Get into the game: the new fast fashion players

New etailers and expanding international brands are nipping at the heels of fast fashion’s big players, eager to grab a share of the lucrative market

Manchester was once known as “Cottonopolis”, a nickname given to the area at the time of the Industrial Revolution as it rapidly became the centre of Britain’s textile trade. Centuries on, the city is at the forefront of another revolution in the industry: the unstoppable rise of fast fashion etailers.Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing, all born in Manchester, have shaken up the high street for good with a laser-like focus on speed, digital prowess and affordability.

Fast fashion is booming: data from insight provider Hitwise shows the market grew by 21% over the past three years. This, coupled with the success of fast fashion’s biggest players – Boohoo is on track to hit turnover of £1bn by 2020 and revenue at Missguided soared by 75% to £206m in the year to March 2017 – has inspired a new wave of etailers from around the UK to seek to tap into the magic formula of social media and speedy, trend-led product.

“New retailers are all targeting the same kind of customer because there is such demand for on-trend product,” says Charlotte Pearce, retail analyst at Global Data. “The sector is getting crowded, but it is still growing because trends change so quickly, particularly in the value clothing space.”

Manchester’s Missy Empire is one of the burgeoning etailers taking advantage of the interest in trend-led, affordable fashion. The business was started by brothers Ash and Ish Siddique in 2015, who had spent 15 years working as knitwear manufacturers before switching to launch their own brand. It launches 100 new pieces online every week and prices are kept competitive, ranging from £7 for a basic short-sleeved cropped top to £52 for a fake suede jacket and £53 for an embellished mini-dress.

“We come from a manufacturing background, so we always used to make the clothing rather than sell it,” explains Ash Siddique. “When production started moving to China [at a faster pace] around 2000 and prices started dropping, it became tougher for UK manufacturers to compete. Being a retailer now, I understand why businesses were so adamant about sticking to a certain price point, but we couldn’t carry on manufacturing, so we shut the business.”

He argues this experience in has proved invaluable for Missy Empire, and has allowed it to get products to market as quickly as possible.

“The beauty of coming from the same background is that we can speak to manufacturers on their level,” he says. “We can get products turned around in five to 10 days because we know what we want and can cut down on toing-and-froing. We can negotiate and change products to make sure they are affordable for us and our customer, but also for the manufacturer.”

Building on your background

A background in manufacturing has also proved useful for growing womenswear etailer Nobody’s Child, which is stocked on Asos and Topshop. The brand was started by family-run manufacturer Misfit Fashions, which has its own factories in the UK, Europe and Asia. As a result, it says, it can respond quickly to trends and keep prices low, while also cutting down on waste and producing ethically. Prices range from £10 for basic T-shirts to £35 for an embroidered Bardot dress.

Social media has made starting your own fashion business so accessible

Beth O’Donnell, Fearlesss

Social media has removed many of the barriers that previously hampered budding entrepreneurs who were interested in fashion, but lacked funds or previous experience. Womenswear etailer Fearlesss focuses on feminine styles for the 25-to-35 demographic. It first started life in 2011 as a Facebook page, when founder Beth O’Donnell began selling dresses from a wholesaler on the platform as a way to make extra money while raising three small children. The business now has a standalone website and employs a team of 14.

“Social media has made starting your own fashion business so accessible to people,” she tells Drapers. “I’d take photos of dresses and post them on Facebook, and customers would comment with which size they wanted to buy. I’d always been interested in fashion but never hoped to be in the industry or own a fashion business ten years ago – social media changed that.”

However, O’Donnell warns changes to social media platforms algorithms have made it harder for new entrants to the fast fashion market to attract attention, particularly as the sector gets more competitive: “Nowadays, Facebook posts don’t get seen by anywhere near the same amount of people – when I started Fearlesss, if you posted something it would be seen by everyone who followed you. Social media has changed and even paid posts are not getting out to as many people as they used to. I started Fearlesss before a lot of people realised what you could do online, and it is getting a lot harder.”

A DIY approach also worked for Cheshire-based womenswear etailer Want That Trend. It was launched in 2015 and reached £7m in sales before the end of its first year. Victoria Molyneux started the business after she struggled to find flattering clothes after having children, and it now has more than 1.5 million Facebook fans and 80,000 Instagram followers. Rather than using professional models, Molyneux takes selfies wearing Want That Trend product.

