Fast fashion has long left traditional spinning in the dust. Selling clothes seasonally, manufactured and marketed months in advance, has been replaced by nimble brands such as H&M, Uniqlo and Zara that excel in just-in-time production as well as social and digital campaigns.
But there has been a pushback by consumers to fast fashion’s human collateral, particularly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 workers. The event brought the debate over fair labor practices, supply chain management and the quality of apparel front and center globally.
Much as slow food arose as a response to fast food, slow fashion is now arising as an alternative to fast fashion, and e-tailers with a purpose and point of view are aiming for substance and style.[more]
Take Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bédat, co-founders of the retail site Zady, which Forbes calls “The Whole Foods of Fashion,” have distinguished their business by curating ethical brands with a purpose and a vision, who maintain quality and high human standards in manufacturing.
Much like a farm-to-table restaurant, Zady tells the story of how every product carried on its online menu was made and notes the raw materials acquired to make it, weaving story with commerce in a format consistent with their message: ‘Process Matters. Quality Matters. Honesty Matters.’
“We left our prior lives to build a brand with a strong back bone, a brand that stands for transparency, authenticity and meaning,” Bédat and Darabi told Forbes.
“Fast-fashion is designed to fall apart after a few washes, so we as consumers go back to those brands to buy more and more,” Darabi has said. “And as our closets fill with cheaply made clothing, our wallets start to empty out.”
“A $5 dollar t-shirt may feel good initially, but that’s an empty high. When you work backwards to determine what a worker must have been paid to make such an inexpensively priced item, and you realize that that shirt will only last a few months before it falls to pieces and ends up on a landfill…and second thoughts arise.”
Bigger retail brands are also jockeying for a place in the sustainability line. The North Face has the Backyard Hoodie, a sustainably-produced garment from “farm to closet,” while H&M’s Conscious apparel line uses recycled fibers and organic cotton in keeping with its sustainability commitment.
“Our challenge as a small startup was to overcome the goliath that is the current state of the fashion industry,” Darabi told Business Insider. “Slow fashion to us is reverting back to an era where things were done better.”
Bradford Shellhammer, co-founder and creative force behind Fab.com, would agree.
Shellhammer is back for his second act with Bezar, and this time he’s leaving Fab’s fixation on aggressive revenue growth at all costs behind. So far, Shellhammer has raised $2.25 million in investments led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Re/code reports.
While still using flash sales to drive interest, Bezar aims to profit from Fab’s failures by supporting emerging designers and becoming a shopping destination for urbane young professionals who appreciate style at affordable prices, as much of the brand’s product is priced under $100.
The concept centers on short-term pop-up shops, selected by Shellhammer in the home, art, accessories, and jewelry categories. Each day, one designer will have a pop-up shop in a given category with campaigns lasting three days.
“I’m a firm believer in flash (sales),” he commented to Fast Company, qualifying that at Bezar, “discount is not the driving factor here. It’s about newness, exposure.”
While Shellhammer is keenly aware of ROI, “the mission is not to become the store everyone comes to, or to make these huge numbers in this amount of years. We’re going to be the launching pad that enables talented people to get their products out there,” he said.
Whoopi Goldberg and Yves Behar are both investors in Bezar, which is set to go live in March. “I am much more talented than a guy who can pick color,” Shellhammer told Fast Company. “I have a vision of this thing that needs to exist in the world.”