slow-fashion

The Slow Fashion Business Model In A Nutshell

Slow fashion is a movement in contraposition with fast fashion. Where in fast fashion, it’s all about speed from design to manufacturing and distribution, in slow fashion instead, quality and sustainability of the supply chain are the key elements.

A quick timeline of how Slow Fashion came to be

By the 2000s, a company building up its supply chain for decades had become the mammoth of fashion.

That company was Zara. Zara epitomized the fast fashion industry, as its business model sat on top of a few key principles (like the fast following, low price, and variety) and a core objective: speed.

fast-fashion
Fash fashion has been a phenomenon that became popular in the late 1990s, and early 2000s, as players like Zara and H&M took over the fashion industry by leveraging on shorter and shorter design-manufacturing-distribution cycles. Reducing these cycles from months to a few weeks. With just-in-time logistics and flagship stores in iconic places in the largest cities in the world, these brands offered cheap, fashionable clothes and a wide variety of designs.

By fast following fashion trends, shortening the manufacturing cycle, and setting up just-in-time logistics serving its flagship stores, Zara became a behemoth:

zara-business-model
Zara is a brand part of the retail empire Inditex. Zara is the leading brand in what has been defined as “fast fashion.” With almost €20 billion in sales in 2021 (comprising Zara Home) and an integrated retail format with quick sales cycles. Zara follows an integrated retail format where customers are free to move from physical to digital experience.

As the 2010s came, a new trend started to shape the fashion industry.

That was the social commerce trend. As in countries like the UK, the penetration of e-commerce was high; some UK players, like ASOS, led the way in this transformation, from fast fashion to ultra-fast fashion:

ultra-fast-fashion
The Ultra Fashion business model is an evolution of fast fashion with a strong online twist. Indeed, where the fast-fashion retailer invests massively in logistics and warehousing, its costs are still skewed toward operating physical retail stores. While the ultra-fast fashion retailer mainly moves its operations online, thus focusing its cost centers on logistics, warehousing, and a mobile-based digital presence.

The ultra-fast fashion business model was epitomized by ASOS, among others, and it further prioritized the supply chain’s speed and efficiency with a strong online twist. In short, no more flagship stores to operate.

The money that other fast fashion players like Zara were spending to operate these stores were instead used by ultra-fast fashion players to run their online operations and further optimize manufacturing and logistics to serve a global audience:

asos-business-model
ASOS is a British online fashion retailer founded in 2000 by Nick Robertson, Andrew Regan, Quentin Griffiths, and Deborah Thorpe. As an online fashion retailer, ASOS makes money by purchasing clothes from wholesalers and then selling them for a profit. This includes the sale of private label or own-brand products. ASOS further expanded on the fast fashion business model to create an ultra-fast fashion model driven by short sales cycles and online mobile e-commerce as the main drivers.

From there, another, further evolution, this time headed by China, came with real-time retail, a further “improvement” from the ultra-fashion business model, where timing from idea/fashion meme to distribution got shortened further:

real-time-retail
Real-time retail involves the instantaneous collection, analysis, and distribution of data to give consumers an integrated and personalized shopping experience. This represents a strong new trend, as a further evolution of fast fashion first (who turned the design into manufacturing in a few weeks), ultra-fast fashion later (which further shortened the cycle of design-manufacturing). Real-time retail turns fashion trends into clothes collections in a few days or a maximum of one week.

Among the players that most mastered this business model, SHEIN led the way:

shein-business-model
SHEIN is an international B2C fast fashion eCommerce platform founded in 2008 by Chris Xu. The company improved on the ultra-fast fashion model by leveraging real-time retail, quickly turning fashion trends in clothes collections through its strong digital presence and successful branding campaigns.

In parallel, an opposite movement has been developed with the fast fashion business models from the 1990s to the 2020s.

A player that highly emphasized the slow fashion movement is Patagonia, which, as it highlighted in its Sustainable Apparel Coalition:

An apparel industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.

The Slow Movement evolved in parallel with the fast fashion movement as an alternative business practice. Indeed, as explained on the Patagonia website:

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. We’ve awarded over $140 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. In 2002, founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same.

How does this translate into practice in terms of the supply chain? As Patagonia highlights:

The purpose of Patagonia’s Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility Program is to measure and reduce the environmental impacts of manufacturing Patagonia products and materials. We implement our program at supplier facilities all over the world and cover a broad range of impact areas, including environmental management systems, chemicals, water use, water emissions, energy use, greenhouse gases, other air emissions and waste.

The attempt to build a more sustainable supply chain moves along a few key areas, what Patagonia calls a “4-Fold Approach to Supply Chain Decisions,” which, as the company highlighted:

This process includes screening potential new suppliers for the ability to meet our (1) sourcing, (2) quality, (3) social and (4) environmental standards. 

To execute this, Patagonia built a Social and Environmental Responsibility team (SER) to ensure these practices are implemented.

