Consumers generally consider the global fashion industry to be the retail sale of apparel around the world. However, the industry, as a business, is much broader and includes not only clothing, footwear and accessories, but the natural textiles and man-made fabrics from which they are produced, as well as manufacturing, importing and exporting, marketing and promotion, wholesale distribution, retail and branding.
The global fashion industry is dependent on ever-changing trends that keep consumers, driven by the need to wear the latest, buying. However, this means that goods have a short shelf life, requiring manufacturers, designers and retailers to meet tight production schedules and distribution deadlines. This also gives trendsetters, such as celebrities, key roles in successful marketing and promotions.
In a global marketplace, the fashion industry is highly competitive. While parts of the developing world, such as the Asian-Pacific markets and Africa, are dominant in the manufacturing and export segments of the industry, even they are being squeezed out by neighboring China, which is claiming a majority stake by offering quality goods at cheaper prices.
Media images of the celebrity lifestyle, including what stars are wearing, and the touting of designer brands have retail consumers demanding access to the same styles. Clothes buyers are increasingly status-conscious and seek out the latest styles worn by cultural icons. This puts additional pressure on the industry while also providing new opportunity for growth.
The fashion industry is no longer solely dependent on ``brick and mortar'' stores for sales. Opportunities for retail sales have expanded through e-commerce, which allows buyers to shop and purchase online. Marketing and promotion also are expanding with the growth of such media trends as social networking and use of technologies such as mobile devices and smart phone applications, which allow for shopping anywhere.
Product branding is an important part of gaining recognition and customer loyalty. This segment of the market, promoted by designers and fashion models, is among the most visible. It also presents greater challenges for lesser known product lines.