The Real Cost of Fast Fashion – TheStreet.com

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve inevitably noticed that retail prices are dropping faster than you can say “highly flammable polyester blend.” 

Oversaturation in the retail market, Millennials spending more on experiences than material possessions and a steep decrease of in-store traffic all snowballed into the winter of retail discontent. TheStreet‘s Lindsay Rittenhouse also noted that heightened competition from e-commerce players such as Amazon  ( AMZN) , elevated rent costs and rising interest rates are expected to tack on an additional headache for retailers.

The disconnect between fast fashion and traditional brands has also created a rift, with retail trying to catch up to fast fashion with Sisyphean results. No matter how hard they try, the traditional retail structure can’t keep up with fast fashion’s culture, cost of goods and supply chain noted Adheer Bahulkar, a partner in the consumer goods and retail practice at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney during a phone call to TheStreet. Bahulkar also noted that traditional brands need to go back to creating stories that resonate with their community rather than trying to keep up with the latest de rigueur look, because they end up alienating their current customer and eschewing better quality in favor of quicker output. 

With that being said, traditional retail has had to cut the price of clothing to such a degree to remain competitive that you’re better off purchasing from such retailers anyway. The item (usually) won’t self-destruct after a few washes, you’ll probably keep the item longer because you respect the brand more and the piece may have a longer life because you’re more likely to donate rather than toss it.

“Fast fashion is dependent on high volume,” said Nanette Heide, ACG New York board member and partner at Duane Morris. ” As the consumer becomes more conscious, they may be moving away from impulse purchases of garments that are made to be off trend the moment they are placed in a shopping bag.”

To prove this point that traditional retail is the incontestable better value, let’s look at the prices of a “control top” (not Spanx) of a popular women’s style currently available from essentially every brand.

Off-the-shoulder or “cold shoulder tops” (as a former fashion copywriter, I can attest to the fact that this is a cop out) are having a moment, no matter how impractical they are for undergarments and ill-suited for a corporate environment. Because they’ve been around for several seasons more conventional retailers in addition to fast fashion have embraced them and bare shoulders have become a core seasonal style statement for spring collections. What really differs by brand is the price and construction, and if it’s machine washable. 

Let’s see how the prices stack up against one another in order of most to least expensive at the time of publication. The lack of disparity between pricing/more expensive brands versus quality may surprise you.

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