Want That Trend’s Victoria Molyneux posts selfies showing the brands clothes, rather than using models

“I’ve always taken product pictures myself since we started and it is part of our success – it helps us stand out in the market,” she says. “People recognise me in them because I’m not a size eight model and they can picture what it will really look like on them. You could have a photo of a gorgeous dress on a beautiful model in an expensive photoshoot but that often doesn’t feel very real.”

British shoppers’ seemingly unlimited appetite for fast fashion has also piqued the interest of international giants looking for a slice of the action. As Drapers revealed last month, Chineseheavyweight Urban Revivo will move into Westfield London in March 2018 and Polish retailer Reserved, which has 1,000 stores in its domestic market, is set to open on London’s Oxford Street in early September.

As the sector gets more and more crowded, quality and delivery will become bigger concerns for customers, Global Data’s Pearce warns: “To reach a certain level and compete with the larger players, new etailers have to have a good product offer but also a strong delivery proposition – quality is also going to become more of a concern for customers. They will need to have all the right elements to compete.”

If these up-and-coming brands tick all the essential boxes, the sector’s established players could feel the impact as the combination of smaller competitors and newcomers from overseas starts to bite.

 

Fashion swaps black for colour in brave, bright new world

CUE Georgette ruffle dress; Ginger & Smart skirt and top; model at Tibi S/S 2017; Caroline Issa.

It is one of the most common questions I am asked as a fashion director, and it used to be a pretty straightforward one to answer. What colour is in this season? Blue is what I might have said once, or maybe red. Another season it might have been yellow or green. There would have been two options maximum. Easy.

These days my response depends on how long you’ve got. For spring-summer 2017 there was a veritable paragraph’s worth of hues on the catwalk, the common theme being bright-bright-bright. There was red (as seen at Christian Dior and Celine), pink (Valentino and Balenciaga), green (Fendi and Emporio Armani), blue (Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada), sunshine yellow (Chloe and Erdem), and that was just the beginning.

Gucci delivered a mash-up of colours so manifold that it left the term kaleidoscopic in the shade. “Why have one colour when you can have 73?” seems to be the motto of its creative director, Alessandro Michele.

What’s with all the colour? It’s because that’s where fashion is at these days, on every darn tootin’ thing. Trouser shapes and skirt lengths are subject to debate. Eras are referenced and mixed up with the abandon of a confused A-level history student. It’s not that designers don’t know what to do any more, it’s that they know they can’t be dictators. The modern woman wants options. More than that, the modern woman no longer exists. She is no longer a homogenous entity who can be summed up as “woman” in the singular. Modern women, they are the ones who are shopping for clothes, and their predilections — like their postcode — may lie any which way.

All of which is good yet confusing news for us consumers. We are allowed — finally — to pick and choose colours, not to mention shapes and styles, that suit us. Many of us appear to be embracing that opportunity. Hot hues such as yellow and pink are selling out like never before, according to retail analytics company Edited, up by 68 per cent and 67 per cent respectively in the past three months compared with the same period last year.

As Lydia King, the women’s wear buying director at Selfridges, observes: “Colour is less trend-led now. It’s more about brand personality, and about the fact that women want clothes that are individual and easy to wear.”

Carla Zampatti jumpsuit, $1149.

But what if we aren’t sure what suits us? Isn’t it safest to stick to what we know? (Which, let’s be honest here, probably means black, navy, white and earth tones.) I hear you. However, part of the reason fashion has gone potty for bright colour is because it is such a great game changer, a one-stop way to change how somebody looks and feels. More than that, it does so without getting in the way of your life. What even the most highfalutin designers have clocked is that even the most highfalutin women want easy clothes that don’t dictate they sit a certain way or breathe a certain way. So they have endowed simple, often classic items with new-found specialness by way of unexpected colour, be it Dior’s scarlet biker jacket ($5200, in store only, dior.com) or Ferragamo’s sapphire trench dress ($2600, in store only, ferragamo.com). We can — and should — learn from that. (For more affordable alternatives try Lth Jkt’s red leather biker, $US495, lthjkt.com, and Finery’s blue linen Hartington wrap dress, $165, finerylondon.com.)

Caroline Issa, publisher of Tank magazine when she isn’t being papped for her superlative personal style, is one of the most dedicated followers of colour in the fashion business. “I love it. I actually feel strange wearing black now.” However, she has her rules, which is why hers is an approach worth noting by those of us who are less tonally skilled. “Keep your silhouettes simple and make colour the loudest thing about your outfit,” is her top tip. She is also a big fan of bright tailoring. “I love wearing head-to-toe purple or strong blue suits, playing with the combination of a strict cut and a fun colour.”

