Fashion is the design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and retailing of clothing. It encompasses designer and mass-market fashions for men, women, and children.
The fashion industry employs millions of people worldwide. It is a major economic contributor, with $2.5 trillion in annual sales prior to the outbreak of the pandemic (McKinsey analysis).
It is one of the most ancient industries, but its success and growth have been hampered by the rise of the Internet, which has impacted all parts of the business. It has also blurred the lines between businesses and consumers, and has a significant role in supply chains, advertising, communications, and brand awareness.
This has resulted in a rapid pace of change when it comes to styles that go out of fashion. In some cases, these styles can come back into fashion years later when they are re-introduced.
In addition to the cyclical nature of fashion, it is important to understand that style and fashions are social phenomena. These may vary greatly within a society, and even between generations and within the same generation.
A key part of understanding how styles and fashions change is the diffusion theory. This theory explains how styles and fashions diffuse from innovators to leaders, who then spread them to the rest of the population.
While the diffusion theory has some merit, it is often limited by assumptions about the nature of fashion and how it evolves in a pyramid-shaped society. In addition, the theory assumes that fashion innovators are confined to upper classes, and that those who wear fashion want to look like them.