Fashion Industry and Its Trends

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Historically, fashion has been aspirational; it was defined by style, design, creativity, refinement, class and exclusivity. Fashion was defined by trends, set by top design houses, that were anticipated each season. Fashion was about class, had an air of elite. Trends (which were a fashion stable) were part of society and popular culture.

The shopping experience for the consumer was special, exclusive and transformed the consumer to a world of refinement and class. Fashion meant aspiring to buy a classic piece of clothing or adding at least one trend each season. Retailers and the fashion magazines helped create a sense of mystique.

Fashion was not a commodity; it was more unique and specialized. In the mid 1980’s automation powered mass production which led to mass marketing and resulted in mass accessibility for the fashion industry. These shifts to mass was an important factor in setting up the changes that took fashion from exclusive and aspiration to every day and attainable.

Mass production, merchandising and marketing] created an opportunity for investors, designers, manufacturers and retailers to make higher profits. It was inevitable that mass would play a quick major role in reshaping the industry. Mass essentially killed the exclusivity and then the class that defined fashion.

Mass marketing that began in the 1980’s changed how consumers viewed fashion and changed their expectations. All of this set the stage for fast fashion brands, off-price and discount retailers and created the circumstances where technology, digital and social media could all become major players in the fashion industry.

Before the 1980’s fashion was an experience that began with trends for each season that came from the runways of the fashion shows in the fashion cities of Paris, Milan and New York. Designers were experimenting with materials, style and taking risks by responding to the changing tastes of consumers but managing to keep hold of the mystique of fashion. Beginning in the 1960’s designers created art in many ways and manufacturers created a limited supply adding to the exclusivity of fashion (Sammy).

The fashion experience was part of the culture and it was showcased in glamorous fashion magazines. The fashion shopping experience was anticipated each season and took place in specialty boutiques and prestigious retailers who showcased the merchandise and created an air of mystique. Fashion’s exclusivity managed to withstand and benefit from the society changes that were associated with the counter culture and hippie movement of the late 1960’s and the changes that the feminist movement in the 1970’s brought to fashion (Sammy).

In “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Fashion Business Forever,” Teri Agnis suggests the end of the industry started with the Paris Fashion Show in 1987 (Agnis 1999, 39-46). Agnis maintains that investors saw what was coming as a result they began to rethink the business model of high-fashion from exclusive to one that could inspire trends that could be mass-produced to make it more attainable for everyone (Agins 1999, 39-46).

It didn’t take much for the investors and manufacturers to see that society was changing and the obvious flaw in the fashion business model was that there was limited opportunity to generate scale and revenue growth by selling limited products to an exclusive slice of the market. Once fashion made the tactical shift to chase mass for greater profits the rest of the changes were set-up to quickly follow.

The initial shift to mass was easy to execute since the technology, automation and global mechanism for mass production was available. Soon developing countries (i.e. China) would become manufacturing giants replacing domestic production with inexpensive labor which meant greater profits. The availability of huge labor forces, automation and technology, the use of lesser expensive materials and the lack of craftmanship meant more could be produced for less (Singh). Mass production meant greater inventory which resulted in the need to market to a greater percentage of the population in order to sell the supply that was available (Singh).

The root of the mass trend would really take hold with the introduction of the mass luxury brand. The kings and queens of mass marketing and merchandising these brands replaced the ideals of exclusivity and mystique that defined fashion with accessibility and attainability. American fashion designers, Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, began to change their business to mass-production and mass-marketing and created a real shift in the fashion industry from a highly personal, stylized and unique to a basic commodity (Agins 1999, 14-22, 154-239).

In mass marketing these brands created a demand for goods and they quickly began to expand across many different categories and developed many different levels of product line ranging in price from under fifty dollars to thousands of dollars (Segran). The problem was that growing the brand and increasing profits took up more time than creating a mystique, inventive design and quality products coupled with the need to manufacture more goods more cheaply oversees and these brands ended up being victims of their own mass push (Segran). At the same time, they set up new consumer expectations, created a new category in mass luxury and eventually degraded the class from fashion in general in order to achieve mass (Segran).

