It takes years of training to become a surgeon, neurobiologist or even a lawyer. Years of research, tons of exams, and endless studying before a surgeon can master the precision required to repair damaged bodies, before lawyers are certified to help bring justice to victims of crime.
In contrast, to become a qualified designer, merchandiser, buyer or a model takes far less time, but these jobs require a different set of skills that one cannot always acquire in a school. So maybe some jobs are more valuable than others or maybe the hard work needed to execute all jobs is disguised differently. The schedule of a model at fashion week might not be too different than that of a nurse in the ER, but a nurse does save lives, while a model….slays? (Not literally I hope.)
The fashion industry is less defined than most others, and trends play a central focus, even the smallest advancement in technology can cause massive ripples. The introduction of social media gave rise to an entire sub community of fashion labels that wouldn’t otherwise exist and created influencers with a database that would never be aggregated in one place. With attractive outfits and hi res images uploaded consistently, its easy to garner an audience, or is it?
The continuously evolving fashion industry is large as it is influential. Constantly changing trends ensure constant new work, which leads to constant employment. Countless people across professions are employed by this industry. From factory workers and craftsmen in production facilities to sales associates working retail stores, the process of creating and selling a garment is multifold. In 2014, an estimated 24.8 million people were employed in the apparel manufacturing business -that is more people than the entire population of Romania.
Granted, apparel manufacturers are not the first people that come to mind when discussing the fashion world as a whole, but they are the arms and legs of the fashion industry, the seeds from which the plants and trees grow.
On the other hand, the true brains and spine behind the 3 trillion dollar industry, the roots that hold the trees down- like most industries- are the corporate giants.
The CEO of Inditex (the parent company to Zara) Amancio Ortega was listed by Forbes Magazine as the richest person in Europe in 2016. Behind the most iconic fashion names and labels are the more discreet and powerful corporations that run the system. Perhaps the two most influential names in fashion today are Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour but do we know who the CEO of Conde Nast is?
As of 2015, Nike was the largest fashion company worldwide with retail presence around the globe and annual celebrity collaborations. The CEO and founder of Nike, Philip Knight released his autobiography Shoe Dog (such a great read) which maps out his journey which started all the way back in the 1960’s.
Giant apparel manufacturing companies like Nike, work hand in hand with giant advertising and marketing companies, who work hand in hand with giant celebrities.
Celebrities have a unique role to play in fashion; oftentimes perks of their job include being able to wear beautiful expensive clothes for no cost at all. It is quite possible that a runway garment that was sent to a pop star to wear to the Grammys, was also sent to a major publication for a photo shoot and after all that was ultimately sent to a PR’s closet just to never be worn again.
The important thing to take away from this anecdote is that a garment that is sketched by someone in Europe, put together in Asia and worn in America lives a journey of its own, and even if it takes most people five seconds to decide whether they love or hate a dress, the work and human effort put into creating that garment is significant.
The large corporations make sure the human effort that goes into making couture dresses is countered by human effort used to make high street dresses. They have a team of designers who create watered versions of runway pieces, turning $4000 dollar gowns to $40 mini dresses that fashion students on a budget can wear on the weekend.
India, a large contributor to the global fashion industry, has a textile and apparel industry that is estimated to grow to $141 billion by 2021 from $67 billion it is at now. To put that into perspective, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is estimated at $20 billion.
With major corporations and e commerce engines barging into the Indian marketplace this industry is growing steadily at both the high end and high street levels. In the last 5 years alone, tier one cities have seen a rise of foreign high street labels open stores in local malls and the number of e stores in the country run in hundreds.
Given the large population of youth in the country, India is a hotbed for retail outlets and the perfect environment for fashion companies to find a robust customer base. The fashion industry in India and around the world has the potential to grow rapidly and is most certainly far from frivolous.