Charts and Graphs from Label Networks%uFFFD European Fashion Profile Report

European fashion trends have had a tremendous influence in the changes to fashion and the industry among American youth culture in the last 3 years. Most notably is the proliferation of H&M’s, the fast-fashion retailer from Sweden that has redefined stylish fashion at inexpensive costs, with stores now popping up in key cities across the United States.

As a quick recap, fast-fashion, also called “disposable” fashion goes hand-in-hand with the speed of change in today’s youth culture marketplace based on increased access to technology, social networks, cell phones, and new media which allow for trends to spread extremely quickly. Coupled with the demand for DIY, or do it yourself, personal style, disposable or fast-fashion has become an increasingly important aspect of shopping today. When we say disposable, we mean buying items that are stylish, but inexpensive to the point that they’re almost throw-away because you’re going to go back and replenish your wardrobe with new pieces and most importantly, inexpensive accessories.

You can see the emergence of fast-fashion trends from our Pan-European Report with the predominance of top retailers as seen from preferences in shopping among 15-25-year-olds across the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

As illustrated in the report and listed here, H&M is clearly the #1 preferred location to shop in among 15-25-year-olds at 16.5%. This drops to Zara at 7.5% (which some consider a fast-fashion retailer), followed by Topshop at 3.7% (but which of course ranks higher in our UK Study given that this is where the store is based originally).

However what is also interesting is looking at favorite store preferences in North America and how H&M, while still not #1, has tripled in the course of the last 4 years, especially as more stores move into key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other places. Fast-fashion is also indicated by the increase in preferences for shopping at Forever 21, which has a fast-fashion like quality in that it provides fashion, usually no-name items for inexpensive prices. This is followed by the increase (and increase in credibility) of Target. And finally, we predict that fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo from Japan will continue its course to increase as a preferred store among youth culture, much as H&M has done, as more stores move into the USA. The no-branded items in Uniqlo are basic, classic, functional, and come with a cache of cool (partly because people know its Japanese) at inexpensive prices.

Other European Influences in American Youth Culture Fashion
However while the fast-fashion movement is taking over fashion in youth culture by storm, the backlash or flipside to this is how people are also seeking out special pieces of coveted glamour such as spending more on a special pair of denim to pair with an inexpensive top from H&M. Or spending more on footwear, especially sneakers to match a combination of items purchased at Target and H&M or now Topshop (which just opened in New York).

Fast-fashion retailers are also taking cues from the importance of masstige or making designer pieces for the masses with limited-edition designs from top designs made available at fast-fashion stores, Such masstige collaborations have included Target and Proenza Schouler, Izaac Mizrahi for Target, Karl Lagerfeld for H&M, and now Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garcons for H&M, and the list goes on.

Influences from European fast-fashion can also be seen in the increase in people shopping vintage or thrift to compliment and mix-up eras of old and new. Some account for this as a trend from London. Brits have always coveted key vintage as a way of creating new out of old and dealing with limited funds. The plethora of secondhand shops on Brick Lane and in East London such as Grand Ofr, Beyond Retro, Rokit, Absolute Vintage, Blondies, Burt & Marry, and Sam Greenberg, to names a few have created brilliant new underground trends and movements -from high street to fast-fashion, to mainstreet America. The UK is also known for incorporating such trends mixed with music, delivering to Americans the re-introduction of neon ’80’s via nu rave (just as it did punk in the ’60s and ’70s). Underground is the above ground here and then tends to jump across the pond to New York.

Other key cities from Europe having an influence include Amsterdam and their attention to sustainable designs, giving Scandinavian countries that have been leading recently, a run for their money. Northern European looks in haircuts with bangs and asymmetrical styles, brands, and especially musicians have impacted the American youth fashion scene such as The Hives, Jens Lekman, and the pop group Love is All.

Denmark seems to hold the title for up-and-coming designers, but also regular people as inherent fashion leaders as seen with the plethora of street style blogs such as which has made the city particularly cool globally. Brands and stores such as Mads Norgaarde, where a 17-year-old can find a cool shirt within budgets as well as someone with a great deal more money are also a part of the Copenhagen make-up. You can also see this with street style blogs from Helsinki. This city’s Slavic and folksy fashion trends with high-end is an interesting crossover capturing the attention of young people looking for something completely different.

But the real prize goes to Sweden and invention not only of fast fashion with stores such as H&M, but also Ikea in terms of fast-furniture design. Having purchased the denim brand Cheap Monday, this brand continues to be on a roll in terms of supporting fresh new designers and ideas (which is also a credit to the government which support the arts, creativity, and designers through a number of programs). Other than Cheap Monday, many other top denim brands are coming from Sweden such as Acne jeans (and the introduction of cigarette styles), Nudie, and Wonhundred (who’s designer Nikolaj Nielsen is formerly from Diesel and Miss Sixty).

Generally in terms of fashion, art, music, and culture, young people across Europe are very creative and are increasingly engaged in aspects that spawn new art, sounds, and ideas -which is growing in places like Spain and Italy at faster rates even though their populations are decreasing. Overall, there’s a keen political correctness and a searching for cool acceptance. There’s a sensibility for high-end designer brands, while at the same time, an increase in shopping second-hand and vintage and high street shops such as H&M and Topshop in the UK, which continues the sprawl of disposable or fast-fashion trends across Europe and impacting North America.

While often in America, we tend to think of ourselves as the epicenter of most new fashion trends, it’s important to note where the bubbling subcultures of new ideas are coming from. And today, with fast-fashion a big part of the picture, you can feel the European imprint more so than ever before.

For more information on the Pan-European Fashion Report, email or check it out under Profile Reports at