Knockoffs of Hermès’ Birkin and Kelly bags can be found modified at mid- to low-priced retail stores, or copied by counterfeiters.

Although the practice is less common today, retailers were historically known for creating private-label lines that were collections of knockoffs.

Private labels

A private label refers to a line name or brand that the retailer develops and assigns to a collection of product development goods.


Because many of the retailers were knocking off products that were already on the market, the majority of the private-label products lacked fashion newness. Retailers also had to take responsibility for securing fabrics, avoiding fit problems, and shipping goods.

Another obstacle was that many overseas factories required retailers to open letters of credit to pay for goods. As a result, retailers were faced with tying up large amounts of their operations’ dollars in advance of shipping, rather than paying for merchandise thirty days after they received shipment.

As retail-driven product development matured, retailers began to build highly skilled design and merchandising teams to remove some of the roadblocks. Some major retailers do not attempt to develop products in certain specialized apparel categories because these areas are too precarious or too dependent on major brand names. A few of the product categories that retailers place in product development are basic apparel, because of ease of fit. Jeans, because of the low risk and ease of entry into the market as a price-point alternative (lower and higher) to major brands, and product categories that have a lower level of competition from major brands.

Some retail operations prefer to leave development of highly specialized apparel, such as swimwear and hosiery, or categories that require major advertising investments, such as cosmetics and fragrances, to the major brand manufacturers.

As styling in basic products makes it difficult to distinguish a major brand from a private label, some retailers have found that they are safer developing this type of merchandise. Other retailers choose private label lines to create unique and exclusive products that are not available in the market. Retailers often evaluate the risk of trying to develop trendy, high-priced merchandise, knowing that customers often prefer a designer name attached to their investment purchases.

In the next step, we will discuss private-label merchandise.

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Careers in Fashion: Design, Development, and Promotion

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