The Business of Fashion
When the first human being, in Eden or on earth, covered his body with leaves, or later with an animal skin, the fashion industry was founded at that time. Though we are not familiar with the style and attire of that time until the ancient civilizations preserved few images in the solidity of rocks, through cave paintings and through rock-cut sculptures.
Terra Cotta figurines of the oldest Harappan Age show interesting headdresses that can be compared with any modern hairstyle with a heavy look. The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro with bangles in her arms is not behind any fashion sculpt of any age. While no one can deny the allure and glamour of Cleopatra; a woman with great political skills and a long nose, who crafted many fashion styles from jewelry to outfits of the great Egyptian Empire of Scissors.
But fashion is not only associated to women always! In ancient times of Cleopatra, Scissors always wore clothes that were royal, expensive, stylistic, attractive and special. At the same Egyptian soil, the Pharaohs were never behind. The great Biblical Character of Moses, if taken as an Egyptian Prince, was always a portrayed, in tales and later in movies, in a charismatic outfit.
While in the Western part of the globe, the Greeks and Romans not only marked high standards in Art, Architecture, and Warfare, but their unique and intricate concepts of a perfect and godlike human body, especially of males, supported the appealing army uniforms and court-wears.
The supernatural characters of illustrious Greek, Egyptian and Indian Mythologies did provide extraordinary range of apparel; well preserved in the form of painting and sculpture.
These ancient models are still the greatest sources of inspiration for modern day fashion designers and the origins of the evolved form of cultural trends prevailed through continents from Australia to America and from Asia to Africa.
Cultural influences are stronger when we consider the economic aspect of the fashion industry. Business needs market where it can present fresh ideas and products in every new day. Although in this global age, acculturation is very much on. But even then there are many cultural aspects that can instigate or impede certain trends. A colorful bikini is a great fashion market item in Western or secular and modern cultures, but it is almost a taboo in some rigid and fundamental areas. Contrary to that, a veil is popular in fundamental countries, but has no market in secular or modern world. However, so many fashion articles could get the status of cross-cultural ambition. Especially in ornaments, there is not much difference across the globe with exception of little diversity in shape, material and style. Earrings, bracelets, pendants, bangles and rings are always, and everywhere, in fashion since ages having big market scope in all societies and cultures.
On the individual level, fashion is not just a simple word or an uncomplicated attitude, or even an overwhelming desire. Fashion is a multifarious dogma that can influence an individual in many ways.
"As process it is [fashion] sustained through some complex amalgamation of inspiration, imitation and institutionalization, all of which seem necessary, even though the nature and degree of their fusion is, as we can infer from fashion history, quite variable." (Fred Davis. Fashion, Culture and Identity. P. 123)
Therefore, the multifaceted incorporation of fashion, where force an individual at the same time, it also institutionalize itself on many grounds. This institutionalization is not only at the academic level, but due to its capacity of holding an individual, society, or even the whole world has created a huge market for investors.
This feature has made fashion, throughout past decades, an industry with small to bulk product possibility that can be marketed all around the world. It attracted many business tycoons and groups of companies to invest in fashion industry, or to label some of their products as fashion products. This idea initially covered the clothes brand but soon after, it encompassed every utility of everyday life. From earrings to pendants, from watches to glasses, from shoes to wallets, from perfumes to hairstyles, everything was produced and marketed, exported and imported on such a huge scale that it actually influenced the economy of various countries. Apart from the individual fashion, bathroom accessories, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom décor, landscaping of gardens and lawns, furniture, automobiles, electronics or even language accents, everything got under the broad term of fashion. Products singularly and brands collectively helped and polished lifestyle across the continents. So, inevitably fashion market got vitality.
Despite quality, comfort and durability the exclusivity of a product and its luxurious look are the reasons that produce scope for a product to be marketed. That is the market policy of almost every fashion company revolves around these features.