If that sounds like too much, then you could wear a popping jacket with neutral trousers, or vice versa. Issa’s advice: “Use accessories to add colour to an all-black outfit, or a white shirt with jeans. Think colourful shoes, a bag or jewellery.” It’s those small forays into rainbow chic that will help you to build confidence to attempt something bigger. I like Milli Millu’s Manhattan cross-body bag, which comes in yellow, red, cerise, forest and eight more colour combos ($378, millimillu.com). Or how about Katerina Makriyianni’s gorgeous pink and green gem chandelier earrings? ($545, avenue32.com).

What if you are feeling braver? First things first. Always scope out a new-to-you colour in the flesh — which means trying it on in a shop or being brutally honest about sending back an online purchase if it doesn’t look right. And make sure to try it on in daylight, accessorised with your real make-up, hairstyle, shoes and bag.

Naturally Issa isn’t having any of it when it comes to the notion of certain colours suiting certain people. “I tend to ignore that idea that there are particular colours that you shouldn’t wear, and I tell my friends to do the same,” she says. “Redheads always tell me that they can’t wear pinks or reds or more oranges, but I think if you play with colour confidently then anything goes.”

Australian designers have an inherent understanding of colour. The coming spring-summer season sees bold reds from Carla Zampatti, including an angled neckline jumpsuit (carlazampatti.com.au), greens from Ginger & Smart (gingerandsmart.com) and Dion Lee’s imminent autumn collection features cobalt blue and deep orange (dionlee.com).

On the high street, Cue (cue.cc) is spruiking cobalt and crimson this season, while US label J. Crew (jcrew.com) consistently nails bright colour like no one else.

At a higher price point, American label Tibi has become a fashion pack go-to. Standout pieces include an asymmetric red stretch faille top and a yellow crepe de chine top, which has almost sold out ($487 and $847, respectively, matchesfashion.com). British label Roksanda offers colour like few others, and its bell-sleeve Margot crepe dress — available in blue or peach — has already become something of a classic since it launched three years ago ($1700, matchesfashion.com). What a joy of a dress it is. And that’s the key to the whole matter, according to Issa. “I recently wore a red dress and was stopped on the street by teenage girls, a 70-something man and everyone in between, all excited by the colour.” I can’t think of a better reason to boldly go.

The Warby Parker of Wedding Dresses Is Here to Save Alfred Angelo Brides Left in the Lurch

Last week, Alfred Angelo abruptly shuttered all of its more than 50 nationwide locations (including the ones in Springfield, Virginia and Glen Burnie, Maryland), stopped the delivery of dresses to independent boutiques, and yanked its website as it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In the wake, hundreds of brides (and their ‘maids) are without wedding dresses that were paid for, ordered, and, in many cases, left inside now-vacant stores, causing sheer nuptial panic, anxiety, and—we’re guessing—a lot of tears. To help, newlyweds across the country are offering up their gowns on loan through social media, David’s Bridal has extended deep discounts to Alfred Angelo customers, and, most recently, new online retailer Floravere, has stepped up to offer 50 free sample gowns to brides left without wedding gowns.

Which gives us the perfect cue to introduce unfamiliar readers to Floravere. A relatively new online bridal retailer, Floravere offers a collection of sample gowns that can be shipped direct, so brides can then try them on in the comfort (and—hallelujah—lighting) of their own homes, return the samples (in a pre-paid box), and then request tailoring/design tweaks/full customization of their made-to-order gown, beginning at $945. To help in the midst of the Alfred Angelo debacle, Floravere is now offering 50 Alfred Angelo brides free sample dresses from the retailer’s first two collections. Beyond the first 50 sample dresses, which include the six designs pictured here, in sizes 2, 4, and 10, Floravere is offering 30 percent off any new dress to brides interested in designing their own from the current collection—with guaranteed delivery in five weeks or less.

 

21 DRESSES FOR SUMMER

It’s that time of summer when we all face the dreaded problem of running out of summer dresses to pull out at a moments notice. I know I’ve pretty much exhausted all of my options which is why I’ve put together this post of 21 new options for you to consider.

Emilie Lace Dress

I love the versatility in designs that Ganni creates. This super girly lacey-floral number was fun to strut around Melrose Place in for a mid-day shoot with my photographer.

Sundance Dress

Lacausa has the perfect simple slip dresses. I recently bought this in their store with a few other simple summer pieces and I’ve been wearing them nonstop!

