Essay on the Dialectical Relationship Between Fashion and Society

Published: 2021/11/23
Number of words: 2218


The rapid development of modern society has brought about the growth of the fashion industry. The increasingly dominant fashion culture and industry have had a consequential impact on social development (Jung & Jin, 2016). With the several technological advancements and globalization of economies, the fashion industry has become more potent as it has been integrated into the global economy. Fashion has especially changed as it pertains to fast culture like fashion, as a consumable product is increasingly going through shorter life cycles. The industry has increased its capacity to facilitate this rapid movement through cycles (Johansson, Julianose & Winroth, 2017). Several firms have invested in the industry due to the nature of modern fashion and its potential for profit. This over-investment has led to both positive and negative impacts on social welfare and development.

The study explores the relationship between fashion and societal development. The report shall also evaluate the merits and demerits of fashion development on the genral progress of people to avoid excessive blind obedience to fashion. Rationality should exist in the event of advocating for societal development, especially on application of fashion.

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Social Progress and Fashion Development

Fashion follows specific rules of timeliness and seasonality. Industrialization of human society and the scope of fashion has extended to an extensive range and has influenced most aspects of life. Fashion has become a statement and piece of identity as opposed to being worn for its mere functionality (Johansson, Julianose & Winroth, 2017). Several firms have leveraged this and have developed themselves as fashion brands that focus on identity and social status. These include both firms in the fast fashion industry and the haute couture industry. Typical examples are the Jordan Brand in the fashion sneaker industry and Gucci in the high fashion industry (Jung & Jin, 2016). These firms have developed themselves as easily identifiable and reputable brands that consumers immediately recognize and want to purchase for the social status and identity that is associated with them.

The culture that is practiced within a particular setting has an influence on societal development. Fashion provides a platform that promotes economic growth, technological advancement and general social awareness. The fashion industry, similar to other industries, has a mutually beneficial relationship with society (Johansson, Julianose & Winroth, 2017). The industry provides goods and services for the community it serves as well as providing employment opportunities. In return, society provides the market for goods and services as well as providing labor.

Factors that have led to the Growth of the Fashion Industry

The growth of the fashion industry in modern society can be attributed to several factors. One of these factors is the continuous improvement of the social and economic level, which is the material basis for the growth of fashion culture and industry. (Almond, 2011) The economic foundation determined the superstructure and the spread of fashion in early times, from top to bottom. The development of the social economy has brought more opportunities for people to choose fashion, which has promoted the fashion industry’s development. This development can especially be seen in the fast fashion industry, which has brought high fashion to everyday consumers at an affordable price and with great convenience.

Secondly, the development of social science and technology lays the foundation for the spread and growth of the fashion industry and fashion culture. After the early 20th century, the spread of fashion relied on emerging technology, such as new forms of transportation and communication (Johansson, Julianose & Winroth, 2017). In modern society, fashion is plugged into the wings of the internet and wireless communication technology. The internet, and technology in general, has led to the world becoming a global village. In the modern world, information can be transferred from one point to another in a fraction of a second. As a result, fashion has increasingly become an international phenomenon as fashion trends and preferences are homogenous.

Thirdly, with the development of society, people’s social concepts are updated continuously, providing a basis for the further growth of fashion. The emerging social thoughts and the continually changing social concepts have created a recognized external environment for fashion during the breeding and spreading process. Taking the “feminism” movement that emerged in the mid-20th century as an example, the “equality of men and women” advocated by feminism significantly promoted the improvement of women’s social status.(Mihaela, 2007) The “masculinity of women’s clothing” was famous all over the world at that time. It was in the social context created by the feminist movement that it helped women strive for equal status with men in social life through the style of dress (Jung & Jin, 2016). Such social perspectives have continually redefined what is acceptable in the fashion industry and what is not. It has also reinforced the purpose of fashion as an art medium that can positively impact societal change.

The impact of Fashion, Culture and Industry on Society

Fashion is a universal phenomenon in human society, It has snowballed in the fast-growing modern society, nourished by the economy, technology, and culture on which it depends. It has become a unique cultural phenomenon and a grand industrial cluster that meets the material and spiritual needs of the masses and reacts to social-economic culture.

First, the fashion industry drives and promotes social and economic development. Fashion ideas can stimulate people’s longing for beauty and promote the desire to buy, which enables the growth of fashion-related industries. As a result, the socio-economic situation has emerged in the constant rotation of fashion (Pedersen, Gwozdz & Hvass, 2018). Take France after World War II as an example; due to the significant impact of the economy, the living standard of the masses fell to the level of food and clothing. Dior did the opposite, designing magnificent clothes and using expensive fabrics; on the contrary, it inspired people’s longing for beauty, thereby promoting social and economic development. This effect can also be seen in the development of the fast fashion industry that has leveraged technology to manufacture trendy and fashionable clothing at low prices (Pedersen, Gwozdz & Hvass, 2018). Firms in the fast fashion industry, such as Asos and Zara, have been able to create significant economic value for their home countries and improve their employees.

