THE ROLE AND INFLUENCE OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY

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Schermata 2015-01-11 alle 17.03.01 

THE ROLE AND INFLUENCE OF THE

FASHION INDUSTRY

Fashion is a popular style or practice, especially in clothing, footwear, accessories, make-up, body piercing, or furniture. Fashion is a distinctive and often habitual trend in the style in which a person dresses. It is the prevailing styles in behavior and the newest creations of textile designers. The more technical term costume has become so linked to the term “fashion” that the use of the former has been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while “fashion” means clothing more generally, including the study of it. Although aspects of fashion can be feminine or masculine, some trends are androgynous.

Early Western travelers, whether to Persia, Turkey, India or China, frequently remarked on the absence of change in fashion there, and observers from these other cultures commented on the unseemly pace of Western fashion, which many felt suggested instability and a lack of order in Western culture.  There is considerable evidence in Ming, China of rapidly changing fashions in Chinese clothing. Changes in costume often took place at times of economic or social change, as occurred in ancient Rome, and the medieval Caliphate, but then a long period without major changes would follow.   Similar changes in fashion occurred in the 11th century in the Middle East following the arrival of the Turks who introduced clothing styles from Central Asia and the Far East.

The beginning in Europe of continual and increasingly rapid change in clothing styles can be reliably dated. Historians date the start of Western fashion in clothing to the middle of the 14th century. The most dramatic early change in fashion was a sudden drastic shortening and tightening of the male over-garment from calf-length to barely covering the buttocks, sometimes accompanied with stuffing in the chest to make it look bigger. This created the distinctive Western outline of a tailored top worn over leggings or trousers.

The pace of change accelerated considerably in the following century, and women and men’s fashion, especially in the dressing and adorning of the hair, became equally complex. Art historians are able to use fashion with confidence and precision to date images, often to within five years, particularly in the case of images from the 15th century. Initially, changes in fashion led to a fragmentation across the upper classes of Europe of what had previously been a very similar style of dressing and the subsequent development of distinctive national styles. These national styles remained very different until a counter-movement in the 17th to 18th centuries imposed similar styles once again, mostly originating from Ancient Regime France. Though the rich usually led fashion, the increasing affluence of early modern Europe led to the bourgeoisie and even peasants following trends at a distance, but still uncomfortably close for the .

In the 16th century national differences were at their most pronounced. Albrecht Durer illustrated the differences in his contrast of Nuremberg and Venetian fashions at the close of the 15th century. The “Spanish style” of the late 16th century began the move back to synchronicity among upper-class Europeans, and after a struggle in the mid-17th century, French styles decisively took over leadership, a process completed in the 18th century.   Though textile colors and patterns changed from year to year, the cut of a gentleman’s coat and the length of his waistcoat, or the pattern to which a lady’s dress was cut, changed more slowly. Men’s fashions were largely derived from military models, and changes in the European male silhouette were galvanized in theaters of European war where gentleman officers had opportunities to make notes of foreign styles such as the cravat or necktie.

Although tailors and dressmakers were no doubt responsible for many innovations, and the textile industry certainly led many trends, the history of fashion design is normally understood to date from 1858 when the English-born Charles Frederick Worth opened the first true haute couture house in Paris. The Haute house was the name established by government for the fashion houses that met the standards of industry. These fashion houses have to adhere to standards such as keeping at least twenty employees engaged in making the clothes, showing two collections per year at fashion shows, and presenting a certain number of patterns to costumers. Since then, the professional designer has become an increasingly dominant figure, despite the origin of many fashions in street fashion. For women, the flapper styles of the 1920s marked the most significant alteration in Western women’s fashion in several centuries, with a drastic shortening of skirt-lengths and much looser-fitting clothes. With an occasional revival of long skirts, variations of the shorter length have remained dominant ever since. Though there were many variations, the “flapper uniform,” consisting of high-heeled shoes, which were often embellished with buckles or gems, significant amounts of jewelry, especially pieces adorned with gems and pearls, and shorter dresses, the upper portion of which could be either loose or form-fitting. Flappers also often wore cloches, small hats often featuring narrow, downward-oriented brims, to frame their short hairstyles. Flappers were seen as especially seductive figures, and their fashion was at the time controversial for many.

