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Factors affecting college students' brand loyalty toward fast fashion: A consumer-based brand equity approach.............................................................................................................. 3
The purpose of this document is to investigate the shift in the fashion apparel industry and the emergence of the phenomenon, fast fashion. This report is designed to touch on the major causes of the shift in the fashion industry focusing on the application of the Circuit of Culture framework in the fashion apparel retail industry in order to comprehend the culture for its consumers. The five elements of the framework are interrelated to the practices in the fashion industry to interpret the significance of the theory in order to form a deeper meaning.
The ever-changing dynamics of the fashion industry in the last 20 years, such as the increasing numbers of fashion seasons, the declining of mass production, and the adaption of structural characteristics in the supply chain have required retailers to focus on lower cost and their flexibility in quality, delivery, design and speed to the market (Doyle, Moore, and Morgan 2006). The market is shifting from planned production to quick response production, domestic business to international business, and following trends to create trends" (Fan 2018). Though fast fashion has allowed consumers to have their hands-on trending products fresh off the catwalk, it has also allowed consumers to purchase products at affordable prices. Some examples of known fast fashion brands are Zara, H&M, Mango and Topshop. In much more recent years, technology has been experimented in the fashion industry, and especially the fast fashion industry. Shifting from brick-and-mortar retail shopping has changed the dynamics completely. To be able to understand the global culture of fashion in our modern day, we must consider the dynamics of the culture atmosphere of our current day that is being continuously shaped by our surroundings.
To be able to form a base in order to thoroughly understand the theoretical aspects of this research, it is vital to search for and analyse scholarly literature. This section covers a critical evaluation of specifically chosen literature which are relevant in closely examining the role of the changing dynamics in the apparel industry. By critically understanding the current practices in our modern apparel retail industry, it allows a clear analysis in understanding the shift in the industry in parallel to the guiding theoretical framework, the Circuit of Culture model, which will be comprehensively discussed later in this report.
Generally fast fashion brands follow a system combining short production and lead times and fashionable product design in order to closely satisfy consumer demands (Cachon and Swinney, 2011). Since the evolution of the fast fashion industry, today's fashion market has become one that is extremely competitive and consumers tend to demand more and more, demanding a persistent need to 'refresh' clothing collections (Bhardwaj and Fairhurst, 2010). By referring to short production and lead times as quick response techniques and fashionable product design as enhanced design, Cachon and Swinney (2011) develop a framework addressing the value of these two components and considers the impact of the combination of the two in a fast fashion system itself. One of the prominent matters addressed in the article is the specific impact of quick response and enhanced design on consumer purchase behaviour (Cachon and Swinney, 2011).
FACTORS AFFECTING COLLEGE STUDENTS' BRAND LOYALTY TOWARD FAST FASHION: A CONSUMER-BASED BRAND EQUITY APPROACH
Chang and Su in their paper explain that several factors of brand equity contribute to brand loyalty in consumers. The dimensions are that of brand awareness, perceived value, brand uniqueness and organisational associations used in combination to build a strong loyalty force to the brand. It is concluded that marketers and brand managers of fast fashion brands should consider implementing these factors of brand equity and recognise its importance to enhance their consumers brand loyalty. Their study focuses primarily on the demographic group of college students' as it is those in this age sector that are heavily involved in purchasing fast fashion items.
This study particularly investigates the impact of fashion consciousness on emotional connection, satisfaction, and loyalty in conjunction to product development. They conclude that those consumers who have low fashion consciousness don't often provide feedback, whilst those of high fashion consciousness highly focus on providing endless feedback, identifying their expectations so that they can be satisfied and creates a stronger loyalty force. The authors in this study state that essentially fast fashion brands must recognise the prominence of customer involvement is beneficial for a strong customer-brand relationship, which is extremely important to implement in our modern apparel industry today. The interviewees of the study introduced the term "customerisation" where consumers can individually modify products in the store to cater to their personal needs, as well as creating products suited for them specifically.
The guiding conceptual framework that ultimately drives this report is the Circuit of Culture (the Circuit) model, that was initially created as a tool of cultural analysis by British Cultural theorists in the late 1990s. The Circuit is recognised to be one of the most distinguished theoretical models in the cultural studies field and includes five interrelated aspects (moments) that articulate a circuit acts as a symbolic device to aid the understanding of cultural meaning (Champ, 2008). The five moments emphasised in the Circuit include aspects of: representation, production, consumption, identity and regulation. Du Gay et al. argue that in order to analyse the use of technology 'culturally' "one should at least explore how it is represented, what social identities are associated with it, how it is produced and consumed, and what mechanisms regulate its distributions and use" (Du Gay, 2013).
For this research, this particular theoretical model is the most relevant. As stated previously, the Circuit of Culture is renowned to be the most prominent theoretical framework for cultural analysis. This report aims to analyse the shift and changes in the apparel industry whilst aligning the aspects of the circuit with the various constructive processes that are implicated in the fast fashion industry.
