Fashion is the prevailing style at a given time, particularly in clothing, footwear and accessories. Fashions vary considerably by geographic region, social class and age. The fashion industry is concerned with the design, production and marketing of clothes and accessories. Designers create fashion trends and communicate them to consumers through the media. Consumers can also influence fashion through their choices and purchases. Fashions can be influenced by events and trends in the wider culture, such as the invention of new technologies or the rise of a celebrity.
The desire for change and variety is fundamental to human nature. This desire is adequately met by the fashion system, which provides people with new styles of clothing, shoes and jewellery every season. People can show their personal preferences through the clothes they wear, which is why many people identify themselves with a certain style. In a fashion-conscious society, it is important for individuals to keep up with the latest fashions in order to maintain their image and credibility.
A person’s choice of clothes can indicate his or her attitude towards society. For example, a person who chooses to dress in an avant-garde manner may be seen as a leader in his or her community. Clothes can also be used for identification and distance: goths wear black, skaters wear colorful clothing and so on. Clothes can be used as a means of showing belonging to groups or subcultures, but also to denote disbelief in society and as a way of rebelling against it.
It is important to remember that fashion is constantly changing, and what is in vogue today may be out of vogue tomorrow. This is especially true in the case of clothing, where changes happen much more quickly than in other areas of social behaviour.
The beginning of continuous and accelerating change in Western clothing styles can be reliably dated to the late medieval period. Historians such as James Laver and Fernand Braudel note that the change was triggered by the development of a system of commercial retailing, with stores stocking their shelves with the most recent fashions.
As a result of industrialization, the distinction between high and low fashion has been blurred. In modern times, it is common for designers to make expensive fashionable clothes that are then copied by mass manufacturers and sold to a wide audience at a lower price. These clothes often have very little in common with the original designs that inspired them. This has sometimes been referred to as “fashion in reverse”. As the lines between fashion and anti-fashion blur, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between genuine designers’ works and those of “knock off” manufacturers. This has caused some controversy over intellectual property law.