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Fast Fashion Chains Continue to Flood Australia’s Retail Market

h&mIn a heavy blow for local boutiques but an irresistible temptation for slaves to fast fashion, overseas chains Forever 21 and H&M are both launching their inaugural Australian flagships in early 2014.

Forever 21 will see festival-ready fringing and patterned leggings take over a two-level, 1900-square-meter space in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall. The brand has opened 480 outlets worldwide since its birth in 1984.

“Australia is a terrific market and we hope to make a lot of customers happy. We are satisfied to have a strong landlord help us embark this journey. We will be penetrating the market in a sustainable manner," Forever 21 director, real estate and development Jatin Malhotra told Rag Trader last week.

Just how sustainable this penetration (or saturation) of the local market remains to be seen. In the last few months, local design luminaries Lisa Ho, Kirrily Johnston and Collette Dinnigan have all bowed out of the game owing to crippling debts, and while fast fashion isn’t solely responsible, it’s difficult to see how the availability of $30 carbon copies of runway looks benefits the local industry.

Swedish behemoth H&M will take over a 5,000-square-meter slice of the GPO building in Melbourne. It will be a full “concept” (AKA freakin’ huge) flagship, comprising not just women’s and menswear but H&M’s entire home offering of towels, bedding, curtains and other affordable home goods.

“We are excited our first Australian store will be at such a landmark location as the GPO," said Hans Andersson, Country Manager for H&M Australia. "We are looking forward to opening our doors to the Australian customers and offering them the H&M shopping experience with fashion and quality at the best price. It will be a unique retail experience and we hope they will enjoy our full concept assortment."

Other American and European retailers to have set up shop in Australia include Topshop and Zara. Uniqlo has also announced it will be making the move next year.

We’re far from immune to the appeal of a $24.99 galaxy print cat sweater, and will be among the first in line when doors finally open (or at least a week later, after the danger of getting trampled by replica Balenciaga Ceintures has subsided). But try not to forget about the local guys in the process.