Fashion is a rich and complex system of signs and symbols that communicates a wide range of personal, cultural and social meanings. Different elements of clothing, such as style, color, pattern, material, accessories and brand can symbolise different things: for example, high-end brands, designer items and luxurious materials communicate wealth and status, while casual or alternative styles communicate non-conformity. The study of how these elements convey meaning is called semiotics.
Fashions reflect and reinforce cultural norms, values and beliefs as well as subvert and challenge them. They can also be used as a form of social and political activism. Fashions are constantly changing and influenced by a wide variety of factors, including geographic regions, time periods, gender, age, class, occupation and religion. The emergence of new trends is usually triggered by events, such as the death of a prominent figure or the release of a film.
The word fashion comes from the Latin “fashionable”, which means that something is in style or fits in a certain way:
A person who follows current styles is said to be ‘in fashion’. Similarly, a person who creates their own style and looks for inspiration from various sources is considered to be a ‘fashionista’. Fashion is a global phenomenon that can be seen in the arts, music and films. However, it is also a way of life that is reflected in daily choices of clothing and grooming.
There are many different forms of fashion, with some being more extreme than others. Fashion is also subject to criticism, for example, when it comes to fast-changing trends that are unsustainable or harmful to the environment. But for some people, the ever-changing nature of fashion is what makes it exciting and interesting.
The main source of inspiration for fashion is found in other cultures and countries, such as those in Asia or Africa. In fact, some of the most influential designers in the world are Asian. This is due to the fact that many consumers are very interested in traditional and ethnic styles of clothing, which are often seen as being more stylish than contemporary Western designs.