Fashion is an all-encompassing term that refers to the creation and consumption of clothing, footwear and accessories; and also describes a way of dressing (styles and trends).
Fashion has always played an influential role in society, reflecting cultural shifts and political events alike. Special garments were once worn to signal one’s status – Roman senators would wear purple; Hawaiian high ranking officials donned feather cloaks decorated with whale tooth carvings; French King Louis XIV once stated that his dress reflected his persona and declared: “fashion is my mirror”.
Due to the pandemic, many people have been forced to reconsider their lifestyles and make more ethical choices when selecting what they wear. Fashion has an excellent opportunity to express these new values to consumers; some designers have already taken steps. Alison Moloney from London College of Fashion conducted an exhibition called Cabinet Stories which traveled through prisons, mental health units, and care homes for elderly. Here people selected clothes with personal significance while sharing personal narratives through storytelling sessions with visitors at each location.
The exhibition provided an impressive and eye-opening demonstration of how clothes can have such an emotional connection for individuals that it allows them to express themselves freely through style choice and help break down stigmatisation barriers.
However, fashion industry’s role in conveying messages may come under scrutiny. The recent ‘fast fashion’ model – where cheap knockoffs of high-end designer clothes are sold to consumers at reduced costs – may encourage this by creating an association between individuals’ disposable income and purchasing habits – thus forcing people to keep up with trendy clothing even though it might be financially out of their reach.
Fashion may also present a threat of distorting or hiding important issues and problems, with celebrity endorsement being one example. Unfortunately, when done improperly this can have negative repercussions for its reputation and ultimately on consumer trust in that product or brand.
Concerns have also been expressed over the theft of ideas, designs, and images from independent fashion companies. Fashion industry workers frequently do not recognize theft of original design details that violate copyrights, leading to unfair competition and copyright violations. However, critics contend that fashion industry needs to create and establish its own trends to survive; therefore, intellectual property rules shouldn’t act as a deterrent against creativity. That’s why some companies have been accused of “fast fashion”, or rapidly producing new styles at an aggressive pace in order to remain fresh and appealing to customers. Their goal is to generate consumer desire for their product and increase sales; however, much fast fashion contains poor-quality materials and finishes and fashion industry must take caution not to damage its reputation by pushing low-grade items onto consumers.