Beach Dress

As a part of my recent clothing line launch, I created a very special piece called the Beach Dress. For a limited time only, I created the Beach Dress in red {my favorite color}. Please email haleigh@damselinc.com for details!

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Floral Print Dress

Floral has always been a go-to spring and summer print for me. I especially love how bright the orange flowers stand out against the black colored dress.

Short Sleeve Bra Dress

During the summer it is still extremely warm at night so it is nice to find a cute {affordable} evening dress that you can wear out while still managing to stay cool and comfortable.

 

Four trends to emerge from New York Fashion Week Men’s

New York — As subway trains rattled the tracks overhead, the fashion crowd gathered under the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown for Belgian designer Raf Simons’ hotly anticipated spring 2018 men’s fashion show. The night’s humidity and a smoke machine added additional sweltering drama to the open-market setting July 11 as male and female models shielded themselves from the steaming clouds with LED-lit umbrellas. A neon sign advertising Replicants hinted that the collection would be themed around “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s gritty-chic 1982 science fiction film whose sequel opens later this year, and sure enough, Simons featured layered, distorted-tailored shapes, cocoon outerwear and a variety of slick tech fabrications. Looks printed with New Order and Joy Division concert T-shirt designs added to the overall 1980s retro-future aesthetic. The moody, almost salvaged-looking collection was a microcosm of many of the leading trends to emerge.

Now in its fifth season, the annual four-day New York Fashion Week Men’s put on by the trade association Council of Fashion Designers of America again featured a mix of established designers and houses (Boss, Perry Ellis, Todd Snyder) and newer-comers (Kenneth Ning, Thaddeus O’Neil, Private Policy). Dark and light dueled as some designers chose optimistic, playful motifs (Bode’s homeware-inspired coziness, David Hart’s sunny celebration of Cuba) in contrast to the more brooding collections (Willy Chavarria’s leather-meets-lowrider themes, the “West Side Story” delinquents at Death to Tennis). Here are four standout trends from New York Fashion Week Men’s.

New wave apocalyptic

As with recent women’s collections, dystopian and new wave-meets-punk themes were a strong current. Call it part of the ’70s bleeding into ’80s moment in the retro cycle or a continued fashion embodiment of the current political resistance culture — there was a feeling of rebellion. Simons’ “Blade Runners” and Chavarria’s homage to New York’s pre-AIDS gay leather scene were two of the strongest nods, while Linder relied on punk cutouts, riveting and bleached-patchwork effects. Maiden Noir’s beach-meets-protest trenches, Heliot Emil’s military straps and hardware and Feng Chen Wang’s utilitarian athleisure sets and dusters also heavily borrowed from the mood. Kenneth Ning’s “Protocol 18” collection used heavily deconstructed tailoring, manipulated camouflage (also seen at Landlord) and aggressive Doc Marten boots to explore themes on the national security state.

Proportion play

Slim silhouettes will never entirely leave us, but menswear’s reaction against a decade of ultra-skinny cuts continues. N. Hoolywood elongated varsity jackets and cardigans, Thaddeus O’Neil cut shirts loose and boxy, while Raun La Rose inflated everything from trousers to puffer vests. Ingo Wilts at Boss relaxed suiting and featured plenty of swooping outerwear, while Michael Maccari at Perry Ellis widened pants and was one of many designers to feature the dangling, ultra-long belt.

“Guys are really loving the loose trouser,” said Maccari. “As the super-wide shapes are coming back, guys are getting it’s not about skinny; we’re pushing in the other direction as the eye changes.”

“Plastic” fantastic

Tech fabrications with the shine and gloss of plastics were seen in the reflective and transparent outerwear at Ovadia and Sons, the athletic meshes and rubberized jackets at EFM Engineered For Motion, and the primary-colored cutaway-style raincoat at Wood House. Designer Patrik Ervell, who has made the textile a hallmark of his brand, explored it again this season in sporty anoraks, wide polyurethane shorts, pants and colored cellophane-like shirting.

“With something like the silicon code ripstop (fabric) we used, it feels incredible, slippery, bizarre,” said Ervell. “When you layer it, you can get almost a stained-glass quality.”

Androgyny

One of the most talked about debuts at NYFWM was Robert Geller’s new Gustav Von Aschenbach line (named for the title character in Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”), which featured sets of monochromatic, loose uniform-style looks with a strong unisex appeal. Carlos Campos showed unisex jumpsuits, tunics and sport pieces in drab beige balanced by bold pops of red on a mixed-gender runway. N-P-Elliot designer Nicholas Elliot took a more fantastical approach to androgyny with his boldly patterned bodysuits, draped shorts and billowing sleeves.

