Some of the latest reports state that the global Fast Fashion Market valuation reached $93.66 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow to $167.50 billion by 2030. An industry that started in the 1980s has now exploded and seems only to be getting bigger. Some major brands like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 seem to dominate the industry.
However, there are numerous smaller brands like Patagonia, Honest Basics, and Kotn who are carving a niche for themselves in the space. If you’re a fashion entrepreneur, you may be wondering who the primary markets are for fast fashion.
IBISWorld states, ‘People aged between 15 and 34 are the primary target market of fast fashion retailers’ currently making up 66% of the market. While this is a wide range, we’ve decided to break it down to the 3 key target audiences for this sector. However, this is a very broad market explanation. In this article, we’ll narrow down the 3 primary target audiences for fast fashion. We’ll also discuss the industry and some of the controversies that surround it.
What is the Fast Fashion Industry?
The fast fashion industry is characterized by its rapid production and distribution of current fashion trends at affordable prices. This sector thrives on the premise of making trendy clothing accessible to anyone. This is usually done by replicating styles and designs seen on high-fashion runways and in celebrity culture.
Brands like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 are a few of the better-known examples. These brands are known for their ability to quickly bring new styles to market. They’ve streamlined their supply chains to shorten the time between design, production, and retail. All of that enables them to refresh their in-store shelves frequently. Meaning they can create a new line and have it available to buy much faster than higher-end brands.
H&M, a Swedish multinational, is a prominent player in this industry. It’s celebrated for offering a vast range of trendy, yet affordable clothing options, which appeal to a wide demographic. Zara, a Spanish retailer and part of the Inditex group, stands out for its unique business model. It has a highly responsive supply chain enabling it to design, produce, and distribute a new product to its stores worldwide in just a few weeks. Forever 21, an American company, has made its mark by offering the latest fashion trends at very low prices, catering especially to the younger female demographic.
Fast Fashion and Teenagers (15-17)
The fashion industry, especially the fast fashion segment, significantly impacts teenagers aged 15 to 17. This age group, at the cusp of shaping their individual identities, is often influenced by social media trends, peer pressure, and a desire for self-expression.
Fast fashion caters to this demographic by offering trendy, affordable apparel that aligns with their limited budgets and evolving tastes. At this stage personal style is a form of self-exploration. That is why teenagers find fast fashion appealing due to its diverse and constantly updating collections.
The industry has also tapped into the digital savviness of this age group. Many fast fashion brands have online platforms and social media strategies that resonate well with tech-savvy teenagers. These platforms not only offer convenience but also create a sense of community among young shoppers through influencer collaborations and interactive content.
However, this comes with concerns about sustainability and the influence of consumerism on young minds. With increasing awareness about environmental issues, there is a growing segment of teens advocating for sustainable fashion, which could reshape the industry’s approach to this demographic in the future. We’ll look at that a little more later in this article.
Young Adults (18-26)
For young adults aged 18 to 26, fast fashion plays a crucial role in catering to their lifestyle needs. This demographic is often characterized by life transitions such as starting college. Some are entering the workforce or beginning to establish independence. This usually comes with seeking fashion that is both affordable and versatile. Fast fashion brands meet these needs by offering a wide range of styles that can cater to various occasions. For fast fashion brands, that means offering casual university wear and professional attire for job interviews.
While the teenage demographic seems to skew towards girls, young men from 18 to 26 seem to be a good target for this age demographic. One survey by the fashion brand Absolute Bear found that young men have increased their purchasing of fast fashion over the years.
The influence of social media remains strong in this demographic. It’s no secret that platforms like Instagram and TikTok are shaping fashion trends. Fast fashion brands capitalize on this by rapidly producing clothes that mimic high-end fashion trends. The entire aim was to make them accessible to a broader audience.
Fast Fashion and Millennials (27-30)
Millennials, aged 27 to 30, represent a mature segment within the fast fashion market. This group tends to have more established careers and stable incomes compared to the younger demographics. However, they still seek the affordability and trendiness that fast fashion offers. The difference is their approach to fashion is often more refined and quality-focused. As a result, millennials are more likely to invest in pieces that offer longevity and versatility, balancing trendiness with practicality.
Sustainability and ethical production are significant concerns for this demographic. Many in this age group are willing to spend more on sustainable and ethically produced fashion. This has led to a shift in fast fashion strategies to include eco-friendly lines and transparent sourcing. One Eventbrite survey found that 78% of millennials value experiences over possessions, which influences their fashion choices.
They prefer brands that align with their personal values and lifestyles, making them selective consumers. Fast fashion brands targeting millennials often emphasize brand stories, ethical practices, and quality to align with these preferences. Additionally, this demographic’s preference for online shopping has led fast fashion brands to enhance their e-commerce platforms and customer experiences.
Backlash Around the Industry
The fast fashion industry faces criticism for its environmental impact and sustainability practices. The rapid production model often leads to significant textile waste and contributes to environmental degradation. Furthermore, concerns around labor practices in the supply chain have sparked debates on ethical manufacturing. Since fast fashion is more affordable and tends to move towards trendy styles, their customers are less likely to hold on to these items of clothing for a long time.
This means that purchases of fast fashion will discard items at a much faster rate than older generations who are more likely to buy clothes that will last longer. One estimate states that 92 million tons of clothes-related waste each year. That is about a garbage truck-sized load being incinerated each second.
In response, some brands are beginning to adopt more sustainable practices. For instance, H&M has launched a Conscious Collection, focusing on eco-friendly materials, and Zara has committed to making its garments from 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. Despite these efforts, the industry continues to grapple with the challenge of balancing trend-driven demand with sustainable practices.
There is also the issue with labor practices. One campaign found that 93% of 311 brands it surveyed aren’t paying garment workers a living wage. This is still an issue that has yet to be addressed since it is estimated that 99% of brands do not disclose whether or not they are paying a living wage to their workers.
As stated earlier, fast fashion has seen a meteoric rise. But, it is also facing a lot of controversy and seems to need a disruption. While these target audiences will most likely continue to be the focus for fast fashion brands, their tastes and preferences may change over time. Brands will need to adapt if they want to make these shoppers happy.