Fashion is a multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses styles, trends and practices. It encompasses clothing, footwear, accessories and cosmetics that portray different cultural aesthetics and can be used as signifiers of self-expression and social belonging. The industry is a global enterprise that involves millions of people in design, production, marketing and sales. The industry’s societal and economic impacts are widespread, as are its influencers and consumer habits.
The most prominent aspect of fashion is its ephemeral nature. Trends come and go very quickly, and in the blink of an eye, that coat you just bought could be old-fashioned. This quick turnover of style can be frustrating, and many people feel pressured to constantly buy new clothes, even when they are no longer in fashion. This has become a major problem in our society, as the amount of waste generated by fast fashion is huge and detrimental to the environment.
Clothes have always been important, but they are now more than just an ornament. They are a means of social and cultural identification, and can also be used as political weapons. Fashion can be a form of resistance to oppressive systems, as seen in the use of miniskirts during the feminism movement. It can also mirror life choices, as when nuns wear cassocks to symbolise a renunciation of vanity.
While the industry is incredibly lucrative, it can also be exploitative and discriminatory. It often disregards and marginalises the skills of its workers, as well as natural resources, in favour of its glitzy, glamorous image. The industry is a mirror of our times, and it is up to us to look inside that bright cellophane wrapper and question what it’s really telling us.