With its beginnings in the late 17th century, the fashion industry is a globalized sector that works to meet the demand for apparel and dictates the trends for what should be worn. This industry consists of five distinct and separate levels. These levels are haute couture, luxury wear, affordable luxury wear, mainstream clothing, and discount clothing. The production part of the industry, that which takes the concept for a piece of apparel all the way to the hands of those who purchase it, is made up of four basic sectors. These sectors include producers of the goods necessary to make the apparel, those who create the pieces, those who advertise and market the goods, and those who sell the goods.
The industry largely began in Paris, as seamstresses who once made single garments turned to establishing boutiques that catered to those desiring couture clothing. The first and most well-known dressmaker to do this was Charles Frederick Worth. These beginnings are where the foundations of haute couture were laid. It is in this tradition that this level of the fashion industry continues today.
Luxury wear and affordable luxury wear developed from haute couture, but were designed to be marketed to the masses and were not unique creations. These pieces were and continue to be considered high-end apparel that is more costly than the more common ready-to-wear pieces. Luxury wear and affordable luxury are more commonly sold in boutiques and high-end department stores. Oftentimes, the number of pieces available for purchase is limited, which makes the demand greater. While luxury wear and affordable luxury wear are quite similar, their obvious difference is their cost and their availability.
Mainstream clothing is mass marketed. It is set at a decidedly lower price level than designer clothing. It is marketed to the masses. Mainstream clothing is what is known as off the rack clothing. This simply means that the clothing is bought directly from the rack and is entirely a ready-made garment. These ready-made garments vary in quality from one brand to another, but they are decidedly lower in quality than either type of luxury wear.
While obviously falling in the lowest price range of the fashion industry, discount clothing remains an ever popular choice. Admittedly, the quality tends toward the lower-end, but the price proves to be the draw for the buyer. Discount clothing will often include knock-off apparel, which are pieces copied from luxury and designer wear.
As is clearly evident, this field follows a definite hierarchy, but the production part of the industry follows a ladder effect. The production side of the industry is set in a ladder effect in that each level is dependent upon the level below it for maintaining its existence. Without the level below production, each stage would halt. The production part of the industry relies heavily on those purchasing the garments. When demand is high, production continues at a higher rate. When demand is low, production follows accordingly. Admittedly, all aspects of the fashion industry are ultimately controlled by those buying the garments.