Social Media And The Rise Of Fast Fashion

Visual content is one of the most engaging forms of content and now, consumers are more picture fixated than ever explaining the sudden rise of Instagram and Snapchat. Fashion companies often have an abundance of such content creating a beautiful symbiotic relationship between the industry and social media. Fashion brands were late to the party, arguably only starting to make the most of the medium around 2009/2010. Trends are beginning to arise due to its usage, the main development here being the growth of fast fashion; and its not stopping.

Before social media, people looked at luxury items as an investment – one could wear a pair of shoes or carry a handbag for days on end because no one saw it. Although high end products are still a commodity, in a world of Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest – where people are constantly posting pictures of themselves – the ideology behind wearing an item more than once has quickly changed. Encouraging the mentality that once an item has been shared with the public it can never be shown again, social media has created a need for fast fashion.

Sites like Rent the Runway thrived because social media users could wear high end clothes, share them with their network and return it the next day without anyone ever finding out. However, luxury fashion is unobtainable to the mass and this is where fast fashion companies saw an opportunity. Coupled with an advancement in technology and a higher demand for low-cost trend driven clothing, high street and ecommerce brands saw the supply and demand opportunity. Not only has social media caused the fast fashion fiasco, consumers also use the platforms to sport trends. People no longer walk into a retail store to find their next look—they turn to their social media feeds to see what’s happening around them with friends, influencers or celebrities they admire. Studies have found that 81% of people are influenced by friends’ posts and 85% of people are influenced by celebrity endorsements when making a buying decision. Boohoo, a fast fashion online retailer, reported profits doubling after they paid for celebrities to promote their products across social media.

For retailers, this means that social media is a bigger advertising platform than their own mannequins in their shop windows. Using programmatic advertising, retailers can reach their consumers at any point. Brands can follow a potential customer on their journey through social media platforms all the way into their baskets. Have you ever noticed that the pair of shoes you were just looking at coincidently presented itself on the side of your Facebook feed? Well it wasn’t a coincidence. In the millisecond that a consumer moves from one website to another, companies bid using algorithms for the advertising space on a feed. Converging the act of online shopping with technological advancements, such as Real Time Buying and Artificial Intelligence only reiterates that the fast fashion trend will grow from strength to strength. Zara, the worlds largest fast fashion retailer leads the fast fashion industry. They produce around 11,000 distinct items during the year, compared to the 2,000-4,000 its key competitors manufacture. They are able to have purchasable products in stores within four to five weeks of the design being originated and it takes as quick as two weeks for modifications of products to be restocked in stores, too.

Although social media has been a massive contributor to the progress of fast fashion, it’s not the only reason why the trend is continuing to grow. The need for fast fashion goes further than social media and into the consumer’s desires. The consumer as an audience, has been spoiled by the likes of Primark, ASOS and the aforementioned Zara. They now expect their demands to be met and as long as they continue to use Social Media as a platform then brands will continue to react to their wants and needs. Most importantly, the power truly lies in the consumer: if companies don’t abide to their needs, brands will slowly lose to the competitors that do, leaving a sink or swim attitude towards fast fashion.