The first moment in the Circuit du Gay et al. consider refers to representation, the process by which cultural meaning is developed and given shape. The aspect of representation utilises symbols and signs to represent whatever exists in the world in terms of a meaningful concept or image; it connects meaning, language and communication to culture (Hall, 1997). In the particular context of this research, this moment will be used to properly comprehend how the significance of the fast-fashion culture is transferred to the audience (Curtin & Gaither, 2007).
To first understand and signify the emergence of fast fashion, it's important to explore the context of the phenomenon. The fashion industry was once known for producing highfashion designs to the market at a slow release time. Designers and retailers would tailor their releases by season and predict consumer demands about a year in advance.
It was from the 1960s, where fashion trends began moving at record speed as the young embraced clothing that were cheaply made fundamentally to closely follow the train of new trends thus rejecting and conforming the traditions of the older generations. Since then, the apparel industry has shifted dramatically since consumer trends have fluctuated towards demanding lower prices and quicker response times. Nowadays, businesses try to satisfy their consumers who demand immediacy to products.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fast fashion phenomenon progressively came to be accepted and desired. Fast fashion has become the newest phase of the apparel supply chain life cycle, which recognises attempts to distribute the newest trends at a rapid pace and at lower costs. Though the debate is endless: many often question what came first – simply the craving of trendy, fresh styles at a rapid rate or plainly just the top players in the industry attempting to convince the population that we are slow on the new trends as soon as they are worn on others.
Additionally, fashion brands subtly ploys consumers into spending more money while also making them feel dissatisfied at the same time, nevertheless following trends is a neverending cycle. But when will it ever be enough? Majority of those who consume fast fashion items purchase a new item almost every two weeks and discard them or plainly avoid wearing them, whilst their wardrobes overfilling without even noticing. Why exactly are we so bored with everything that we have the minute we get it? Perhaps it's the lack of fulfilment or anticipation of purchase is what contributes, and a possible form of attention deficit order as part of our shopping psyche.
The moment of production fundamentally refers to the construction of a commodity; considering how "processes of production, systems of organisation, aspects such as how a technology is manufactured and where, and what type of company owns it all to contribute to cultural use of the technology" (Havens, 2017). In terms of the fast-fashion culture, the aspect of production correlates with the processes in constructing the fast-fashion item.
In terms of the fast-fashion culture, the aspect of production correlates with the process in conceptualising and developing the fashion product. The thing about fast fashion is that it doesn't have a certain look, instead trends are replicated and is thus and endless changing cycle. The fast fashion market is one that is extremely competitive, and not only amongst retailers, but moreover within individual companies. Every retailer has their own supply chain system
In our current day, fast fashion retailers produce about 52 "micro-seasons" a year, meaning at least a new collection each week. According to author Elizabeth Cline, globally renowned fast fashion brand Zara, developed a trend by erecting bi-weekly deliveries, making it the norm in having endless supply of stock at all times.
Fast fashion brands compete with each other in bringing new designs to shelves just within a couple of weeks, while it usually takes other (more traditional) fashion brands a cycle of six months to pierce new designs to the market. These brands succeed in creating huge amounts of clothing with endless flow of new and desired styles weekly, ensuring their customers can never get bored of their inventory.
Consumption incorporates how the commodity is used by consumers, by considering the initial reason behind the purchase, the way it is used and how it is used. This moment in the circuit encompasses the process of how the audience decodes the meaning and then conceiving their own meaning from it by engaging in cultural practices and perspectives (Carvalho & Burgess, 2005).
Production and consumption are inextricably linked in this sense, the aftermath of a product in consumption in turn has effects for its producers and so on, in a continuing cycle of commodification where producers construct new products or adaptations of old products resulting from the particular activities (and appropriation) of consumers. Producers create new products by analysing how consumers make their products meaningful and may achieve an advanced impression of meaning that affects their way of production in a particular way. We can view the aspect of consumption in a way of the exchange-value in purchasing a fast-fashion item. What is the significance of consuming a fast-fashion piece and its influence on the public?
To analyse the consumption moment in the circuit, we must specifically focus on analysing the material culture surrounding the fast fashion industry's exclusive phenomenon of disposable clothing. By considering the social and cultural reasons, it can aid in further understanding this phenomenon. Andrew Brooks, a geologist argues that "Consumer choice is historically determined and influenced by a broader – horizontal – social context, rather than being driven by consumer demand for a certain thing, or the presence of a single commodity chain or production network which stimulates consumer behaviour" (Brooks 2015).
It is the young modern women that are obsessing over the fast-fashion trends, those of all socio-economic backgrounds. Technology certainly plays a huge role in the industry's consumer behaviour and their loyalty to each retailer. With the advancements of technology and the growth of social media platforms, consumers are given access to endless content surrounding the latest trends or styles. What the consumers are extremely interested in is high fashion and celebrity culture; it is what these public figures are wearing or the trends emerging from the latest fashion runway show are what consumers want, but cannot afford (Barnes & Lea-Greenwood, 2006).
Fast fashion consumers want items immediately, resulting in fast fashion companies ensuring a rapid lead-time in their supply chain. With consumers never-ending demands of immediate supply also results in producing cheap products. A simple way of differentiating a fast fashion product is through the amount of washes before it begins to deteriorate, moreover making fast-fashion products disposable because of the rapid change of trends and styles (Cline, 2012).
