What Is Fashion?


Fashion is an industry of designers, makers, retailers and consumers – it’s big business. Millions of people work everyday designing, sewing, gluing, dyeing and transporting clothing to store shelves or onto the runway. Fashion is also a source of identity and tradition; judges wear robes, people in the military wear uniforms, and brides wear white dresses.

Fashion can be a form of social commentary, a political statement or a means to communicate an individual’s interests. Musicians have long been known for their sense of style and a slew of magazines still regularly report on what celebrities are wearing. The public’s interest in fashion can be influenced by many factors; it may vary according to age, class, generation, occupation and geography. It can also be influenced by media and advertising.

It’s impossible to know what will become a fashionable trend because it is inherently a social phenomenon; for something to be considered a fashion, it needs to be widely adopted and followed. The resulting popularity may be top down, as when a celebrity starts wearing a new look and people follow suit or it can be bottom up, as when someone with a strong personal taste inspires others to adopt their style.

Fashion can be a tool for social change, as it has been used to promote equality and support human rights. The London College of Fashion tapped into this potential with their project ‘Cabinet Stories’ which toured a female prison, mental health unit and care home for elderly people to allow individuals to select outfits that had special meaning to them.