Global manufacturing and supply chains are overhauling their production strategies to meet the shifting demands of fast fashion, according to a report.
Fast fashion's demand for "up-to-the-minute styles and trends at relatively low prices" means production chains are having to move away from their traditional operating bases, according to a report by textile information resource just-style.com.
While it used to be the case that textile manufacturers and suppliers would procure a certain amount of fabrics and materials at the start of the season, to be manufactured into a number of items in specific styles, colours and sizes, this is no longer the case.
"The fast fashion supply chain requires much more flexibility: with a business strategy of providing up-to-the-minute styles and trends to consumers at relatively low prices, it is no longer viable for companies to make decisions years - or even months - ahead of time," the website said.
It explained companies are increasingly moving from a production-driven supply base to one that is more focused on the market so that new and specific demands can be effectively met.
Warren Hausman, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University in the US, told just-style.com that fast fashion supply chains are more complex than traditional clothing retail chains.
Their operations can be described as 'postponement strategy' – in other words, transforming a product into its final form at the latest time possible, he said.
This delay of the final product means firms can tailor their garments specifically to the shifting demands of the fashion industry.
"Postponement strategies have the capacity to dramatically reduce manufacturing and delivery lead times from months to days," the website said.
Typically, retailers will devise development calendars from concept to consumer of 52 weeks or more; however, the ever-changing supply chain means firms are increasingly looking at 26- and 13-week deployments.
Felipe Caro, an assistant professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in the US, said that each category of fast fashion product almost needs to have its own supply chain, too.
"You know people are always going to want jeans, for example, so you can postpone [decisions] in this area," he told just-style.com.
"So manufacturers can have the denim all set to go - or even the basic prototype of the jeans already made - and then at the last minute they can choose to add details, make a slimmer leg, or make other style adjustments to match the taste of the moment."