The four major current fashion capitals are acknowledged to be Paris, Milan, New York, and London, which are all headquarters to the greatest fashion companies and are renowned for their major influence on global fashion. Fashion Weeks are held in these cities, where designers exhibit their new clothing collections to audiences. A succession of major designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent have kept Paris as the center most watched by the rest of the world, although haute couture is now subsidized by the sale of ready-to-wear collections and perfume using the same branding.

Modern Westerners have a wide number of choices available in the selection of their clothes. What a person chooses to wear can reflect his or her personality or interests. When people who have high cultural status start to wear new or different clothes, a fashion trend may start. People who like or respect these people become influenced by their personal style and begin wearing similarly styled clothes. Fashions may vary considerably within a society according to age, social class, generation, occupation and geography and also varies over time. If an older person dresses according to the fashion young people use, he or she may look ridiculous in the eyes of both young and older people. The terms fashionista and fashion victim refer to someone who slavishly follows current fashions.

In recent years, Asian fashion has become increasingly significant in local and global markets. Countries such as China, Japan, India, and Pakistan have traditionally had large textile industries, which have often been drawn upon by Western designers, but now Asian clothing styles are also gaining influence based on their own ideas.

The fashion industry is a product of the modern age.   Prior to the mid-19th century, most clothing was custom-made. It was handmade for individuals, either as home production or on order from dressmakers and tailors. By the beginning of the 20th century—with the rise of new technologies such as the sewing machine, the rise of global capitalism and the development of the factory system of production, and the proliferation of retail outlets such as department stores—clothing had increasingly come to be mass-produced in standard sizes and sold at fixed prices.

Although the fashion industry developed first in Europe and America, as of 2014 it is an international and highly globalized industry, with clothing often designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sold world-wide. For example, an American fashion company might out-source fabric in China and have the clothes manufactured in Vietnam, finished in Italy, and shipped to a warehouse in the United States for distribution to retail outlets internationally. The fashion industry has long been one of the largest employers in the United States, and it remains so in the 21st century. However, employment declined considerably as production increasingly moved overseas, especially to China. Because data on the fashion industry typically are reported for national economies and expressed in terms of the industry’s many separate sectors, aggregate figures for world production of textiles and clothing are difficult to obtain. However, by any measure, the clothing industry accounts for a significant share of world economic output.

The fashion industry consists of four levels: (a) the production of raw materials, principally fibers and textiles but also leather and fur; (b) the production of fashion goods by designers, manufacturers, contractors, and others; (c) retail sales; and (d) various forms of advertising and promotion.     These levels consist of many separate but interdependent sectors, each devoted to the goal of satisfying consumer demand for apparel under conditions that enable participants in the industry to operate at a profit.

The definition of fashion and anti-fashion is as follows: Anti-fashion is fixed and changes little over time. Anti-fashion is different depending on the cultural or social group one is associated with or where one lives, but within that group or locality the style changes little. Fashion is the exact opposite of anti-fashion. Fashion changes very quickly and is not affiliated with one group or area of the world but is spread out throughout the world wherever people can communicate easily with each other. For example, Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation gown is an example of anti-fashion because it is traditional and does not change over any period whereas a gown from fashion designer Dior’s collection of 1953 is fashion because the style will change every season as Dior comes up with a new gown to replace the old one. In the Dior gown the length, cut, fabric, and embroidery of the gown change from season to season. Anti-fashion is concerned with maintaining the status quo while fashion is concerned with social mobility. Time is expressed in terms of continuity in anti-fashion and as change in fashion. Fashion has changing modes of adornment while anti-fashion has fixed modes of adornment. Indigenous and peasant modes of adornment are an example of anti-fashion. Change in fashion is part of the larger system and is structured to be a deliberate change in style.

Since fakes are distinguishable by their poorer quality, there is still a demand for luxury goods, and as only a trademark or logo can be copyrighted, many fashion brands make this one of the most visible aspects of the garment or accessory. In handbags, especially, the designer’s brand may be woven into the fabric from which the bag is made, making the brand an intrinsic element of the bag.

Fashion may be used to promote a cause, such as to promote healthy behavior, to raise money for a cancer cure, or to raise money for local charities such as the Juvenile Protective Association or a children’s hospice.

Kathy Kiefer

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Schermata 2015-01-03 alle 00.24.37

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