Fashion growth also affects social culture. For example, the role of fashion clothing in daily life and work is not only to cover the body and keep out the cold but, more importantly, is the need for civilized etiquette and identification. (Pedersen, Gwozdz & Hvass, 2018). Fashion has been used to identify various groups of people as professions such as medicine and law have a distinct mode of dressing (Boorady & Hall, 2018). Fashion has also contributed to the social culture in the modern age of technology as fashion brands can use their products and brand images to impact societal change. Proof of this is evident in various brands’ stance on issues such as racism and feminism. As fashion has become a central part of the public identity, these brands’ stances on such societal issues can move the needle.

Finally, the psychological impact of fashion on the public has been a focus of recent research. Several psychologists posit that the clothes we wear have an impact on how we feel and how we feel affects what we wear. This interrelation is proof of a bidirectional relationship between fashion choices and people’s psyches. Fashion can be used to reflect and reinforce mental attitudes, gender roles, and political culture (Boorady & Hall, 2018). As a result, fashion is evaluated objectively, and according to the particular environment, one finds oneself. This occurrence is especially evident in cultural and religious environments where fashion and clothing can be used to identify gender, status, and even moods and feelings (Franco, 2018).

Disadvantages Associated to Development of Fashion in Society

Everything has two sides, and of course, fashion is no exception. While many affirm that fashion has a positive impact on society, the adverse effects on society cabbot be ignored due to the excessive development of fashion.

One of the most significant issues that the fashion industry has had to face is the constant allegations against major corporations on employee rights. The globalization of the economy has led to large fashion firms outsourcing production to countries that have limited employee rights. They seek to reduce operational costs and rack up profits. This practice leads to employee exploitation and the reinforcement of poverty in developing nations (Boorady & Hall, 2018). Such situations have mainly been seen in Asia where large apparel companies from developed nations such as the United States outsource labor. There has been recent international attention towards this, and even the European Union has categorized this as slave labor (Hasan, 2019). Several countries have developed more substantial employee rights to protect their workers against exploitation, especially by multinational corporations that seek to establish operations in developing countries with lower wage rates and more flexible worker legislation. An international code should be developed that safeguards workers, regardless of the economic state of their country.

Secondly, excessive production leads to waste,and consequently creating severe environmental pollution problems. With environmental change being the world’s most immediate problem, various industries have had to reevaluate their operations and how much they contribute to the global crisis (Pedersen, Gwozdz & Hvass, 2018). The fashion industry, especially the fast fashion industry, is one of the largest emitters of carbon, releasing more carbon than the international flight industry and maritime shipping industry. In 2019, people bought approximately 60% more clothes than they did in 2014. With fashion prices having reduced drastically and fashion cycles increased, this leads to more waste as people are more likely to throw away clothes sooner. Producers are also likely to ramp up production to keep up with the growing demand, and this has led to fashion production accounting for approximately 10% of the world’s carbon emissions (McFall-Johnsen, 2019). Nonetheless, recent discussions concerning environmental change and global warming have led to fashion firms, increasingly acknowledging their role in reducing the environmental pollution. Therefore, fashion companies have established environmental protection programs as part of their corporate social responsibility to promote sustainable business.

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The fashion industry and its growth have also harmed the youth as it establishes a warped perspective of beauty in them. Children and young adults are increasingly viewing outward beauty as characterized by fashion as the main determinants of one’s identity and personality. This phenomenon, in the future, will present an issue as people will be judged based on their outward appearance instead of based on their character. The fashion industry uses marketing campaigns that pressure this target audience into purchasing their products and, in the process, fail to inform this impressionable target audience that the purpose of fashion is to accentuate their personality and not mask their flaws and deficiencies (Saravanan & Nithyaprakash, 2015).


To sum it up, the relationship between society and fashion is also becoming more complex as both develop. This relationship thereby requires significant attention to control how the two interact. Fashion within society is essential and influences different aspects, therefore, effort should be directed towards ensuring that this relationship is mutually beneficial. However, as mentioned in the report above, there are several detrimental effects of the development of the fashion industry on society. Blind obedience to fashion is a challenge that has crippled growth and general societal changes. Fashion affects sustainability of the environment and strategies that promote human activism, factors that are essential for progress. Fashion should be used to promote positive qualities and values such as respect, self-worth, and gender equality.


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