As Mark Twain once wrote, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry. A product of the modern age, fashion generally consists of four primary levels, all devoted to the ultimate goal of satisfying consumer demand for apparel under conditions that enable industry employees to operate at a profit.
Design & Production
While some fashion is made from leather or fur, most is produced from textiles like wool or cotton. Automating the spinning and weaving of natural fibers was one of the first accomplishments of 18th century’s Industrial Revolution. Today, these processes are carried out by computer-controlled, high-speed machinery. Much of the textile industry produces fabric for apparel using either natural fibers—such as wool, cotton, silk, and linen—or synthetic fibers like nylon, acrylic, and polyester.
Just like fashion styles, there is a consistent ebb and flow in how fabrics are created and designed. One recent focus has been on sustainable fashion, which uses more environmentally friendly fibers, such as hemp. Another trend is the use of high-tech synthetic fabrics, which offer benefits such as moisture wicking, stain resistance, or protection against ultraviolet radiation. A wide range of effects can be created through dyeing or printing. Textile manufacturers work closely with fashion forecasters to create specialized colors and textures in anticipation of consumer demand.
A distributor is a middleman between a manufacturer and its customers. If the manufacturer is a large brand, they might use a distributor to provide sales representation, set up showrooms, run trade shows, sell product online, or participate in direct sales to get their goods into the hands of consumers. Many companies assign these duties to employees in their sales department. Whether they are delegated to an external distributor or internal sales department, distributors handle the logistics of receiving orders, removing items from inventory, and packaging and shipping them to customers on a pre-defined schedule.
Marketing strategies often begin with research that answers crucial questions such as “what is the target market?” and “what do our customers need and want?” Fashion marketers take that information and develop a marketing program with coordinated elements, including advertising, special events, public and media relations, social media, and written materials. Their obvious goal is promoting the brand in a way that reaches a primed audience and increases sales.
Retail is the business of buying clothing from manufacturers and selling them to customers. Retailers generally make initial purchases for resale 3 to 6 months before it appears in the store. In addition to traditional retail stores, the Internet has become an increasingly important retail outlet. In an era of diverse shopping options and intense price competition, merchandising has emerged as one of the cornerstones of the modern fashion industry.
There are many different facets within the fashion industry that can work independently or as a team. Fashion coordinators and merchandise planners work to create a unified look in retail stores, design houses, or fashion magazines. Visual merchandisers are responsible for designing in-store and window displays to attract customers. A fashion buyer uses a keen eye for style to select and purchase apparel from designers, manufacturers, and wholesalers for retail sale. Entrepreneurs open their own boutiques to cater to specific clientele.
The fashion industry provides a wealth of opportunity – for those who yearn for style and those who wish to create it.
Kera Green is a fashion blogger and freelance writer for The Fashion Network, Inc.; the top provider in New York’s fashion industry recruiters. In her spare time she enjoys running and reading up on the fashion industry.