The history of fashion pre-dates the history of the
fashion industry. Yes, this is a, “who came first the
chicken or the egg" scenario. Fortunately, in the case of determining
the origin of the garment industry the answer is more clear.
Clothing existed before the industry.
Image Source: Natural History Museum (London)
The fashion industry was created to design, market,
manufacture, and sell clothes, footwear, and accessories.
Prior to the creation of the apparel industry,
people created clothes for themselves. As the world evolved, the
industry was formulated to manage the process for consumers. The
mass production of clothing began roughly in the mid-nineteenth century,
when some manufacturers began to produce garments that did not require
fitting session with the sewer or tailors. Fashion did not become an
established industry in the institution sense of the word until the
twentieth century, when networks of neighborhood tailors casually
evolved into manufacturing businesses. Factories grew from necessity
during the world war 1 & 2 era. The ensuing social and cultural changes
of the time period signified the dawn of less restrictive and unilateral
codes of dress. Changes in the business of fashion, and the
establishment of designers as arbiters of taste, began to take shape in
the early part of the century, although largely led by European
In the 1950s and
a growing number of entrepreneurial designers began to make their way
out of the backrooms to feature their own names on their labels
(creation of designer brand names), a development facilitated in part by
the curiosity of the press and also by the ambitions of manufacturers to
capitalize on designer personalities.
designer name into other categories became a common practice,
and by the
1980s. During this
time period, several
fashion designers had become celebrities in their own right.
You are most likely familiar with many of the designer brands that were
led by ambitious and charismatic personalities. To name a few,
Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, and Halston.
The fashion industry of the early 2000s is global
for certain. Luxury conglomerates have been taking stakes in American
businesses and production constantly moving to countries that offer the
most inexpensive labor. The world of fashion is intertwined into most
countries on earth. Garments are conceived, illustrated, and
laser-cut by computers, and replenished automatically by a store's data
system alerts. Clearly technology and various non-tech inventions have
played a significant role in the effort to improve efficiencies. Such
efficiency improvement take place in the areas of design, manufacturing,
logistics, and retail.
In the modern world of fashion, the designers often
compete directly with their biggest customers by opening flagships
stores around the world, and sell product online. The stores return the
favor by competing with designers by sourcing and producing their own
private label collections. The retail stores often base their
private label collection on the prevailing runway looks.
Magazine editors and stylists have gone on to
become designers, while Hollywood actors and pop stars have gone from
wearing designer clothes to creating them. The industry is comprised of
emerging designers as well as seasoned
industry veterans. At the outset of the twenty-first century, what
defines the fashion industry has little to do with the artisan's craft
of a century ago. However, the industry also continues on with
many of its earlier processes and traditions.
As always, the fashion industry pushes forward in
the pursuit of profitability. As many small and multinational
conglomerates rise to stardom, many others fail along the way.
With competitive technology and the most efficient delivery of timely
merchandise, we as an industry continue to find the next trends and meet
consumer needs and desires.
You can learn more by browsing the different areas
on our site and by visiting the
Fashion Industry Network to converse with actual members of our
industry. Speaking to others with experience is always a good way
Below are a few links that we think may be of
interest to you:
If you know more about the origin of the fashion
industry or the years that followed, please share your thoughts with us.
We would be happy to learn from your knowledge & experience in the