Lessons from fast fashion to sustainable fashion

Fast fashion appeals to the consumer and even though the values of the consumer do not always coincide with those of fast fashion, shopping is easy and tempting. We asked Totti Nyberg from Manna & Co, and Saila Saraniemi, Professor of Brand Marketing, what could responsible brands learn from the operations of fast fashion.


Totti Nyberg, Chief Creative Officer of Manna & Co, sighs.

– If I had the answer, I would be a millionaire. 

Despite this, we decided to give it a go. Nyberg begins by pointing out that fast fashion knows how to appeal to consumers’ emotions. You need to get your hands on the collections that change rapidly or you will be left with nothing – at least this is the impression that is created. 

– How can we, who work with slower fashion, create the same feeling – that a certain item is a must. That this is something I want to wear. 

Saila Saraniemi, Professor of Brand Marketing at the University of Oulu, begins by highlighting the fact that the message and the target groups of fast fashion brands are very clear and the brand is very recognisable. The consumer knows what they are getting when they purchase a product by the brand. 

– The more responsible fashion brands could pay a bit of attention to whether their brand promise is clear. What is it that the customer gains when they purchase a brand product? This is something that needs to be conveyed. 

Pay attention to customer service

It is important that every brand has their fundamentals in place: the brand personality and promise need to be clear – without them the brand is not recognisable to the consumers and other stakeholders. 

First and foremost, the strategy needs to cover the entire business model: from the production chain all the way to the customer promise. Then you get the same quality, message and visual elements in every touchpoint. 

One of the most delicate touchpoints for smaller brands is the physical store. It is rare that a new customer would purchase an expensive item without trying it on. This means that a customer, who has made the effort to come and see the item in the shop, is already quite far along in the shopping process. If they are met with rude customer service or the item is not available in their size, they might leave with a bitter taste in their mouth. 

Nyberg concurs. 

– The customer should always leave the shop in a good mood – whether they bought something or not.  

– E-commerce is another important brand touchpoint, and not least because of internationalisation of the brand. This multichannel approach is also something fast fashion does well, Saraniemi adds. 


Create a strategy from production to customer service 

Nyberg underlines the early years of Makia as an example of strategic competence – or lack thereof. Designing the brand started from the point of view of marketing, brand and product. What was lacking was knowledge in production, logistics and customer service competence. 

– We were moving forward with creativity as our core aspect. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have first put effort into financial management, customer service and logistics before the brand. 

Tenacity is important. It requires proper budgeting and financing so that the business can become profitable. That, in turn, requires strategic thinking and market competence. Nothing happens spontaneously overnight, Nyberg says. 

– Growth expectation need to be in proportion with the size of your company. But if you cannot see anything happening, it is worthwhile taking a critical look at your brand strategy, business strategy, distribution strategy and consumer understanding. With a small budget you need to hit and make an impact on specific targets. You cannot just aim here, there and everywhere. 

Make your values known 

It is really important to do background research. Who is it you are offering your products to? How do you appeal to their emotions? What is your angle in approaching and appealing to your target group, and how do you convey your message? 


– Supporting a local operator is something the customer will feel good about. It is important to let people know whose side you are on and what it is that you are offering. On a global scale, Patagonia is a good example. It is easy to understand what they are doing and why. When you wear a Patagonia item, you are representing a certain set of values. This same type of clarity 

in messaging is what I hope to see from responsible Finnish brands. 

Nyberg wonders why Finnish brands have not been able to convey the message of what it means to be Finnish. 

– Many like to criticise, for example, the fact that production takes place in Turkey and question whether that product actually is Finnish. Consumers do not understand the meaning of purchasing from a Finnish brand. We don’t have that much textile production here, nor raw materials or a solid historical background to be able to do everything ourselves here in Finland. Then again, transporting cotton to Finland is not the most ecological thing either. The most responsible way might be having the production, for example, in the Baltic area, but since the brand itself is Finnish most of the euros stay here in Finland. In my opinion we have all failed in communicating this, he says. 

Create a customer relationship

Saraniemi brings up the fact that small brands have low capital and there might not be sufficient skills in finding funding. Also, the investors do not often see the potential in the field of fashion. 

A company that is in its early stages has to build their brand in different directions. 

There is a need for investors and cooperation partners, and you have to get your production chain in order. On the other hand, the strength of having a small company is in the ability to think more creatively and to find its own way of branding. 

The relationship with the customer ends often with the purchase. Saraniemi sees this as a challenge. How could brands lure the consumers and turn them into loyal customers? 

– Strengthening the brand relationship begins after the first purchase. I see opportunities, for example, in building a community around the brand – this is something Marimekko does well. 

Brands should think about what kind of a group is forming around the brand and what are the rituals that could be strengthened together as a group. Everyone has the need to belong, she ponders. 

Be inspired by others! 

Nyberg encourages to boldly watch what is happening in other countries and to seek inspiration from it. To be open to new ideas. 

– Many may think that this is a boring thing to say, but I have noticed that it is important to take into account the commercial aspect instead of just allowing yourself to be carried away by your emotions. Designing non-commercial fashion is risky. You have a longer road ahead of you if you don’t go for a more commercial approach and find a wider target audience. 

It’s important to build the brand and work long and hard at it, and to put as much effort into it as you do with the products. 

– A small brand needs to identify which brand touchpoints are the most meaningful and, with limited resources, focus on those, Saraniemi says. 

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