Pros and cons of taking a fast-fashion approach to creativity

Senior strategist Junior Gonzalez draws parallels between fast fashion and creativity, evaluating fast ideation, risk of sameness, and more.

Junior González, senior strategist, Middle East for Imagination on creativity
Junior González, senior strategist, Middle East for Imagination

The concept of fast fashion always seemed to be based on good intuition. After all, why shouldn’t we bring stylish options to the masses that virtually everyone can afford, while still keeping up with the latest trends and customer desires? After all, it’s about democratising the most sought-after garments – from glasses to shoes, cardigans to streetwear.

However, the underbelly of fast fashion was less-than-ideal factories, with loose worker rights, lower quality pieces that would be thrown out more quickly, never-ending intellectual property battles … to an extent that it seemed like we couldn’t buy a pair of socks without going through a robust ethical thinking exercise.

Similar to our side of the creative industries, fashion and lifestyle brands are pushed to pump out great idea after great idea, rewarded with increased revenue if they hit the target, or punished with tough financial decisions if they don’t. Globally, fashion brands follow a nonstop seasonal schedule that sees designers pushed to their creative limits and suppliers needing to be on their A-game to meet demand.

However, we do not directly cater to mass audiences that love (or hate) our work – since we interface with clients and marketing departments. Rather than brand owners, we are brand interpreters – only after rigorous feedback and review, our work reaches the end-user of a brand, business or government entity – even though we have to keep the end-user in mind as the main stakeholder the entire time.

What, then, are the pros and cons of taking a fast-fashion approach with creativity?

PRO: Accelerated ideation

Pushing the envelope creatively can force teams and agencies to come up with unexpected solutions to problems. The industry’s breakneck speed has produced some of the best and most unique ideas in the market (or at least, the circuit of industry awards will have you believe so). This also allows for more diverging approaches to take place, inviting more ideas rather than fewer into the ring.

It also allows agility and responsiveness, delivering new briefs as quickly as they are written, meeting client demands and creating full responses with relatively short lead times. The use of AI-powered tools helps amplify the speed at which we move, as well, and it seems like creativity is only getting faster.

CON: Similarity of output by agencies

Given that there is a finite number of reports and statistics out there that are readily available, which makes AI so valuable for getting us out of a bind, as it can scout the landscape better and more quickly than us. It is not surprising that many solutions to briefs have eerily similar, sometimes virtually identical concepts and executions.

This happens largely due to the time constraints that push agencies to go for one of the first solutions the team comes up with, rather than letting it sit and simmer until other avenues have been fully explored. It’s a double-edged sword – clients get many options, sometimes excellent quality of work, but the risk of ‘sameness’ goes up as time allocation goes down.

PRO: Always-on, hunting-for-next scenarios

The speed at which briefs, design competitions, and pitches come across our desks as agencies seems to be increasing by the quarter—probably also driven by the 360, turn-key solutions models many of us try to employ. That means that, in theory, and if resources and skillsets align, an agency could respond to almost every RFP sent to them.

In essence – a loss can be quickly combatted by a win that is just around the corner. Like the never-ending rhythm of seasons in fashion – the calendar of media and events does not stop. Due to capacities and limited bandwidth in the industry, a losing team can just as easily become a winning team if they pitch hard and long enough.

CON: Lack of freshness

At the end of the day – the ‘capacities planning’ and ‘traffic management’ are based around the same ‘resource’ – people’s time. There are only so many hours in a week that we can create good, fresh and high-quality work. There is a threshold that we all have as human beings in which we stop finding creative and different solutions – and we resort to what is ‘going to get approved’ or ‘just get it done’.

This applies across the entire org chart. Everyone, from the CEO to the intern, is at risk of underperforming, which can lead to poor decision-making, rash planning, and unintended dynamics. The entire agency must understand that there are limits to how much award-winning work can be produced, and these behaviours trickle down from the top.

By Junior Gonzalez, senior strategist at Imagination