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Disrupting fast fashion: A case study of Shein’s innovative business model


Objective: The objective of this article is to explain an ultra-fast fashion business model and to distinguish it from the fast fashion business model as a new, innovative concept in the fashion industry that was created during turbulent times to cope with new challenges.

Research Design & Methods: The article is a single case study with an emphasis on undertaking an integrative literature review.

Findings: This ultra-fast fashion business model changed the balance of power in the fashion industry. Taking advantage of digital-only presence, extensive use of social media, AI and big data analyses, collaborative consumption, quick response, frequent assortment changes, low prices, and an ambiguous approach to the principles of corporate responsibility, the ultra-fast fashion model adapts very well to new technological and social developments, is difficult for competitors to imitate, and thus effectively creates value for price-sensitive consumers.

Implications & Recommendations: Our findings suggest that a proper combination of strategic choices and innovations in this business model can lead to competitive advantages and remarkable market performance. Indeed, right timing, the use of appropriate technologies, and favourable initial conditions all play crucial roles in the process and make the ultra-fast fashion business model potentially transferable to other industries, while at the same time difficult to imitate by established companies. Its social and economic consequences, future applications, modifications as well as the positive conditions necessary for transferability to other industries should be the subject of further studies.

Contribution & Value Added: Our central contribution involves deciphering the complex interplay and fusion of already established rules and new elements during the process of a new business model creation in the fast fashion industry. Shein’s ultra-fast fashion business model offers a new strategic configuration of a business model that is very difficult to imitate and yet extends the competitive order in the industry at the same time. This article provides a framework for analysis of this model and enhances the understanding of the importance of particular business model choices and their connections for a firm’s successful competitive strategy.


business model, fast fashion, ultra-fast fashion, business model innovation, competitive advantage


Author Biography

Anita Uchańska-Bieniusiewicz

PhD in Media Management and Economics (2011, University of Warsaw, Poland); Assistant Professor at Strategic Management Department, Kozminski University, Poland. Her research interests include strategy and entrepreneurship.

Krzysztof Obłój

Full Professor, Chair of Strategic Management Department, Kozminski University, Poland. Also, a part-time professor at the University of Warsaw, Poland. Former President of the European International Business Academy, Fellow of EIBA, and member of the SMS and AIB. His research interests include strategy, entrepreneurship and international business.


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