Table of Contents
Key sectors of the fashion industry
The fashion system
fashion industry, multibillion-dollar global enterprise devoted to the business of making and selling clothes. Some observers distinguish between the fashion industry (which makes “high fashion”) and the apparel industry (which makes ordinary clothes or “mass fashion”), but by the 1970s the boundaries between them had blurred. Fashion is best defined simply as the style or styles of clothing and accessories worn at any given time by groups of people. There may appear to be differences between the expensive designer fashions shown on the runways of Paris or New York and the mass-produced sportswear and street styles sold in malls and markets around the world. However, the fashion industry encompasses the design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, retailing, advertising, and promotion of all types of apparel (men’s, women’s, and children’s) from the most rarefied and expensive haute couture (literally, “high sewing”) and designer fashions to ordinary everyday clothing—from couture ball gowns to Juicy Couture-brand sweatpants. Sometimes the broader term “fashion industries” is used to refer to myriad industries and services that employ millions of people internationally.
The fashion industry is a product of the modern age. Prior to the mid-19th century, virtually all clothing 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...
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