These levels consist of many separate but interdependent sectors. These sectors are Textile Design and Production, Fashion Design and Manufacturing, Fashion Retailing, Marketing and Merchandising, Fashion Shows, and Media and Marketing. Each sector is devoted to the goal of satisfying consumer demand for apparel under conditions that enable participants in the industry to operate at a profit.
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In the 16th century, national differences were at their most pronounced. Ten 16th century portraits of German or Italian gentlemen may show ten entirely different hats. Albrecht Dürer illustrated the differences in his actual (or composite) contrast of Nuremberg and Venetian fashions at the close of the 15th century (illustration, right). The "Spanish style" of the late 16th century began the move back to synchronicity among upper-class Europeans, and after a struggle in the mid-17th century, French styles decisively took over leadership, a process completed in the 18th century.
A report from New York Fashion (Spring 2015) week found that while 79.69% of models on the runway were white, only 9.75% of models were black, 7.67% were Asian, and 2.12% were Latina. The lack of diversity also accounts for not only designers but models too, out of four hundred and seventy members of The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) only twelve of the members are black. From the same study on New York Fashion Week, it was shown that only 2.7% of the 260 designers presented were black men, and an even smaller percentage were black female designers. Even the relationship between independent designers and retailers can show the racial gap, only 1% of designers stocked at department stores being people of color. It was also found that in editorial spreads, over eighty percent of models pictured were white and only nine percent were black models. These numbers have stayed stagnant over the past few years.
The beginning in Europe of continual and increasingly rapid change in clothing styles can be fairly reliably dated. Historians, including James Laver and Fernand Braudel, date the start of Western fashion in clothing to the middle of the 14th century, though they tend to rely heavily on contemporary imagery and illuminated manuscripts were not common before the fourteenth century. The most dramatic early change in fashion was a sudden drastic shortening and tightening of the male over-garment from calf-length to barely covering the buttocks, sometimes accompanied with stuffing in the chest to make it look bigger.
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Although the fashion industry developed first in Europe and America, as of 2017, it is an international and highly globalized industry, with clothing often designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sold worldwide. For example, an American fashion company might source fabric in China and have the clothes manufactured in Vietnam, finished in Italy, and shipped to a warehouse in the United States for distribution to retail outlets internationally. The fashion industry has long been one of the largest employers in the United States, and it remains so in the 21st century. However, U.S. employment declined considerably as production increasingly moved overseas, especially to China. Because data on the fashion industry typically are reported for national economies and expressed in terms of the industry's many separate sectors, aggregate figures for world production of textiles and clothing are difficult to obtain. However, by any measure, the clothing industry accounts for a significant share of world economic output. The fashion industry consists of four levels:
Even though they are often used together, the term fashion differs from clothes and costume, where the first describes the material and technical garment, whereas the second has been relegated to special senses like fancy-dress or masquerade wear. Fashion instead describes the social and temporal system that "activates" dress as a social signifier in a certain time and context. Philosopher Georgio Agamben connects fashion to the current intensity of the qualitative moment, to the temporal aspect the Greek called kairos, whereas clothes belong to the quantitative, to what the Greek called chronos.
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