Written by Joanna Hughes

When we think of areas of study that make a difference in the world, disciplines like medicine, public health and law first come to mind. One field that may not make the list is fashion. However, the truth is that fashion impacts and influences the world in many ways and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Perhaps fashion industry leader, Frances Corner, sums it up best in her book, Why Fashion Matters.

“Fashion matters,” she writes. “To the economy, to society and to each of us personally. Faster than anything else, what we wear tells the story of who we are -- or who we want to be. Fashion is the most immediate and intimate form of self-expression.”

Here’s a closer look at the importance of the fashion and luxury industry, the challenges it faces, and the need for passionate, creative and knowledgeable leaders to drive its future.

Why We Need Fashion

Where would we be without fashion? To understand that, we must first understand the many roles fashion plays in society, including the following: 

  • Fashion as a Form of Self-Expression

In its most personal sense, fashion is about self-expression and self-adornment. While styles and trends may change, humans will need to express their individuality. Fashion is one of the easiest and best ways to do this. 

  • Fashion in Arts and Culture

“Fashion deserves to be taken seriously, warts and all, and celebrated for its beauty, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit,” Corner asserts. “The fashion industry is among the most aspirational, industrious and dynamic of all industries. Its best designers, as with all great artists, imagine initiate and move culture on.” 

  • Fashion and the Economy

The fashion industry is both massive and complex. According to the fashion business network Common Objective (CO),  the global apparel market is worth $1.34 trillion in retail sales annually -- and that’s not including footwear or jewelry. This is more than the entire economy of Russia!

It takes a lot of people across a breadth and depth of jobs working together all over the world to keep the fashion industry going. “Fashion provides millions of people worldwide with their livelihoods and builds commercial ties between nations,” Corner continues. “Goods designed in one country are often manufactured in another before being shipped and sold in many more countries around the world.”

  • Fashion and Collaboration

While we often use words like ‘competitive’ and ‘cutthroat’ to describe the fashion and luxury business world, ‘collaborative’ may now be more relevant. Not Just a Label explains that “collaboration comes in numerous forms, whether matching designers with other designers, social influencers, or other creative types such as photographers and artists. There are numerous reasons for collaboration too, from a way to push your brand beyond your own imagination or change its stereotype, to reaching a wider target audience. At times it is necessary for an emerging designer to collaborate to progress or survive. They may need to share costs and use of facilities, fill gaps in their skills and use the foundations of a larger brand to push their ideas through and gain exposure. The way creatives work, their outcomes and how they gain exposure have changed, particularly with the rise of social media.”

Meanwhile, research published in The Design Journal highlights the specific benefits of design collaboration, including shorter lead times, better product quality, fewer product returns, optimized resources and an enhanced customer experience. 

EU Business School

Fashion and Luxury Industry Challenges and Opportunities

Because the fashion industry is always changing, it’s also full of many challenges. In the right hands, these challenges become opportunities for both brand growth and differentiation. The following trends are currently shaking up the industry:

  • The Environment and Sustainability

According to Sustain Your Style, the fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter next to the oil industry. As more consumers prioritize making socially responsible choices, correcting the fashion industry’s strain on the environment has become increasingly vital. Toxic wastewater, water consumption, microfibers in the oceans, waste accumulation, chemical pollutants, gas emissions, soil degradation and the destruction of the rainforest are some of the major issues facing fashion companies. 

While initiatives like the NRDC’s Clean by Design are working to reverse the trend by helping factories reduce pollution and cut waste while saving money, there’s much more work to be done in terms of understanding and promoting the adoption of best practices. 

  • Fashion and Technology

Technology is transforming the world, and the fashion and luxury industry is far from exempt. In fact, fashion has always been on the frontlines of innovation. According to intelligence from CB Insights, tech is changing the industry across many areas, including product design, manufacturing, inventory and distribution, and retail and virtual merchandising. And what’s next? Everything from connected jewelry, to 3D scanning, to tech tailoring and novel fabrics. 

  • Other Fashion Industry Trends

McKinsey recently compiled a list of future fashion trends, which included everything from the ascent of India and its impact on the fashion industry to shifting politics and how they might shape cross-border trade. New ownership models, conscientious consumers, now-or-never consumer expectations, radical transparency, self-disruption and “digital land grab” are also emerging imperatives. 

Meanwhile, Forbes suggests that “while there is no way to predict which issues will rise to the surface [...] there are certainly ones that are festering, living as whispers, or existing blatantly, and all are ready and ripe to be addressed.” 

Is a Career in Fashion and Luxury Business Right for You? 

All of which begs the question: with so much bubbling to the surface, who will lead fashion brands as they sink or swim? Not only do brands need to be able to adapt to changing zeitgeists and industry trends, they must also be prepared to learn how to use them to their benefit. Studying fashion and luxury business offers key insights into not only how the industry is changing, but how to leverage these changes into success. This is where EU Business School’s Master in Fashion & Luxury Business comes in.

With a focus on business management skills, consumer attitudes, and design and creativity, the program addresses key elements such as advertising strategies, communication skills and innovative thinking -- all aimed at teaching the next generation of brand leaders to position their brands for success. Not only is EU Business School a highly-ranked, internationally accredited business school, but the Master in Fashion & Luxury Business is accredited by Spain’s Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM). 

With modules such as International Brand Management, Luxury Industry and Design Innovation, the year-long, English-taught program prepares graduates for careers in fashion and luxury brand management, advertising and communication and luxury retail. Not only that, but students also have the opportunity to study the fashion and luxury business in their choice of location: the Mediterranean metropolis of Barcelona; international business hub of Geneva; inspiring and breathtaking Montreux; or online, where they can study around work or family commitments. 

EU Business School has a multicultural student body comprising more than 100 nationalities as well as an alumni network of more than 27,000 graduates. Small class sizes, many opportunities to interact with international business leaders and campus exchange programs add to the appeal of the Master in Fashion & Luxury Business. For example, program participants from Geneva and Montreux recently had the opportunity to attend the internationally acclaimed fashion and luxury trade show Baselworld 2018. There, they attended exclusive meetings with CEOs and other influential figures from world-renowned companies like Rolex, Omega, Seiko, Hublot, Tag Heuer, Tissot, Breguet, Blancpain, and Reuge. 

So, while styles and trends may come and go, the fashion and luxury industry is here to stay. Will you be a part of its future? The Master in Fashion and Luxury Business can make sure you arrive in style to your chosen career.

EU Business School

Article written in association with EU Business School.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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