Gone are the days of handmade, singularly sourced labor. Luxury brands are now opting for a faster, more efficient process of production. Fast fashion stores like Zara and Forever21 are often looked down upon for the lack of care and attention to detail during the production process, but luxury brands have found this to be more lucrative.
With the luxury fashion industry expected to grow another 5 percent this year, fashion houses are expected to meet the demands of their consumers. As a result, many of these brands are turning away from the traditional hand-made procedures in exchange for a much faster, mechanized process. Fashion houses are turning towards areas in Southeastern Europe where wages and labor are much more affordable.
Initially, companies outsourced the production of simple pieces such as printed T-shirts, but in recent reports, the consistent production of high-quality simple garments have prompted designers to entrust more detailed work to the fast fashion production process. Reuters reported that nearly 80 percent of 200 luxury industry executives saw outsourcing as a growing trend and potential outlet for labor.
Countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia export clothing in an industry that is worth nearly 3 billion euros. However, the textiles industry is losing its workers. Bulgarian Association of Apparel and Textile Products and Exports chief Radina Bankova said that low wages are causing workers to leave the industry. In the first 6 months of 2017, 4,000 employees quit and 88,000 over the last 5 years.
With the increasing demand for labor in Southeast Europe, but a supply too short to meet demands, textile companies may have to increase wages and benefits for its employees. The cost of increasing wages may increase the price of garments for designers and consequently drive the market for cheap labor elsewhere. Southeast Europe may not be able to keep their fast fashion industry afloat amongst its even cheaper competitors in Asia and even Africa.