FASHION AT WARP SPEED
Rather than trudging along taking nine to 12 months to decide on a style using forecasters and analysts, then take a risk on ordering and choosing colors and fabrics, Zara set up a relatively large production team at Inditex’s Spanish HQ on the distinctly non-fashionable Arteixo-La Coruna, and relied on them to liase with trend-spotters on the ground, constantly emailing and phoning in with suggestions to get a highly reactive consumer-led view of what’s hot and what’s not. If the hipsters suddenly develop a thing for vampires, or swing away from brogues and Victoriana, the Inditex office will know about it.
What was definitely out of fashion was holding onto lots of stock, or indeed any stock.
The result was that 163 Zara stores across Europe (60 in the U.K.) received new fashion pieces twice a week. Other pretenders to the high-street throne goes the message. Esprit and Mango tried the same approach: short lead times and multiple seasons, along with reduced delivery times—these could be as little as 48 hours. What was definitely out of fashion was holding onto lots of stock, or indeed any stock.
As consumers we rapidly changed our priorities. Long-standing skills of buying clothing, such as assessing for quality or looking at labels, were junked in favor of getting our hands on what was new as we adjust to the Zara-like thrill of swapping two wardrobe seasons a year (and the delayed gratification of waiting to embrace those two seasons) for upwards of 20. While the world’s mainline Fashion Weeks continue the charade of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons, in real terms they are now about as relevant to contemporary life as the Gregorian plainsong.