Simultaneously, the marketing and availability of various products have developed the customers' sense of selection and exposure with a comparative buying power. Fashion is not always brand conscious; it is item based as well. Sometime, the need for a particular item may force us to go beyond the brand-range and select something less popular. This is a challenge all the famous brands have to cope with. Ian Griffiths and Nicola White, in their edited work: The Fashion Business- Theory, Practice, Image, commented on item shopping as:
"Item shopping is still very much part of our lives, but market saturation has taken its toll and replacement purchases of core product continue to decline. Added to this is the changing profile of the customer, who, through constant exposure, is becoming wiser, more astute, more confident in mixing products and consequently, likely to be less brand loyal."
The customer satisfaction is very important in the fashion industry; either it is attained by making customer needful for an upcoming product through advertising, or by providing him what he is striving for. The former caused the creative and design department to experiment with new ideas and shapes while the latter forced the quality controlled production with maintained standards.
Modern day fashion is rapid, short lived, more corporate in its structure, and psychological than ever before. Due to better and quick sources of communication and information, the international or external markets are open for every fashion company to do business, multinational companies can be found with variety of products in all the continents with complex network and appropriate marketing policies according to the socio-cultural requirements of a certain country. Especially, when we talk about the couture and cosmetics, contemporary trends are getting more and more cross-cultural due to viewership of various fashion channels on TV. This is far quicker source than the print media. So, the skills and concepts are also crossing the geographical and ideological boundaries of different parts of the world regardless of ethnic rigidity and conventionalism. That is one reason that fashion is also taken as the reflection of the progress in some developing countries. Fred Divis described clothing as a visual metaphor in his compilation; Fashion, Culture and Identity:
"As visual metaphor the clothing that is dress (one should perhaps distinguish between the two) is capable of communicating many things including something as subtle, for example, as the wearer's reflexive awareness..."
This is what has made fashion companies responsible for customer care at the same time, when they were thinking to be profitable. You can find friendly policies of such companies towards its employees, suppliers and customers. Together with the advertising campaigns, Fashion Weeks with new designs and colors, serve additionally to promote new concepts. These Fashion Weeks not only display an array of new products, but also serve to communicate with the audience visually. Dresses and accessories worn by models doing catwalk, are more lively and enthralling than the mere display on mannequins. Normally with a range of Fall, Spring, Summer and Winter collection, Fashion Weeks boost market demands and promote its associated businesses as well. Fashion Shows now have become cultural events which are happily sponsored by the corporate sector.
At modern day fashion companies, there is an underlying and long standing commitment to ethical trading, based upon the belief, that business can be both profitable and responsible. So, fashion companies believe that building meaningful long term relationships with employees, suppliers and communities is good business practice for them and is what the customers expect popular brands. This is, and always has been, the founding principle of different brands as Corporate-Social responsibility.
Fashion is not only a phenomenon for luxurious life, but this concept deals with humanity as well. True meaning of fashion is to put life at ease and to facilitate humanity with its respective life style. That is why, modern fashion companies are conscious for the fact of supporting special people of society with special needs. This phenomenon is causing fashion to be responsive towards special people.
Therefore, the market and its demands may vary from community to community. For example, the range may get different in a London store in comparison with the variety at a Singapore or China store. No doubt, in the modern world, 'East meets West' but climate, culture, sociology and psychological needs can force fashion designers and companies to provide a vast canvas for the diversity of customers worldwide. But there are few items that are evergreen. Jeans and Bags are such commodities that are always in demand and ask for the latest styles and comfort at the same time.
Modern day fashion is global, human, culture and society friendly. At one end it emphasizes collective psychology and trends of a society, and at the other end, it deals with the individual needs of customer care. Healthy trends, balanced life, and busy lifestyle are, what the modern fashion companies have to consider deeply. It is no more a matter of looking good and attractive, true fashion and accessories join comfort and trend together. Fashion companies are somehow, have become institutes that are shaping behaviors, psychology and healthy and innovative thinking. The concept of being relaxed and making others too, by wearing good looking, comfortable, trendy and eye-catching outfits in soothing or energetic colors, is the order of the modern day.