The fashion trade press which was the place where for creating the illusion and glamour behind the fashion industry shifted, too and potentially even helped accelerate the change from class to mass. In In “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Fashion Business Forever,” author Teri Agins, discusses how Women’s Wear Daily by the 1990’s (fashion trade publication) who once maintained the glamour and mystery of the industry had turned into a “gossip paper for industry” (Agins 1999, 56). The point here is that without a reputable fashion trade press, there was less credibility for the industry as a whole (Agins 1999, 57-58) Instead of elevating the industry, the fashion press took the industry down in the mid to late 1980’s; a trend in fashion journalism that would continue through today.

Consumer fashion magazines played a role too by creating the idea that accessible fashion was now the definition of fashionable. VOGUE magazine which has always been considered the place where fashion is made took a big step in changing fashion. Beginning in 1989, Vogue editor began to make subtle changes to how fashion was showcased, but in the April 1992, 100th anniversary issue, editor Anna Wintour featured top models wearing Gap t-shirts and jeans on the cover (Bazilian). From there she shouted to the world that fashion could incorporate all ranges of product that mixing and matching, creating accessible style that incorporated mass marketed brands could be fashionable and importantly fashion and style was something that the consumer can pick and choose and decide for themselves (Bazilian).

The retail industry may have been the biggest contributors to the mass movement It began to change accordingly and jumped on the idea that reaching out to the masses by creating a greater sense of accessibility for fashion would be good for profits. In the late 1980’s exclusive and upscale merchandising shifted to more mass marketing. If this was the only change it may have not been so dramatic, but soon prestige retailers like Marshall Field’s began to mark down merchandise to move the mass quantity off the selling floor (Agins 1999, 303-311).

This quickly eroded the need for consumers to buy full-price merchandise. The bigger upscale retailers though began a trend they could not reverse. Consumers expected markdowns and even waited for them. This was not sustainable for the retail industry and by the 2000’s retail consolidation was more and more the norm. Competition and consolidation in well-established upscale retailer were a result of the need to keep customers by providing lesser expensive merchandise more often (Agins 1999, 303-311). Today once prestigious department stores (i.e. Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor) are part of conglomerates such as Hudson Bay (Thau).

Many “namesake or flagship” stores associated with the mass marketed luxury fashion of the 1990’s (such as Kenneth Cole and Ralph Lauren) have also closed their doors (Thau). Once iconic fashion brands are now also bundled together under Corporate conglomerates such as Uniqlo which owns and markets brands such as Theory, J Brand and Helmet Lang (Thau). Exclusivity is now nearly gone and creative artistic marketing is now replaced by mass marketing from conglomerates.

The next step was inevitable and potentially easy to predict. Today mid-range department stores (such as Kohl’s) have replaced the once great prestige stores and are categorized by mass produced merchandise and celebrity brand collections (such as Lauren Conrad and Jennifer Lopez) (Dennis). The discount retailers jumped into the mix, too and created partnerships with designers for collections just for them such as Mizrahi who produced a fashion line exclusively for Target in 2003 (Folan).

Prestige brands in order to compete jumped on the outlet shopping movement and created named stores in outlet centers and prestige department stores created their own off-priced stores (i.e. Saks Off 5th) in order to capture this part of consumers buying. (C.H) Then came a brand of mass marketed off-priced retailers who made created the idea that bargain shopping was smart and stylish (Peterson). TJMaxx, Marshalls, Burlington are all brands that sell for a below retail even further eroding the exclusivity of the designer, luxury brand names and traditional retail department stores (C.H). The popularity off-price retailers and their success by making profits selling designer clothes at discounted prices is the result of the changes in the way consumers view fashion because of the actions of the industry in the1980’s/90’s (Lamare).

The success of off-price shopping is not only based on price, but the model of fast in and out, overruns and even last season’s brands work well, because the consumer has been trained to look variety and perceive fashionable in a different way (C.H). Off-price retailing has contributed to the death of the fashion trend – one of the industry’s most unique and defining features. Off-price retailing will sell and showcase last year’s fashions, poor selling inventory next to this season’s overruns, the shopper no longer has a guide at retail for ‘what is in’ and ‘what is out’ and the total effect is the death of the fashion trend (Abnett).

