Fast Fashion Presents Design Problems

July 30, 2018
Fast Fashion Presents Design Problems

Fast fashion retailers, such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, and Urban Outfitters, compete by getting new designs to the marketplace as quickly as possible.  For example, Zara develops around 20,000 designs per year.

Such speed occasionally leads to fast fashion faux pas.

Some of the most notable include:

  • Zara’s miniskirt with a character resembling Pepe the Frog, a symbol used by white supremacists
  • H&M ran an ad of a black child wearing a sweatshirt that said “Coolest monkey in the jungle”
  • Urban Outfitter’s sold a red-stained Kent State Sweatshirt as part of its vintage collection

And while not the fault of the designer, sometimes these companies end up in the news because of the circumstances in which their clothing is displayed. Recently, Melania Trump wore a Zara jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” as she traveled to visit immigrant children who had been separated from their parents.

This post is based on the Washington Post article, Fast Fashion, Furious Controversy: Why Retailers Like Zara and H&M Keep Making Headlines for Offensive Clothing, by Abha Bhattarai, June 29, 2018. Image source: © Floresco Productions / age fotostock.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why is fast design important?

Guidance: The faster you can take an idea and translate it into a product and get it to the customers, the better.  Zara, and other fast fashion retailers have created a unique place in the marketplace by being able to create new fashion in an incredibly short time span and getting it to market.  This is their strategy, and in the vast majority of cases, it has worked well for them.

2. What problems does short design time present?

Guidance: This article lists several of the problems.  In the rush to marketplace you may overlook a design flaw.  This article mentions several that various companies made by rushing to the market.

3. What can be done to prevent design flaws?

Guidance: Obviously, steps must be in place to ensure the product is properly vetted before it reaches the market.  Zara uses an algorithm to scan the product for any inappropriate or insensitive images or language.  Also, the garment is reviewed by a global committee, and then a local committee for the local market.  In spite of these efforts by Zara, design flaws have made it to the marketplace.

It is a fine line between being edgy and generating sales, and making a mistake and offending potential customers.  A longer design time might allow more eyes to see the product and detect potentially offensive sayings or images.


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