The rise of the quiet luxury trend has taken the fashion world by storm, with brands like Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, and The Row leading the way. This new-age minimalism focuses on investment pieces and thoughtful shopping habits, emphasizing quality and timeless elegance over flashy logos and disposable trends. As this movement gains traction, fast-fashion giant Shein has introduced a new category dedicated to quiet luxury, raising questions about the implications for the fast-fashion industry.
Shein’s decision to create a quiet luxury category, is a significant departure from its traditional business model, which relies on producing an astounding number of items daily and contributing to the unsustainable nature of fast fashion. According to McKinsey, over half of fast-fashion items like those from Shein are thrown away in less than one year. By introducing a quiet luxury category, Shein aims to tap into the growing demand for understated, high-quality garments that can last for years.
However, the challenge lies in making this inherently inaccessible trend accessible to the mass-market. Quiet luxury is defined by its exclusivity and quality, which is difficult to replicate at a lower price point without compromising on craftsmanship and materials. While mid-sized brands may attempt to offer a more affordable version of quiet luxury, it is unlikely that they can match the quality of established luxury brands.
As Jeanel Alvarado, Retail Expert, points out,
“Customers who regularly shop for what we define as Quiet Luxury, know the difference between actual quiet luxury items and fast fashion counterparts.”
Why Shein Is Likely to Fail
In recent years, the fashion industry has seen a growing trend towards “quiet luxury,” characterized by subtle, expensive garments from high-end brands like Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli. These understated pieces exude elegance and refinement, appealing to consumers seeking timeless, sophisticated styles. However, fast-fashion giant Shein’s foray into this exclusive trend with its new Quiet Luxury section is unlikely to succeed and may be destined for failure.
Shein’s business model revolves around producing small quantities of items and using real-time information to gauge their performance. If an item proves popular, they quickly order more, while discontinuing those that don’t sell. This approach has contributed to Shein’s massive success, with the brand expecting to double its revenue by 2025 and reach a gross merchandise value (GMV) of $58.5 billion. However, this model may not translate well to the quiet luxury market.
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One reason for this potential failure is the inherent exclusivity of quiet luxury. The trend is defined by its inaccessibility, with high-quality materials and craftsmanship being key components. Fast-fashion retailers like Shein typically prioritize affordability and rapid production over quality, making it difficult for them to compete with established luxury brands.
Moreover, the quiet luxury trend is closely tied to the concept of “old money,” which has gained popularity on platforms like TikTok. This aesthetic is associated with prestigious institutions, elite sports, and a refined lifestyle that is far removed from the everyday experiences of most consumers. By attempting to make quiet luxury accessible to the masses, Shein risks diluting the very essence of the trend, undermining its appeal to those who seek genuine exclusivity.
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Shein’s reliance on a network of apparel vendors in the Guangzhou district of China to manufacture its clothing within a strict ten-day turnaround time may further hinder its ability to produce high-quality, quiet luxury garments. The emphasis on speed and efficiency in production could compromise the quality and craftsmanship that are essential to the quiet luxury aesthetic.
Shein’s venture into the quiet luxury market is unlikely to succeed due to the inherent exclusivity of the trend, the brand’s fast-fashion business model, and potential compromises in quality and craftsmanship. While the desire for accessible, sophisticated styles may continue to grow, it remains to be seen whether fast-fashion retailers like Shein can truly capture the essence of quiet luxury and satisfy the discerning tastes of consumers seeking this exclusive aesthetic.