Related Case Studies

Other business resources:

Related Visual Resources

Slow Fashion

slow-fashion
Slow fashion is a movement in contraposition with fast fashion. Where in fast fashion, it’s all about speed from design to manufacturing and distribution, in slow fashion, quality and sustainability of the supply chain are the key elements.

Patagonia Business Model

patagonia-business-model
Patagonia is an American clothing retailer founded by climbing enthusiast Yvon Chouinard in 1973 who saw initial success by selling reusable climbing pitons and Scottish rugby shirts. Over time Patagonia also became a fashionable brand also for its focus on slow fashion. Indeed, the company sells high-priced clothing items built to last which it will repair for free.

Patagonia Organizational Structure

patagonia-organizational-structure
Patagonia has a particular organizational structure, where its founder, Chouinard, disposed of the company’s ownership in the hands of two non-profits. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, holding 100% of the voting stocks, is in charge of defining the company’s strategic direction. And the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit, holds 100% of non-voting stocks, aiming to re-invest the brand’s dividends into environmental causes.

Fast Fashion

fast-fashion
Fash fashion has been a phenomenon that became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as players like Zara and H&M took over the fashion industry by leveraging on shorter and shorter design-manufacturing-distribution cycles. Reducing these cycles from months to a few weeks. With just-in-time logistics and flagship stores in iconic places in the largest cities in the world, these brands offered cheap, fashionable clothes and a wide variety of designs.

Inditex Empire

inditex-fast-fashion-empire
With over €27 billion in sales in 2021, the Spanish Fast Fashion Empire, Inditex, which comprises eight sister brands, has grown thanks to a strategy of expanding its flagship stores in exclusive locations around the globe. Its largest brand, Zara, contributed over 70% of the group’s revenue. The country that contributed the most to the fast fashion Empire sales was Spain, with over 15% of its revenues.

Ultra Fast Fashion

ultra-fast-fashion
The Ultra Fashion business model is an evolution of fast fashion with a strong online twist. Indeed, where the fast-fashion retailer invests massively in logistics and warehousing, its costs are still skewed toward operating physical retail stores. While the ultra-fast fashion retailer mainly moves its operations online, thus focusing its cost centers on logistics, warehousing, and a mobile-based digital presence.

ASOS Business Model

asos-business-model
ASOS is a British online fashion retailer founded in 2000 by Nick Robertson, Andrew Regan, Quentin Griffiths, and Deborah Thorpe. As an online fashion retailer, ASOS makes money by purchasing clothes from wholesalers and then selling them for a profit. This includes the sale of private label or own-brand products. ASOS further expanded on the fast fashion business model to create an ultra-fast fashion model driven by short sales cycles and online mobile e-commerce as the main drivers.

Real-Time Retail

real-time-retail
Real-time retail involves the instantaneous collection, analysis, and distribution of data to give consumers an integrated and personalized shopping experience. This represents a strong new trend, as a further evolution of fast fashion first (who turned the design into manufacturing in a few weeks), ultra-fast fashion later (which further shortened the cycle of design-manufacturing). Real-time retail turns fashion trends into clothes collections in a few days or a maximum of one week.

SHEIN Business Model

shein-business-model
SHEIN is an international B2C fast fashion eCommerce platform founded in 2008 by Chris Xu. The company improved the ultra-fast fashion model by leveraging real-time retail, quickly turning fashion trends in clothes collections through its strong digital presence and successful branding campaigns.

Inditex Fashion Empire

inditex-fast-fashion-empire
With over €27 billion in sales in 2021, the Spanish Fast Fashion Empire, Inditex, which comprises eight sister brands, has grown thanks to a strategy of expanding its flagship stores in exclusive locations around the globe. Its largest brand, Zara, contributed over 70% of the group’s revenue. The country that contributed the most to the fast fashion Empire sales was Spain, with over 15% of its revenues.

Zara Business Model

zara-business-model
Zara is a brand part of the retail empire Inditex. Zara is the leading brand in what has been defined as “fast fashion.” With almost €20 billion in sales in 2021 (comprising Zara Home) and an integrated retail format with quick sales cycles. Zara follows an integrated retail format where customers are free to move from physical to digital experience.

Wish Business Model

wish-business-model
Wish is a mobile-first e-commerce platform in which users’ experience is based on discovery and customized product feed. Wish makes money from merchants’ fees and advertising on the platform, and logistic services. The mobile platform also leverages an asset-light business model based on a positive cash conversion cycle where users pay in advance as they order goods, and merchants are paid in weeks.

Poshmark Business Model

poshmark-business-model
Poshmark is a social commerce mobile platform that combines social media capabilities with its e-commerce platform to enable transactions. It makes money with a simple model, where for each sale, Poshmark takes a 20% fee on the final price for sales of $15 and over and a flat rate of $2.95 for sales below that. Its gamification elements and the tools offered to sellers are critical to the company’s growth as a mobile-first platform.

Read Next: Zara Business Model, Inditex, Fast Fashion Business Model, Ultra Fast Fashion Business Model, SHEIN Business Model.

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