It's clear that fast fashion equals big business. A 2015 survey found that top fast fashion retailers reported 9.8 percent growth, which was a full three percentage points higher than the growth reported from traditional retailers. But while some analysts predict the demise of many traditional fashion labels, current millennial value trends indicate that the appeal of fast fashion is already going stale. Generation Y embraces ideals that are in direct opposition to the main advantages of fast fashion, and these five cultural markers demonstrate that fast fashion is just a fad.
1. The Rise of the Capsule Wardrobe
This generation grew up with Steve Jobs wearing black shirts and white New Balance sneakers, so they see the value in creating their own iconic look. While few millennials commit fully to the austerity of Jobs, they're very interested in the idea of creating their own capsule wardrobe. Trend pieces from Refinery 29, Vogue and other fashion publishers promise that capsule wardrobes ranging from 10 to 30 items per season can help Generation Y dress better without sacrificing individuality. And a quick survey of Pinterest and fashion bloggers indicate that the idea of investing in a few well-chosen pieces of apparel appeal to budget-conscious and fashion-forward millennials.
2. Environmental Concerns
A $15 shirt may be tempting, but many millennials are becoming more savvy about the hidden costs of buying cheap. Concerns about unusual weather, which most millennials believe is caused by climate change, has many worried that conspicuous consumption could lead to serious environmental consequences. The idea of having a new outfit every day seems dangerously tone deaf when The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 12.8 tons of textile waste was discarded in 2013 and many cheaper items are made in foreign sweatshops.
3. Emphasis on Experience Over Things
Seventy-two percent of millennials prize experiences over things. This shift in values means that having a full closet filled with outfits for every occasion is less aspiration than it once was. Plus, most millennials are embracing the idea of living in smaller spaces that force them to adopt minimalism in their daily lives.
4. Interest in DIY and Maker Culture
As the interest in maker culture increases, Generation Y is observing first hand the amount of work it takes to design and construct common items. Fast fashion addicts who pay $30 for a dress may think that a $300 dress is overpriced. However, millennials who sew understand the cost of fabric, the difficulties of design and the hours required to construct that dress. When they affirm the value of their own craftsmanship, millennials also accept that certain well-constructed items have a higher inherent value.
5. Different Ideas of What Constitutes Value
Despite dealing with massive amounts of student debt and a tepid economy, millennials are still willing to pay for items that have a greater perceived value. The rise of fast casual dining over fast food offerings shows that once millennials understand the implications of buying cheap, they're willing to pay more for better options. For many members of Generation Y, a fast-fashion shirt made to withstand only ten washings is as appealing as a fast-food hamburger.
Industry watchers may believe that fast fashion is the future of the retail business, but millennial values say otherwise. Fifty percent of Generation Y, after all, is willing to take a pay cut to work at a company that reflects their values. As the fashion industry and environmental advocates become better at educating these consumers about the hazards of fast fashion, retailers can expect that millennials' consciences will dictate that their dollars will follow.