Economics and Fashion
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Fashion can be described as many things; Webster’s dictionary describes it as “a popular way of dressing during a particular time or among a particular group of people,” they also describe it as “the business of creating and selling clothes in new styles” (Webster). Fashion generally means clothing and accessories to most people; however, it can also be translated into many diverse areas or ideas that have inspired a global consumer industry. The fashion retail industry offers a wide variety of categories for consumers to choose from depending on their gender and spending capabilities; a few of the main categories that make up this industry for men, women and children are haute couture, ready to wear, mass market, and discount. Each of these categories can not only distinguish the social status of consumers, but also has an impact on how society perceives each individual. For many people, fashion is not only a hobby, but it’s this thing that allows them to escape into a world of color, design, fabrics and fantasy. Fashion is important to many individuals because it is a part of their everyday life and it allows them to tell their story. Clothing is a form of self-expression without speaking a word, it allows you to stand out from the crowd and even fit into one of your own. Fashion has always existed as a way to express a personal view; whether it be politically motivated, a cultural trend, a religious stance, or just another way to connect to your favorite celebrity. On the surface, one could state that fashion is a frivolous product of a consumer based society, an industry with no real impact. That belief is undeniably false; fashion is one of the world’s most significant and innovative industries. It is an industry that drives business around the globe, allows for individual self-expressionism, creates jobs, and injects revenue into local and global economies. Self-ExpressionFashion is a creative outlet and a form of self-expression for the ones who create it and for the ones who wear it. The personal style we chose, tells a story about the individual that we are, whether knowingly or unknowingly. In a society increasingly focused upon image, what we choose to wear, immediately gives off a first impression. Fashion can either include or exclude us from a societal group. “In fashion we observe simultaneously the participation in collective trends and the expression of individuality. Fashion goods tend to share a trend component, and also to have features that differentiate them from other goods within the trend. Consumption and production of fashion must be understood with respect to both the trend features and the differentiating features. Fashion puts into relief people’s tendency to flock while also differentiating from each other” (Hemphill).
Individuals’ choice in fashion can also be a sociological metric, allowing for the study of human behavior as it interacts with style choices. “Consumers have a taste for trends— that is, for goods that enable them to move in step with other people. But even in fulfilling that taste, they desire goods that differentiate them from other individuals. Furthermore, the fashion industry plays with our conflicting needs as human beings – the need for inclusion that makes us try to be like others, and the need for individuality that leads to the pursuit of our uniqueness” (Ribeiro).No matter what our personal circumstances or status is in society, we all want to be noticed and to have the freedom to express how we feel on the inside through what we wear on the outside. “It has managed to train us to associate states of feelings with particular garments – a business suit or an evening gown stand as success or elegance. We increasingly pursue psychic comfort through garments … fantasizing that we belong to or are proudly different from a particular social group” (Ribeiro).Economic ImpactThe Fashion industry’s economic impact can be derived from two main areas: consumer spending and job creation. Fashion is a structurally diverse industry, ranging from major international retailers to wholesalers to large design houses to one-person design shops. It employs people across many occupations—including fashion designers, retail managers, copywriters, merchandising managers and accountants. Fashion’s impact on consumer spending is far reaching; the global fashion industry drives markets in consumerism from mass market retail to high-end haute couture, from the likes of H&M to Manhattan’s posh Madison Avenue. It impacts local and world economies of nearly every country in the world, whether through manufacturing, distribution, or retail sales. “In the United States, the fashion industry is responsible for more than $250 billion in economic impact on fashion in the United States. In terms of world economy, a staggering $1.2 billion in impact is generated from the fashion industry” (Maloney).