There is something that H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and even the Gap all have in common.
First off, all of these companies are immensely popular, both for men and for women. I can't tell you the last time I went to a mall and didn't see someone with a Forever21 shopping bag filled to the brim with colorful pants, T-shirts, and accessories.
Second, these companies run on a very successful business model known as fast fashion. And in case you don't know what that is, here's the wikipedia definition: fast fashion is a contemporary term acknowledging that designs move from catwalk to store in the fastest time to capture current trends in the market. These trends are designed and manufactured quickly and cheaply to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at a lower price.
Well, as with anything, I have my personal thoughts on this particular business model, and it is this... be careful. Let me explain why.
One thing I haven't been shy to talk about in the past is garment quality. I think quality is incredibly important when it comes to clothes, and sometimes you have to pay a premium to get it. A general thought I've started to have is to buy half as much, but at double the price, meaning that you should spend more for those high quality garments that will last you decades, as opposed to cheap trendy items that are intended to be thrown away in a month's time.
Well, this is the problem with fast fashion. Stores like H&M rarely have anything that you can actually keep for very long. The quality is subpar at best, and the styles are generally not very classic. It's almost common knowledge that pieces from H&M are meant to be worn a couple times, then tossed when you purge your wardrobe six months later. The quality just isn't all that great; there's a reason that items there are so cheap.
The other thing is that fast fashion is really all about the newest fashion trends. You know, those pieces that you saw on the runway during New York Fashion Week (actually, do we do this?). These new trends are the focal point of fast fashion businesses, and though they're cool and popular now, they're usually in danger of fading at some point in the near future. And once they fade, the likelihood that you'll still continue to wear those pieces gets pretty slim.
Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't to say that you should never buy from these companies. I definitely pop into a Zara or H&M every now and again, and might have done so as recently as a week ago. However, there is a particular reason I go to these stores, and it certainly isn't to get a new pair of leather shoes that I intend to keep for the long haul. Instead, these stores are great for providing me cheap clothes that I need for specific purposes.
For example, let's say I need a pair of white chinos for a white party. Or maybe a pair of throwaway sunglasses that I can wear to a Mardi Gras parade. Perhaps I am really digging a new trend that I know won't last long. These are all reasons that would lead me to make a purchase at a fast fashion shop. Clearly, you can tell these are one-off situations though.
In the case of my dress shoes, suits, and raw denim? I think I'll stick to places like Nordstrom and Brooks Brothers, and stay as far away from fast fashion as I possibly can.
So in all, be careful when it comes to H&M, Forever21, Zara, and the like. Use them for specific purposes, but get your staples and/or basics from more tried and true retailers. The extra money will go further than you realize.