The changes in fashion to this point were basically the beginning and the foundation for the fast fashion brands such as the well-known Zara. Fast fashion might be one of the biggest contributors to the push for mass versus class in fashion. Many companies today actually epitomize this idea of mass-marketing and mass-production retail it’s easy to see just how big and how fast this change occurred. Zara, who produces and markets all of its product lines in-house and essentially started the “fast fashion” segment which allows products to be pushed in or pulled out of the retailer in two weeks based on data about what is selling in store (Baker).

It has essentially created a formula that makes the class once associated with fashion unable to compete. Luxury brands and designers who typically put out two season collections a year cannot compete with endless new merchandise that fast fashion showcases every few weeks (Lutz). In addition, Fast Fashion has further eroded the prestige shopping experience, because the bigger retailers cannot be as reactive to changes in the market and changes in consumer taste; the big retailers then seem stale and old (Lutz) Importantly, Fast Fashion has taken the excitement, the anticipation and the aspiration of fashion out of the experience since it essentially killed the fashion by creating a speed in the market that does not offer time to be creative, interesting and unique (Abnett).

Combining all of these changes with technology, access to the internet, e-commerce and digital and social media that has been growing since the mid-2000’s and now mass marketing and accessibility of fashion is now taken to the extreme. First, technology is now automating the production and manufacturing process to greater degrees than ever before and creating rapid production, streamlined supply changes and in some instances robots on the production floors (CB Insights 2018, 2-8).

Technology and automation are now playing a role in design with artificial intelligence (AI) which helps gather data to be able to predict what consumers will want; computer-aided design and 3-D printing leading the change in fashion design (CB Insights 2018, 2-8). The level of structure and the role of data and science is playing an increasing role in fashion from design to merchandising which over the next decades will likely further erode the uniqueness of fashion and continuing pushing it toward a commodity product. In addition, technology via e-commerce, mobile and app buying is changing the fashion cycle by eliminating the fashion season, playing into the fast fashion model and giving smaller brands of varying quality the ability to be players in the market (Cecilio).

The digital technology also has changed consumer expectations and consumer demand by creating an even greater “…culture of instant gratification…” and once you add in the immediate delivery of players like Amazon Fashion the change can only be faster (Shamir). Social media is playing a major role in shaping the fashion industry, too. The increase social fashion and style bloggers, celebrities who are either promoting their own fashion lines or others and the tremendous immediate volume of information has taken over the role of trendsetting from the industry professionals (Hope). As a result, credible, qualified fashion insight is going away and is being replaced by more mass accessibility of fashion information.

The changes that incurred in the industry were set up by a chain reaction that began with the ability to mass produce and manufacture garments. For the business of fashion this was tempting; the idea to make more product readily available to more people meant more profits for everyone from investors to retailers and everyone in the middle. The push to mass meant that fashion would erode its exclusivity, creativity, refinement and in the end the sense of uniqueness and class that was once a distinguishing part of the industry.

The changes in the 1980’s with mass marketing set up circumstances that would further erode fashion’s class; these circumstances allowed for fast fashion and mid/off-price retail that seems to dominate the industry today. Technology in the last decade also accelerated changes in terms of automation, digital and the internet has pushed the industry further away from its original ideals. The fashion industry does still keep the consumer buying, despite the decline of its aura of refinement and class. Business continues because the industry continues to create a “…desire culture…versus a need culture…” when it comes to consumer consumption (Nalls). Mass may have killed fashion’s class, but not its overall business.

Cite this paper

Fashion Industry and Its Trends. (2020, Sep 25). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/fashion-industry-and-its-trends/



What are the key trends in the fashion industry?
Here are some trends the fashion industry is responding to using technology, as it continues to evolve to a better version of itself. Supply chain pressures continue. Sustainability will be more important than ever before. Awareness of authenticity will be elevated. Diversity will remain top of mind.
What is a fashion industry?
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that includes clothing, footwear, accessories, makeup, and hair. It is one of the largest industries in the world.
What is a fashion trend examples?
A fashion trend is a popular style or practice, especially in clothing, footwear, or accessories.
What is fashion and trends?
The development of the marketing plan is the process of creating a strategy to increase brand awareness and sales. This process includes research, target market analysis, and setting marketing goals.
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