It's safe to say that fast fashion has completely revolutionized the way we shop and dress. It's given regular people who love fashion, but don't have the funds to spend indiscriminately on designer pieces, access to a high-fashion aesthetic with clothes directly inspired by luxury designers. Consumers who used to focus on quality pieces that will stay in their wardrobes forever are now scooping up these rapidly manufactured, affordable goods with a short shelf life. Has fast fashion made our wardrobes more disposable? Certainly. But it's also made these brands very, very rich.
Find out just how wealthy this formula has made some of your favorite fast fashion retailers below.
Zara is one of the most prominent fast fashion brands out there, and its popularity has grown almost exponentially in the U.S. The store has become a favorite of fashion fans, including industry insiders. It's arguably at the top of the fast fashion game, producing chic but trendy runway-inspired pieces and limiting the availability of the pieces by changing the store inventory every week. Zara's parent company, Inditex, is worth $94.33 billion and did $22.25 billion in sales last year. Almost two-thirds of that money came from Zara, one of the many stores in this Inditex fold. Other than Zara, Inditex holds Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Uterqüe, Bershka and Stradivarius.
H&M clocks in at #30 of Forbes' most valuable brands, worth $70.86 billion dollars, with stores in the U.S., China, Japan, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, England, France, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several other countries. The Swedish retailer is known not only for its criminally affordable wares, but also for its high fashion designer collaborations, including Lanvin, Versace, Maison Martin Margiela, Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant and others. H&M has expanded its fortune by adding other brands under its umbrella: COS, & Other Stories, Monki, Cheap Monday, Weekday and H&M Home.
Technically, it's an athletic brand, but collaborations with some of the fashion industry's most adored designers and personalities (like Stella McCartney, Jeremy Scott, Pharrell Williams and Rita Ora), combined with a penchant for quickly churning out these collaborations, makes Adidas a new frontier for fast fashion. Athletic wear used to be just for sweating in, but Adidas has really made strides to make jogging pants and windbreakers actually fashionable. The label is on the cutting edge of what's cool in activewear and is currently worth $22.7 billion.
The Gap might not be the most fashion-forward of the bunch, but its simple tees, button-downs and jeans are what made the brand so popular. At the Gap, you're guaranteed to find all the basics you need to actually build a wardrobe, and the retailer has thrived so well on this formula over the years, it extended the concept to other fast fashion labels, Banana Republic and Old Navy, changing the price points, tweaking the quality and earning a fortune in the process. Today, Gap Inc. has even grown beyond fast fashion, with the addition of athletic apparel store Athleta, bridge designer mecca Piperlime and contemporary retailer Intermix. Gap Inc. is worth about $18.32 billion dollars.
It had a slow start expanding in the U.S., but today, Uniqlo is one of the most formidable presences in the fast fashion retail market. Uniqlo shills all the basics you need at alarmingly low prices (we've all owned at least one pair of the brand's $10 dollar jeans) and has plans to open a host of new stores in the U.S. for Fall 2014. Uniqlo is owned by parent company Fast Retailing, which is worth $36.39 billion dollars. So far in the first half of this year, Uniqlo has made $6.2 billion in sales — $4 billion in Japan, while international stores took in about $2.2 billion.