Could Marie Kondo Slow Down Fast Fashion?
Netflix sparked joy…as well as social media buzz, memes, and possibly sales trends with its recent debut of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.
Inspired by Kondo’s “KonMari” method for decluttering and organizing living spaces with an emphasis on sentimental value, the feel-good show is striking a connection with viewers, not only inspiring them to purge their closets, but perhaps rethink their spending habits beyond just New Year’s resolutions.
The Kondo Effect is bringing minimalism to the forefront of consumerism from clothing and home décor to books and nutrition. Searches related to Kondo, KonMari, and even “folding shirts” hit breakout levels in conjunction with the Netflix release, based on Google Trends data. Assuming the show’s continued popularity (and Netflix’s fondness for renewing many of its programs for subsequent seasons), there’s a real possibility that Kondo’s influence could push consumers toward fewer, higher-quality investment pieces.
While this might spark mental and financial relief for consumers, it’s not joyful for retailers—especially those in fast fashion, such as H&M, Zara, and Forever 21.
“We’re now in a time of transformation, and we see the trend towards ‘slow fashion’ away from ‘fast fashion’ as much more powerful than a fad,” says Jen Redding, a senior equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Kondo, of course, isn’t the only change agent here. “Fast fashion looks to have lost its luster,” Redding says. “It’s being displaced as Millennials place growing value on experiences, environmental, and human rights issues than in recent generations before it.” Fast fashion wreaked havoc in retail over the last decade, Redding explains, and consumers are now less interested in cheap, disposable clothing.
That’s not to say all mid-market fashion retailers can expect declines in 2019. Redding cited direct-to-consumer wunderkind Everlane as one example of newer retailers promising better-made apparel fit for any season. And for all the purported benefits of downsizing, not everyone sees the Kondo effect as havinga sufficiently broad enough impact on the U.S. consumer base to materially affect retail sales over the long term. “In the recent past, a cultural shift of this magnitude was usually the result of an extreme external event, such as global war,” says Cullen Finnegan, an associate at Transwestern, a national commercial and retail real estate firm.
And while Kondo, herself, might suggest rounding up old books for resale or donation, her first title, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is experiencing a resurgence on the sales charts, returning to the New York Times bestseller list after being published five years ago. It has since sold over seven million copies in more than 40 languages.
A version of this article appears in the February 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “The KonMari Economy.”