Why fashion is getting faster: Zara's two-week fashion cycle

By Stephanie Huang '16Fashion Columnist

“They broke up a century-old biannual cycle of fashion. Now, pretty much half of the high-end fashion companies make four to six collections instead of two each year,” said Masoud Golsorkhi, editor of London fashion magazine Tank. “That’s absolutely because of Zara.”  While Zara, the Spanish-based clothing company, may not be as prevalent in the U.S. as it is wildly successful in other countries in Europe and Asia, Zara’s rapid-fire methods of productaion are now changing tahe way fast fashion is consumed worldwide.

By fast fashion, I mean a measly two-week drawing-board-to-store-shelf production time.  Compared to the usual half-year industry average, Zara is decidedly one of the fastest retailers in the world, releasing new products each week. With its fast production time, Zara is now known for its ability to emulate trends from upscale designers and fulfill the demands of customers, so much so that Louis Vuitton Fashion Director Daniel Piette described Zara as “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world.”

“To the luxury brands, they are copycats, they are like mushrooms feeding off the main body of fashion… [but] I realize that fashion companies also copy each other.  In the end, no one’s original,” said Golsorkhi. Yet unlike other low-cost retailers, Zara has created image scarcity with its products, ensuring that its products do not stay in stores for long.  By doing so, the retailer builds a certain type of hype and excitement surrounding popular items that seem likely to disappear.

Take the now-notorious asymmetrically-hemmed Zara skort for example. An architectural yet minimalist piece, the Zara skort became a cult item among girls from Los Angeles to Hong Kong ever since it was released in white in stores last spring. Supermodel Karolina Kurkova as well as a multitude of bloggers were photographed in the skort. The demand for the skort continually rose, and thus, was continually restocked and introduced in new colors.  Yet slowly, the store stopped stocking certain colors, but stocked it in new prints and fabrics, transitioning the piece into this fall. The skort was later on copied by other smaller retailers. The fact that Kurkova, a former Victoria’s Secret Angel reached for a Zara skort rather than a luxury counterpart establishes that Zara has elevated itself as favorable among the crème de la crème despite its lack of luxury-price elitism.

The owner of Zara (and its Spanish parent company Inditex) Amancio Ortega Gaona, surpassed Warren Buffett last year on the Bloomberg billionaire index. In 2005, Zara replaced H&M as the leading retailer of inexpensive clothing. My one question is: when will the other retailers catch up?