Regulation in the Circuit of Culture model refers to "the controls on cultural activities that can include the formal laws and policies as well as informal social norms and cultural trends" (Han & Zhang, 2009). This fundamentally refers to the socio-cultural values and norms determining what fashion expressions and trends are acceptable in the given context (Curtin & Gaither, 2007).
Every element of fast fashion: rapid production, trend replication, low quality and costs, impose a huge impact on the environment and those involved in its production. Many brands in their production processes, one to name Forever 21 for example, use use toxic chemicals, dangerous dyes, and synthetic fabrics which ends up seeping into the water supplies of those in foreign countries and as well as in their homes when clothing is washed, as well non-renewable natural resources that harm the environment (De Brito et al, 2008). It has been reported that each year, a dramatic amount of 11 million tons of clothing is discarded, and this statistic is only in the United States alone. These garments are filled with various toxic chemicals that are extremely difficult, or don't even break down, and releases into the air endlessly.
Processes of fast fashion also affect both the humans who wear them as well as those who make them. Because of the toxic chemicals that exist in the garments, exposing your body to these garment chemicals can crazily increase the risk of health problems, like infertility and heart attacks to name a few. One's skin is the largest organ of the body, and by putting on these garments that are very poorly made is extremely dangerous in itself. These dangers are commonly erected especially in the factories, towns, and homes of which are used to produce these items. The health of those working to produce these garments are continuously being risked from the long hours of working, the lack of resources, the exposure to adverse chemicals, and also quite often and shocking, physical abuse.
Most of fashion industry labour is situated in countries like Asia and India and usually composed of those who are young and very poorly educated, as the process of production doesn't necessarily require those with high skills. It has also been confirmed that those who manufacture the clothing in the fast fashion industry are devastatingly underpaid, underfed, and pushed to their extreme limits because it is quite often that they have no other option of receiving an income.
The moment of identity incorporates all the agents involved in the process of production, consumption and regulation, whether they are groups, individuals and/or non-human entities – and how they got to "be" that way (Hall, 1997). It fundamentally refers to every way that the fast fashion phenomenon came together, and is related to the looks, ideas, behaviours and actions of those who participated.
The apparel industry has always been one of low-capital and of intensive labour, from the very start. The industry is also considered to be one of low entry barriers with consistent production. Apparel companies continue to shift their production processes to developing countries to those of low-skilled and low-cost. The rise of globalisation came about, in the last twenty years, which also erected the trend of outsourcing production to developing countries, as mentioned before, specifically like Asia and India. They shifted production to developing countries as costs are much cheaper, enormous tax breaks and extremely lenient laws and regulations (Klein, 1999). The fast fashion industry was first established in Europe to precisely meet the extreme changing pace of preferences by consumers who simply want to be on top of the trends in fashion. Fundamentally, the fast fashion model is a "streamlined system involving rapid design, production, distribution, and marketing" (Cohen, 2011).
The changing dynamics of the fashion apparel industry has erected the global phenomenon of fast fashion, allowing the population to stay on trend with highly fashionable garments at affordable prices. The concept of fast fashion is definitely one that will continue to move fast, especially with consumers having the constant need of refreshing styles and looks by consuming products that essentially harm the environment. Fast fashion will continue to change the dynamics of the apparel industry but at the same time also develop adaptations and advancements along the way. Literature on fast fashion have explored the various factors that are important in the industry, as well as the newly developed supply chain systems that are implemented within each brand. In following the theoretical framework of The Circuit of Culture, it has successfully proved to be a useful conceptual tool in exploring the five interrelated processes involved in the construction and management of our current fashion apparel industry. Emphasising the utilization of the circuit, especially as an analytical tool has successfully guided and enabled a broad understanding and strong analysis of the fast fashion phenomenon.
BROOKS, ANDREW, 2015. Systems of provision: Fast fashion and jeans. Geoforum. 63.
BHARDWAJ, V. & FAIRHURST, A. 2010. Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 20, 165173.
CACHON, G. P. & SWINNEY, R. 2011. The Value of Fast Fashion: Quick Response, Enhanced Design, and Strategic Consumer Behavior. Management Science, 57, 778-795.
CHAMP, J. G. 2008. Horizontal Power, Vertical Weakness: Enhancing the "Circuit of Culture". Popular Communication, 6, 85-102.
COHEN, AARON M. 2011. Fast fashion: tale of two markets: should retailers put the brakes on quick-response manufacturing?(Desiqn / COMMERCE). The Futurist. 45 (5), 12–13.
CURTIN, A & GAITHER, K. 2007, International public relations: negotiating culture, identity and power, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.
DOYLE, S.A., C.M. MOORE & L. MORGAN. 2006. Supplier management in fast moving fashion retailing. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management 10, no. 3: 272–81.
DU GAY, P. 2013. Doing cultural studies : the story of the Sony Walkman, Los Angeles, California, SAGE.
HAVENS, T. 2017. Understanding media industries, New York ;, Oxford University Press.
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