In recent years, the fast fashion industry in China has grown rapidly, with many international brands setting up shop in the country. Fast fashion is a type of fashion that focuses on quick production and turnover of new trends, often at affordable prices.
This business model has been very successful in China, where consumers are always looking for the latest trends and are willing to pay for them. There are many reasons for the success of fast fashion in China. First, the country has a large population with a growing middle class that has more disposable income.
Additionally, Chinese consumers are becoming more and more aware of global fashion trends and are eager to adopt them. Fast fashion brands have been able to tap into this trend by offering affordable, trendy clothes that appeal to local tastes.
The fast fashion industry in China is expected to continue growing in the coming years. While sustainable brands and green collections are thriving. This presents a great opportunity for foreign brands that are looking to enter the Chinese market. By understanding the trends and needs of locals, brands can position themselves well to succeed in this booming industry.
The Rise of the Fast Fashion Business Model in China
Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing items that are rapidly created and put on the market to respond to the latest trends. Fast fashion brands take inspiration from catwalk designs or celebrity styles and quickly produce cheaper, mass-produced versions that are made available to consumers almost immediately.
For instance, the fast-fashion brand Zara changes 15% of its assortment every week. Each salesperson analyzes 12,000 references in real-time to provide key insights to the team of designers, who then has 72h between the initial sketch and prototype. This has led to a growing demand for fast fashion items, particularly among younger shoppers in the Chinese Gen Z who are looking for affordable, stylish pieces and celebrities’ same style to be trendy.
China is now the world’s largest market for fast fashion, with Chinese buyers spending an estimated $6.9 billion on clothing and footwear in the 2019 report. This is thanks to a growing middle class with more disposable income, as well as a younger generation that is increasingly fashion-conscious and willing to spend money on trends.
In terms of strategy, what has more potential in China: fast fashion or sustainable fashion?
There are several reasons why fast fashion brands have been so successful in China:
- Location: Many of the leading companies are based in China or have a strong presence there, which means that they can quickly respond to changing trends.
- E-commerce: The growth of online shopping has made it easier for consumers to purchase fast fashion items, with many Chinese shoppers now buying clothes via e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba’s Tmall or JD.com.
- Social media: The rise of social media platforms such as Weibo and Little Red Book has also played a role in the success of fast fashion brands in China. These platforms have given consumers more exposure to international trends and companies, which has helped to increase the popularity of fast fashion among younger shoppers.
How Smart Brands Are Joining in on the Trend
While the fast fashion industry has been growing rapidly in China, there have been some concerns about the environmental and social impact of this type of clothing. As a result, many foreign brands are now looking for ways to tap into the market without contributing to these problems.
Bet on Sustainable Fashion
One way that companies are doing this is by partnering with sustainable fashion startups that are working to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry. The trend of being eco-friendly is very popular in China and over 55% have purchased sustainable products. A surprising 35 percent decided to buy these items because they think it’s trendy!
Fashion enthusiasts are also looking for products with less toxic chemicals for the environment and a more sustainable supply chain for their clothing needs.
Collaborations of Fast Fashion Brands with Chinese Designers
Another way that brands are tapping into the Chinese market is by working with local designers and manufacturers to create exclusive collections. This is a good way for companies to offer something unique to their target audience while still being able to benefit from the country’s vast manufacturing capabilities. For example, Japanese brand Uniqlo has collaborated with KAWS to create a range of exclusive T-shirts for the China market.
This strategy has also been adopted by several luxury brands, which are increasingly looking to China for growth. These companies are working with Chinese designers and manufacturers to create limited-edition products that are only available in China. This helps to build buzz around the brand and tap into the growing demand for luxury goods among Chinese consumers.
Why do fast fashion clothing groups have a future in China
- They offer a much wider range of style options than traditional retailers. This means that consumers can find items that suit their tastes and style preferences more easily.
- More affordable than luxury brands, which is appealing to price-sensitive Chinese buyers, notably low wages in lower-tier cities. In addition, fast fashion brands typically have a shorter lead time from design to delivery, meaning that consumers can get their hands on the latest trends much sooner.
- Another benefit of fast fashion for customers is the fact that many of these companies have an online presence. This is convenient for consumers who prefer to do their shopping online, and it also means that they can shop from the comfort of their own homes.
- Finally, the rise of social media has made it easier for Chinese netizens to discover new fast fashion brands and follow the latest trends.
