Fashion System Theory: A Critical Analysis of Fashion Industry

Fashion System Theory:
The fashion system theory refers to the interconnected network of individuals, businesses, and institutions involved in the production, distribution, promotion, and consumption of fashion goods and services. This system encompasses a wide range of activities, including design, manufacturing, marketing, retailing, and media coverage of fashion. The fashion system has a significant impact on the global economy and culture, and is constantly evolving in response to changing trends, consumer preferences, and technological innovations.

Fashion System Theory

The western fashion system is a complex assortment of industries that work together and in tandem to produce, promote, and sell new products. Within the fashion system are forecasters, designers, manufacturers, marketers, merchandisers, sales representatives, managers, promoters, and retailers, each of whom has a role in fostering fashion change. What they decide to produce (or not produce), promote (or not promote) ultimately affects what may become fashion. It is necessary to understand that while businesses have a role in developing new styles, consumers have an equally important role in accepting new styles. Ultimately, consumers have to adopt the new style enmasse for it to become a fashion.

The Contemporary Fashion System Theories:
From this article you will learn about the fashion system theories that controls the production of new styles; how new styles reach different markets; the role technology plays in fashion; how designers, merchandisers, and product developers get inspiration from the past; and how merchandisers create unique brand identities to differentiate their merchandise mix from competitors’ products.

Here I will explain about the contemporary fashion system theory that is the critical analysis of the Fashion Industry.

1. Market Infrastructure theory:
Market Infrastructure theories and concepts in the fashion system refers to the framework and systems that support the functioning and growth of the fashion industry. It encompasses the physical and digital infrastructure that enables the creation, production, distribution, and marketing of fashion goods, as well as the financial systems and regulations that support it. This includes clothing factories, distribution centers, retail outlets, e-commerce platforms, trade shows, marketing and advertising agencies, and other intermediaries that are essential to the functioning of the fashion industry. A robust market infrastructure is critical to the success of the fashion industry as it provides the necessary infrastructure for the creation, distribution and marketing of fashion goods, as well as ensuring the efficient and profitable flow of goods and services.

As a designer, you may develop the most wonderful, most beautiful dress that anyone has ever seen. It is the perfect color, the right fabric, and looks great on all body types; but if a merchandiser does not manufacture it, or a buyer does not buy it, or a retailer does not promote and sell it, it will not become a fashion because not enough people will be exposed to it, know about it, and want to wear it. It will not reach what Gladwell (2002) called the tipping point .

Market Infrastructure theory argues that only clothing sold in retail environments can become fashion. While a trend may start in an innocuous area, it takes the entire fashion complex to make the trend into a fashion. The reason is because the merchandisers and retailers make the style available to everyone. When the Mod look began in London, if retailers around the globe did not carry the style it would have never been available for other demographics to buy. They may have seen it on television or in magazines, but without the availability of retail stores the trend would have never become as large as it did.

2. Trickle Across theory:
In the fashion system theory trickle-across refers to the idea that fashion trends, styles, and innovations in design and production gradually spread from the luxury and high-end segments of the market to the mass-market and lower-price segments. This theory suggests that new styles and trends are initially introduced by high-end designers, who cater to a more wealthy and fashion-conscious clientele. As these styles become more popular and well-known, they gradually filter down to the mass-market and lower-price segments, where they are adapted and offered at more affordable prices. The trickle-across theory is often used to explain the diffusion of fashion trends and innovations across the market, and highlights the role of the high-end segments of the market in driving and shaping fashion trends.

Trickle Across theory , also known as “mass market” or “simultaneous adoption,” posits that fashion trends reach all markets at the same time. Thus the dispersal of a trend is not according to class, as predicted by the trickle up and trickle down theories. Rather, the fashion system coordinates the release of the trend through various channels. This is made possible by mass communication, mass production, and the growing middle class (Brannon, 2005).

3. Innovation theory:
Innovation theory refers to the idea that fashion is driven by innovation and change. This theory emphasizes the role of creativity, design, and technological advancements in shaping fashion trends and styles. According to innovation theory, the fashion industry is constantly evolving and adapting to new ideas, materials, and production methods, leading to new styles, silhouettes, and aesthetics. This drive for innovation can come from various sources such as designers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and other stakeholders within the fashion system. The theory suggests that innovation is key to the survival and growth of the fashion industry, as it drives the creation of new and exciting products, creates new market segments, and helps to differentiate brands and products in a highly competitive market.

According to Innovation fashion system theory technology has long provided the fashion industry with new trends and provides the foundation for many fashions. Technology is the creation of new products and new ways of creating new products. Technology provides the fashion industry with

  • Quicker production,
  • Affordability,
  • New products and
  • Increased availability.

In this section we will examine some technological innovations and how they spawned or created fashions.

4. Historic resurrection:
Bruce Oldfield, British fashion designer, has said fashion is “a gentle progression of revisited ideas.” Fashion designers often look to the past and use historic resurrection for inspiration when creating new garments.

In the fashion system theory historic resurrection refers to the trend of reviving and re-imagining styles, designs, and silhouettes from the past. This can involve taking inspiration from a specific historical era or culture and adapting it to contemporary styles and aesthetics. Historic resurrection in fashion can also refer to the use of traditional materials, techniques, and craftsmanship in the creation of new fashion products. This trend is driven by the desire for nostalgia, the appreciation of historical and cultural heritage, and a growing interest in sustainable and ethical fashion practices. Historic resurrection in fashion is often seen as a way of keeping traditional skills and crafts alive, and of creating a connection between the present and the past. It can also result in the creation of new and innovative fashion products that merge traditional and contemporary styles.

5. Branding:
Branding is not a theory but rather a concept that is important to the fashion industry. Fashion scholar Joseph Hancock (2009) wrote, “Branding is not just about individual products, but creates an identity for the company, for consumers, as well as for those who work within the organization. Branding creates a vision for the company”.

Branding is the process of creating and maintaining a distinctive image and identity for a fashion product, company, or designer. This includes the development of a brand name, logo, and visual identity, as well as the creation of a brand image and message that communicates the unique attributes and values of the brand. Branding is an important aspect of the fashion industry, as it helps to differentiate products and companies in a highly competitive market and creates a connection with consumers. Strong branding can increase brand recognition and loyalty, and can have a significant impact on the perceived value and popularity of a fashion product. In the fashion system, branding often extends beyond the product itself and encompasses the entire customer experience, including advertising, packaging, retail spaces, and customer service. Effective branding can help to build a strong and distinctive reputation for a company or designer, and can play a critical role in driving sales and success in the fashion industry.

The fashion system theory plays a vital role in the life of fashion and trends. Decisions that designers, merchandisers, marketers, forecasters, and retailers make affect what becomes a trend and what does not become a trend. Some fashions exist because they were the only available styles in a marketplace and some styles become fashions because companies have made them available at different price points simultaneously to different markets. But the importance of technological innovation, branding, and history cannot be overlooked because they play a role in what can be produced and how it will be received or perceived by the public.


  1. Key Concepts for the Fashion Industry by Andrew Reilly

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