Fashion is more than just aesthetics and a mode of self-expression, it is a multibillion-dollar industry devoted to making and selling clothes. It is mainly divided into two parts, high fashion (designer clothing) and the apparel industry (mass-produced clothes). The industry saw its rise in the twentieth century with the advent of the sewing machine in the late nineteenth century. Since then the United States remained the largest employer of the industry, however, the employment has drastically been moved to China in recent times making it the largest fashion market in the world.
The last three decades have seen major changes in the industry with manufacturers keeping up with fast fashion which involves the constant need to refresh product ranges and provide variety. The industry works on the model of ‘sense and respond’. The globalization and digital shift have changed the spending habits of the consumers as close to 75% of the purchasing decisions are made through social networks. There is immense pressure on the industry to produce sustainable clothing that addresses the whole system of fashion. The players are focusing more on optimizing their sites for mobile users as with the ongoing pandemic consumers are preferring e-commerce websites to shop. This has challenged the norm and executives are propelled to take action.
The US market
Macy’s, Amazon and Gap are the top contributors to the US fashion market. The casual style in America symbolizes practicality, comfort and freedom. This style has differentiated America and has been adopted by the world. In the last decade, the US moved towards body positivity wherein the dominant ideals of feminine beauty have been challenged. The athleisure clothing also known as gym clothes are included in everyday lifestyle nowadays. In 2019, the apparel and footwear industry generated global retail sales of 1.9 trillion US dollars and is expected to reach 3 trillion US dollars by 2030.
Growth in China
The country is no longer the hub for factories because of cheap textile and labour but also there is a huge high-tier and low-tier market available in the country. The living conditions of the middle-class are improving and they are becoming highly brand conscious. It is not always the traditional luxury brands that are favoured by the consumers but mostly the light luxury brands are preferred. The Chinese are also up for mass-produced clothing if a brand is ready to stand out among the competitors. To enter the largest fashion market you need to understand its people and language. If you are a small business looking to enter the Chinese market then you can learn Chinese language HSK 1.
Fashion beyond the US and China
In the Middle East, Dubai acts as a window in the region to the fashion world with its world-class malls that offer high-end customer experience. After Dubai, Saudi Arabia takes the second spot in fashion and with new relaxations in women’s dress code, the market is bound to grow. While tourism is an important revenue driver in the region, annual fashion sales account to $50 billion.
India, Vietnam and Bangladesh are major contributors in the textile and apparel industry. India has an unorganized sector of handloom, sericulture and handicraft, which operates on a small scale. The country also uses technologies for spinning, processing and apparel. The fashion industry of Vietnam focuses on modernization, specialization and increase in value addition. Bangladesh also relies on cheap labour cost and the vast workforce, which attracts major brands to place bulk orders.
These countries are not just exporters of textile but they have a huge market of consumers too. India has the highest number of Internet users, which lets people in smaller cities buy products through e-commerce platforms that were earlier available in bigger cities only. Vietnam and Indonesia offer modest fashion markets to their consumers.
Europe’s role in the market
Fashion starts with Europe with cities Paris, Milan and London home to manufacturers, artists and innovators. Europe is responsible for a major chunk of clothing production, however, the biggest challenge it is facing today is of sustainability. The textile dyeing is the second largest cause of water pollution after agriculture while European countries follow regulations that ban several pollutants, third world countries continue to use these methods. Therefore, European countries are trying to stop the use of toxic chemicals from the supply chain altogether. Major brands are focusing on using recycled and sustainably sourced materials. Ralph Lauren, Adidas and Aquafil have launched apparel made of recycled plastic waste.
The way forward for the fashion industry is to come up with innovative processes to reduce the use of energy, chemicals & water and produce cleaner products. With sustainability and growing demand, the market relies on reducing, reusing and recycling.