In today’s edition of Things You Neither Wanted Nor Asked For: JCPenney is launching a new apparel label designed to go head-to-head with the H&Ms and Zaras of the world. The department store has begun piloting the line of trendy womenswear, christened “Belle + Sky,” at 50 of its 1,000-plus stores across the country, according to Fortune. A number of items, including fringed jackets, faux-fur vests, peasant dresses, and ruched miniskirts, can also be accessed online, where they range in price from $14.99 to $59.99.
Although JCPenney stocks MNG by Mango, a diffusion version of the Spanish label that is exclusive to the retailer, Belle + Sky is the company’s first in-house “fast fashion” brand, according to JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison, who spoke at the Goldman Sachs 22nd Annual Global Retailing Conference on Wednesday.
“We are piloting a private brand called Belle + Sky, which is our version of fast fashion that is a private brand,” he said. “I have had two trips to Asia since March, and it was very informative because we spent a lot of time with suppliers talking about fast-fashion retailers, not trying to replicate fast fashion as a strategy, but to learn elements of the strategy.”
JCPenney isn’t alone in its push to shorten the production cycle from the typical nine months for U.S. retailers to four for fast-fashion businesses, notes Fortune. In August, San Francisco-based Gap said it planned to adopt a “new product operating model to increase speed, predictability, and responsiveness,” not unlike its better-performing sister company Old Navy.
But is flooding the market with even more cheaply manufactured garments the answer? Considering we consume 400 percent more clothing today than we did 30 years ago—and throw away nearly as much—this might be another instance where more not only doesn’t equal more, but it also diminishes us as a society.
“The current high-street business model pushes prices down and encourages fast-fashion models of buying, whereby clothes are cheap, seen as ‘bargains’ and viewed as disposable,” Ilana Winterstein, director of communications for Labour Behind the Label, a labor-rights group based in the United Kingdom, told Ecouterre. “The fast-fashion model pushes the global race to the bottom on price as brands compete with one another and demand more for less. This puts pressure on factory owners to offer garments at the lowest cost possible, meaning corners are cut on health and safety and wages are kept at poverty levels. It is the workers who pay in the end for the cheap clothes sold on our high streets and the model of fast-fashion needs to change.”
In a similar vein, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of the conscious-fashion movement Fashion Revolution, as well as one of the designers behind From Somewhere, a label that upcycles surplus fabrics into new looks, wonders “how much more can we buy?”
“Eighty billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually, and that’s not counting the waste generated at factory level from mill waste, order cancellations, and faulty runs,” she told us. “The way forward for the industry should not be about buying more, it should be about buying better.”