“All our boys (on the runway) are so pretty we didn’t want to gender the clothing too much,” said Elliott. “This trans thing that was popular a couple seasons ago was kind of a fad but this is my brand ethos. It’s important that we talk about the right kind of intersectionality (in fashion).”

Jaime King Wears Ruffled Blouse From Fast-Fashion Site

Actress Jaime King stepped out in Los Angeles looking fashion-forward sporting a structured ruffled blouse, skinny jeans, and black flats. She paired the casual jeans with a shirt that upon first glance looks seriously high-fashion but is actually from the fast-fashionwebsite SheIn. Meaning: We can afford it.

SheIn sells really affordable clothing — think adorable blouses for under $20 (and sometimes even under $10) — and even stylish celebs like King are taking advantage of the incredible deals.

Jaime King wears a ruffled blouse from fast-fashion site SheIn.
Jaime King in her ruffled SheIn blouse. (Photo: AKM-GSI)
SheIn’s prices are competitive with those of a brand like Forever 21, but its styles seem to target a more mature audience.

Although King’s blouse is no longer available on the site, a similar off-the-shoulder blouse on SheIn sells for only $16. The shirt has 96 reviews and an almost perfect score of 4.9, with many uploading pics of themselves wearing the blouse onto the site’s “Style Gallery.”

The SheIn Style Gallery, where customers get points if they upload a photo of themselves wearing a SheIn item.
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“A little small on the waist but it is a so sweet blouse; I like the shape, and the fabric does not look cheap,” wrote one reviewer who gave the top a five-star rating.

Another wrote: “Adorable top, fits true to size, I purchased small. Fit perfectly. Love the fun sleeves and off-shoulder vibe. Received so many compliments. Highly recommend. Amazing quality and a great price. Looks so much more expensive than it was!!”

Of course there were naysayers too. A customer who gave the blouse a one-star rating wrote, “Too small … returning.” To that, SheIn’s customer service department commented: “We deeply apologize if our items did not live up to your expectation. Please kindly note that the sizes of our items correspond to the size description on our site, which are not standard U.S. or U.K. sizes, thus we have measurements on each product page for your reference. We’re sorry for the hassle, and we’re doing everything we can to improve.”

The brand is also sold on Amazon with similar generally positive reviews, aside from the pervasive SheIn sizing issue.

“Typically wear a size 4 and ordered a medium and it was way too small. Very cute skirt other than being too small,” an Amazon commenter wrote about a popular SheIn denim skirt.

“I am normally a medium, so I bought a large. Still way too small =*( For sure, I would give this 5 stars if it fit me. Apparently, they don’t have XL so I can’t even exchange it,” wrote another.

The SheIn Style Gallery, where customers get points if they upload a photo of themselves wearing a SheIn item.
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With prices so low though, perhaps it’s worth ordering SheIn items we love in multiple sizes and returning the ones that don’t fit. Hey, if SheIn is good enough for Jaime King, it’s good enough for us.

SHOPDEALMAN

9 Must-Try Summer Fashion Trends That Clueless Predicted

As if! Say you were born the day Clueless opened in theaters across America—July 19, 1995. You would be 22 today, or way older than Cher, Tai, and Dionne as they strode the halls of Bronson Alcott High School.

Feel ancient now? Consider this: It is over 200 years since Jane Austen wroteEmma, on which this iconic teenage film is based. She describes her heroine as a girl “no one but myself will much like,” and introduces her in the first lines of the book as: “handsome, clever, and rich,” which kind of sums up Cherilyn “Cher” Horowitz as well. Transporting Emma’s action from an English manor house to a mansion in Beverley Hills, Clueless tells the timeless story of young matchmaking gone awry—though Austen never had Emma say, “She’s my friend because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us,” as Cher explains in one of her many enlightening aperçus.

And another thing: Austen’s damsels may have muddled while clad in flimsy muslin frocks, but the outfits worn by Clueless’s heroines are far closer to ourown hearts. As luck—and fashion—would have it, so many of the mainstays of Cluelessare showing up again on runways, store racks, and city streets.

Happy anniversary Clueless! So get out those slip dresses, slap on those chokers, cuddle up in your pastel athleisure! Then tear open a bag of Skinny Pop, crank up the air-conditioning, pay $3.99 to have Amazon stream the movie into your laptop, and spend a perfect evening in the company of Baldwins and virgins who can’t drive.

Here, our guide to the enduring fashions of Clueless.

SHOPDEALMAN