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The Worldwide Fashion Industry

As the movie The Devil Wears Prada shows, the worldwide fashion industry is an extremely profitable, influential and competitive business where the trends, present and future, rule the runways, fashion houses and retail stores. Glitz and glamour, of course, are part and parcel of the industry but it is a business first and foremost – and what a business it is with an estimated US$900 billion annual revenues!

History of the Industry

The fashion industry as we know it today is a product of the early 20th century. During the prior centuries, clothes and other personal accessories were custom-made for their wearers by dressmakers and tailors, said production of which were either made in the home or in the shop.

With new technologies, new systems of mass production, and new retail outlets, the modern fashion industry was born. Clothes, shoes and personal accessories were mass-produced in standard styles, sizes, and colors, which were the sold with fixed prices in retail outlets like department stores and boutiques.

Europe is widely considered the birthplace of the fashion industry with cities like Paris, Milan and London still ruling the runways. Nowadays, other cities particularly in the United States (i.e., New York City) are also powerhouses while emerging markets like China are also making their presence felt. Indeed, the fashion industry spans the globe wherever people want to be fashionable, stylish and trendy.

Levels of Hierarchy

The fashion industry has a hierarchy based on the prices of the products, as follows:

  • Haute couture clothes, shoes and bags represent the most expensive, exclusive and luxurious products in the market with their market being the world’s richest individuals. A few examples include Chanel, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Versace and Elli Saab.
  • Luxury items are still expensive in terms of quality, price and prestige but are a step down from haute couture. Examples include Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
  • Affordable luxury products have the so-called aspirational consumers – or those who want to buy luxury products but cannot afford the price tag and, thus, are willing to settle for affordable alternatives.
  • Mainstream brands are targeted toward the masses such that their main goal is to become the go-to brand for affordable fashion. Brands include Topshop and Forever 21.
  • Discount brands obviously target low-income consumers who still want to look trendy sans the cost.

The fashion industry provides for millions of jobs around the world because of its four levels, namely, production of raw materials, production of the finished products, retail sales, and marketing. Each manufacturer, designer and salesperson of these levels has his/her own roles and responsibilities, which must be delivered and done as expected for the entire fashion industry to thrive.