The Fashion Industry
Fashion is the way people dress, usually to reflect their personality, attitudes and beliefs. It is a form of cultural expression and can be used as a vehicle for political and social change. The industry generates over one trillion dollars in annual sales and employs 430 million people worldwide. It is considered the world’s most influential and powerful industry. The clothing and fashion industries have a significant impact on the socioeconomic development of a country. Fashion is often defined as a style that changes over time. The emergence of new fashion trends is due to the invention of new materials, manufacturing techniques and changing lifestyles. Fashion is a multi-billion dollar business and it is largely dependent on consumer demand and market trends. The fashion industry is a global one and consists of four levels: the production of raw materials, principally textiles but also leather and fur; the design of fashion items, by designers, manufacturers, contractors, and others; retail sales; and various forms of advertising and promotion.
The emergence of fashion is associated with the Industrial Revolution and the invention of machines to make clothing. Previously, most clothing was handmade and made in small quantities, but the introduction of sewing machines enabled mass production of women’s clothing in the mid-19th century. As production increased, the prices fell, and fashion became increasingly accessible to the masses.
Fashion has many uses and can serve as a means of self-expression for both consumers and designers. It can signify status and authority, as with the tailored suit, or it can communicate a sense of youth and casualness, as in jeans and a T-shirt. Fashion can also be a means of rebellion against the norms and expectations of society, as shown by Albrecht Durer’s drawing which contrasts a well-dressed bourgeois woman from Nuremberg with her counterpart in Venice. Fashion can also be a way to signal membership in particular groups or subcultures, and it can mark important milestones in life, such as marriage, job interview, and retirement.
The erratic nature of modern fashion has led to criticisms that it promotes materialism and encourages wasteful consumption. For example, a fashion trend may be promoted by businesses for profit, and the speed at which it shifts can result in consumers spending money on clothes that they do not need or that will quickly become out of date. However, there are also many who enjoy the diversity of fashion and see it as a fun and creative outlet.