Stories from AGENdA

If You're Thinking to Choose Fashion

If You're Thinking to Choose Fashion

It has been a strange time for all of us. But I am sure our life continues to go on and some of you (if I get this to right people somehow, SEO?!) wonder whether you should choose to study or work in fashion. One of my high school friends had a much older sister who worked in fashion and when I told her that I wanted to become a fashion designer, she said without a moment of hesitation "Don't." We grew apart and lost touch but I still remember this scene vividly.

Well, I want to tell you to go ahead.

However, do your research. 

The fashion industry is one of the oldest industry grew exponentially through industrialization. It is a huge industry with a global retail value of $1.4 trillion for apparel alone. Common Objective says that is the equivalent of everyone on the planet, all 7.7 billion of us, each spending $231 on clothing in the year 2019. Of course, that is purely a number and does not state reality. Fashion is a highly fragmented industry that even any of the giant brands like Nike or Zara is not accounted for more than 3% of retail sales value. But still, 20 major companies including luxury conglomerate LVMH, Kering, and Richemont make up huge market and profit. The values grow if you add jewelry and other non-apparel fashion products. The USA and China are by far the world's biggest markets for fashion retail and together, the 2 countries take more than 40% of all spending on apparel.

The first thing that I would say is that it is not glamorous. At all. You may be a designer, buyer, merchandiser, production manager, editor, stylist, whatever your job title is called, I am certain that working in fashion is not what people often imagine. But that is probably true to most professions, if not all. As exciting it seems, the fashion industry has endless conflicts and issues including vulnerability. 

Products are vulnerable as well as people who make them.

The products we create and sell are not usually essential. I think this glocal coronavirus pandemic has defined what essetinal products are and a new dress is not one of them. Though this is quite an unusual circumstance we can peek into the vulnerability of fashion. Brands and companies have to sell products to make a profit and operate. Whether it is a high-end luxury gown or $5 t-shirts, they are products and the products need to be sold at a certain price within a certain time. Read that again. Certain time. The fashion industry is built on selling newness. If it is out of fashion, or old, the product value dramatically decreased, unlike the goods that we buy from a supermarket. 

Fast fashion is born from this urgency that we must always provide newness. Fashion shows used to be 2 times a year and it was something people in the industry all look forward to. Now there is pre-spring, resort, pre-fall, pre, and after everything. It also applies to brands that do not present fashion shows. We are required to create something faster than ever and the pressure is all-time high. What you are required to do as a designer sometimes has nothing to do with creativity ironically. 

Unfortunately, the industry is notorious in weak rights and protections to its workers. <Devil Wears Prada> is based on truth and mental health is at risk not to mention physical health risk that textile and garment workers bear. With its projected image, fashion attracts people and the competition is high.

More fundamentally, you need to understand that the fashion industry-precisely traditional fashion business models are failing. Retailors are closing stores, brands have halted their creation, and we are lost. So if you want to do fashion, you need to be a visionary. The industry is old and slow to change. It is like a grandfather not being able to understand the youth of 2020. It is outdated. It is complex. It needs to be revitalized. And you need to willing to do that.