Platforms such as Weibo and WeChat have become key channels for foreign and domestic brands to connect with consumers and promote their products. In addition, many fast fashion brands now have their e-commerce platforms, making it even easier for consumers to purchase items from the comfort of their own homes.
The Future of Fast Fashion Retailers in China
The future of fast fashion in China looks bright. The industry is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace, and more fashion groups are likely to enter the market. In addition, the rise of social media and e-commerce looks set to continue, making it easier for new brands to connect with consumers and sell their products.
However, it is important to note that the fast fashion industry in China is still in its early stages. Fashion groups need to be aware of the challenges that come with operating in the country, such as intellectual property theft and the difficulty of enforcing contracts. They also need to be prepared to adapt their business models to meet the needs of Chinese consumers.
The fast fashion industry in China has grown rapidly in recent years. In a 2021 study, the market for fast fashion in China is expected to grow by an average of 5.3% from 2025 and Reach $211,909.7 Million in 2030. This growth is being driven by several factors, including a growing middle class, an increase in disposable income, and the rise of social media and e-commerce.
As the industry continues to grow, more brands from all over the world are likely to enter the market. In particular, international ones are expected to expand their operations in China. Groups such as H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo have already established a presence in the country. But these big groups are often facing a bad buzz or exit the market, leaving space for new entrants.
In 2021, the fast fashion market evolved:
- H&M was blacklisted after the Xinjiang cotton controversy and closed 60 stores
- Urban Outfitters, Asos, and Old Navy exited the market
- Bershka, Pull&Bear, and Stradivarius shuttered their Tmall stores after closing all their physical stores
How To Stay Ahead of the Competition in mainland China?
The Chinese fast fashion market is highly competitive. To stay ahead of the competition, Here are a few tips:
Keep Up With the Latest Trends (Observe Chinese Brands)
The fast fashion industry is constantly changing. To be successful, brands need to keep up with the latest trends. This means having a finger on the pulse of what the Chinese are looking for and being able to quickly adapt to changes in the market. One of the best ways to do that is true monitoring of Chinese brands and citizens in large cities, so you are always up-to-date when a new trend appears. The key today is to keep up with the Guochao trend and incorporate Chinese elements in your design.
Build a Strong Online Presence
In China, social media and e-commerce are key channels for connecting with consumers. Brands that have a strong online presence will be better positioned to succeed in China.
Create a China Assortment
The main advantage of a fast fashion brand over its competitors is the fast-paced production. You can design, create, and produce any type of clothing in a small amount of time. In China, your main asset will be anticipating the trends thanks to Baidu and Little Red Book and launching Chinese exclusive collections following the size, colors, and preferences of local consumers.
Invest in Quality Control
Quality control is important in any industry, but it is especially important in fast fashion. This is because consumers are often looking for affordable clothing that will last. To meet this demand, brands need to invest in quality control and ensure that their products meet the highest standards. The most surprising challenge for new entrants is how tough and exigent Chinese consumers are. Especially on Tmall, fashion brands face a higher refund rate due to the exigence from consumers on the product quality, packaging, and service.
Focus on Customer Service
Customer service is also important in fast fashion. In mainland China, it is often seen as a reflection of a brand’s quality. As such, brands need to focus on providing excellent customer service. A brand has to offer top-notch customer services in a physical store or online. Young Chinese are exigent and are spoiled with choices from a plethora of international and Chinese companies to buy from.
Work on Brand Elevation through Marketing and E-Reputation
Finally, brands should also focus on targeting new customers through brand elevation. The fast fashion market in China is still relatively young, which means there are plenty of potential customers that have yet to be reached. By targeting these new customers, brands can expand their reach and increase their sales. You can use Little Red Book or Douyin to boost more targeted marketing with entertaining videos and lifestyle pictures. All the current habits and hot trends take place on Little Red Book and Douyin so you need to open an official account and link your posts to the top hashtags. To differentiate from Uniqlo, Zara, and Mango you will need to build a strong reputation through PR and Q&A.
Select the right E-commerce Platform
Many fast fashion brands exited the market in 2021 and 2022 because they picked the wrong platform. Their marketing was not adapted, their target was not on the platform, and the sales were… low. Despite clothing a Tmall store on a whim, it is better to understand the unique criteria and strategy behind each platform.