Fast fashion is ‘fast’ in a number of senses: the changes in fashion are fast, the rate of production is fast; the customer’s decision to purchase is fast; delivery is fast; and garments are worn fast – usually only a few times before being discarded.

Fast fashion is a term used to describe a highly profitable and exploitative business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them at low cost. Oftentimes, this entails exploiting workers in inhumane conditions.

Building a brand that becomes an overnight hit can be like catching lightning in a bottle. Dedy Schwartzberg has done it twice.

Nearly a decade ago, the Israeli entrepreneur co-founded Adika, an online fast fashion brand that quickly became one of Israel’s top-selling fashion sites before expanding into the US and UK.

Last year, Schwartzberg and several members of Adika’s leadership team left the company and launched Edikted in January. The new label is much like the old one, not to mention Shein, Fashion Nova and countless other brands that churn out cheap and trendy looks by the dozen.

And yet Edikted has managed to cut through the noise. It was the top-searched fashion brand amongst Gen-Z on Google in late September, according to a report from the search giant. Its TikTok videos receive double the average video views of other apparel brands its size, according to social media management platform Dash Hudson. Schwartzberg declined to share Edikted revenues for 2021 but said it already surpassed Adika’s US sales (Adika’s annual global revenue in 2020 was 217.6 million shekel, about $70.7 million).

Schwartzberg says catching Gen-Z’s attention — and money — comes down to a simple formula, whether those teens and early 20-somethings are in Toronto, Tampa or Tel Aviv: move fast, keep manufacturing costs low and flood social media.

“The market is huge and so is the opportunity,” he said. “For Gen-Z, it’s all the same motivation, the same language, the same behaviour. All over the world, it’s really the same client, so if you learn how to speak to one, you learn how to speak to another.”

There’s no question Edikted’s strategy is effective; its rise mirrors Shein, Fashion Nova, Boohoo and many others. Whether such businesses can thrive in the long term, when anyone can follow their methods to set up a newer, faster rival, remains to be seen.

“We are seeing a rapid turnover of fast fashion giants displacing one another,” said Larry Milstein, co-founder of Gen-Z consultancy PRZM. “Zara and H&M to Boohoo, and now Shein or Princess Polly. There will always be a newer player to emerge and take market share by producing bleeding-edge trends.”

Brands built around selling massive amounts of disposable clothing are also under pressure to account for their toll on the planet. In surveys, Gen-Z is often the generation most concerned about the environment, but also the most likely to purchase fast fashion. At some point, those consumers may choose a side.

For now, though, it’s entrepreneurs like Schwartzberg and the online fast fashion brands they are launching that are on the rise, forcing the industry to compete with their pricing and their marketing or risk losing sales.

“Gen-Z is loyal, until they see something from another brand that they want and they move on, so you cannot sleep,” Schwartzberg said.

How It’s Made

Edikted takes full advantage of some recent changes to how clothing is made. Where in the past new brands often needed to put in large orders to secure a supplier, Shein and other fast fashion retailers have made on-demand manufacturing a more accepted practice.

Schwartzberg said his brand orders clothes frequently in small batches, adding or cutting styles based on how they perform. Edikted focuses on trends that surface on TikTok and Instagram. It’s a strategy that is sure to capture some young shoppers looking for the buzziest product, but it’s also one that’s contributed to some backlash. Fast fashion brands are constantly being called out for ripping off designer products, and even giants like Shein are hosting fashion competitions and introducing more upscale labels to differentiate themselves.

Edikted offers fewer new styles than some of its competitors: it rolls out 100 styles a month (with plans to double that figure next year), compared with thousands weekly at Shein and other brands. The goal is to appear more curated than Shein, with materials that Schwartzberg says are better quality. Edikted clothes also have a slightly higher price point (an open back top is listed for $47, compared to $9 for a similar item at Shein), although it offers plenty of discounts and flash sales so that customers feel like they are getting a deal.

To gain visibility on TikTok, Edikted has tapped dozens of creators with smaller followings to show off outfits and shopping hauls. The brand had a 24 percent month-over-month increase in mentions and engagement during October on TikTok, according to Tribe Dynamics, while apparel brands as a whole fell 3 percent.

Nearly every fashion brand works with influencers big and small. But banking on nano-influencers — and “seeding with reckless abandon,” as branding strategist Grace Clarke described it — is important for attracting Gen-Z’s attention. Once a new fashion brand gains a little momentum on TikTok or Instagram, influencers feel obligated to post about it to be part of the conversation.

“It’s the influencers that want this, and reach out to us,” said Schwartzberg.

Challenges Ahead

Fast fashion brands have a short moment to solidify their position in the market. While H&M and Zara have been around for decades, and a few online brands such as Boohoo and Asos have had sustained success, the life cycle for these labels is getting shorter.

Schwartzberg said Edikted is investing in infrastructure to stay ahead of the competition. For example, the company pays for air freight so that customers can get their orders in five to seven business days, on pace with fast fashion competitors like Shein.

Sustainability has also become a growing concern amongst young shoppers, even as they are the driving force behind fast fashion. Edikted incorporates this apparent contradiction into its marketing: a banner on its homepage reads “pre-order for a more sustainable future!” (pre-orders allow brands to reduce waste by better matching inventory to sales, the thinking goes).

Sustainability advocates are sceptical about brands that claim to be green by using an on-demand manufacturing process, especially when clothes are made using synthetic materials that can’t be recycled. They also criticise brands that flood the market with cheap clothing meant to be worn only a few times.

This age group is educated enough to realise that brands like these are still burning other resources.

“Producing less inventory does not make you a sustainable brand,” said Clarke. “This age group is educated enough to realise that brands like these are still burning other resources.”

The biggest threat to Edikted and other brands like it may be that their young customers will inevitably get older and rely less on fast fashion to fill their wardrobes. Schwartzberg said he expects shoppers will keep coming back.

“I’m selling to girls who behave like Gen-Z,” he said. “Women can be in their thirties, but they still dress and think like Gen-Z because they want trends.”

Original Article : BOF