Apart from technology, another reason why fashion is now available to the masses is that there are several levels at which fashion clothing functions, as shown in Figure 2.1:
Street fashion or mass markets
♦ Haute couture houses are the major fashion houses of the world, run by recognized, internationally famous designers. They show their collections at least twice a year and sell individual garments for thousands of pounds. For many designers the catwalk shows are essentially a publicity exercise for the many goods that are sold under their name such as perfume and accessories.
♦ Designer wear is shown at pret a porter. The move into ready-to-wear clothing by designers meant that they could offer their stylish designs and high quality to a wider audience. The garments are still highly priced, although in hundreds of pounds sterling rather than thousands. They are to be found in the designers' shops, independent stores and some of the more exclusive department stores. Designs are not unique, but are still produced in limited numbers and, although some garments are produced abroad, there is very strict quality control.
♦ Mass market or street fashion is the market area in which most people buy their clothes. New fashions can be in the high street stores extremely quickly and what the customers lose in exclusivity they can make up for in value for money. This is one area of the market that is undergoing many changes and this chapter will look at how it is being affected.
This three-tier view of the market is perhaps oversimplistic as there are many strata and price levels between the ones mentioned. Many customers do not stick to any one level when buying their clothes.
The more affluent will buy several haute couture outfits but turn to designer wear for every day. Women who mostly buy designer ready-to-wear may occasionally splash out on a couture dress for a very special occasion. Those who generally only buy mass market clothing may still buy designer wear occasionally, if only from the discounted rail. In the early twenty-first century celebrity fashion icons have moved to mixing their outfits with some designer pieces and some from high street stores. At times it is difficult to identify the origin of our clothing and to decide who has the power in the marketplace. Is it the fibre and fabric industry that, after all, make the cloth for the garments? Is it the designers? Or perhaps the retailers are the power base in the market? Ultimately it should be the customer, but traditionally the fashion market has been one where the customer was dictated to and so merely followed along almost blindly.
The fashion flow chart in Figure 2.2 illustrates the flow of goods between the various participants in the marketplace. Later it will be seen that there is even more choice in deciding where the goods will be manufactured (see Section 2.5.2).
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