Stages of Fashion Cycle | Concepts of Fashion Acceptance

Last Updated on 19/09/2021

Stages of Fashion Cycle | Concepts of Fashion Acceptance

Jahanara Akter
Fashion Designer & Ex-Lecturer,
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
Khulna, Bangladesh


What is Fashion Cycle?
Fashion cycle refers to the rise, wide popularity and then decline in acceptance of a style. Consumers are exposed each season to a multitude of new styles created by fashion designers. Some are rejected immediately by the press or by the buyer on the retail level, but others are accepted for a time, as demonstrated by consumers purchasing and wearing them.

The way in which fashion changes is usually described as a fashion cycle. It is difficult to categorize or theorize about fashion without oversimplifying. Even so, the fashion cycle is usually depicted as a bell shaped curve encompassing five stages: introduction, rise in popularity, peak of popularity, decline in popularity, and rejection. The cycle can reflect the acceptance of a single style from one designer or a general style such as the miniskirt.

Fashion cycle is a period of time or life span during which the fashion exists, moving through the five stages from introduction through

  • When a customer purchases and wears a certain style, that style is considered accepted. The acceptance leads to the style becoming a fashion!
  • Fashions DO NOT always survive from year to year.

Stages of Fashion Cycle:
The various stages of fashion cycle are as follows:

Stages fashion cycle
Figure 1: Stages fashion cycle

1. Introduction of a Style:
Where new style, color, texture, and so forth are introduced as ‘high fashion’ to target customers. Designers interpret their research and creative ideas into appeal or accessories and then offer the new styles to the public. Designers create new designs by changing elements such as line, shape, color, fabric, and details and their relationship to one another. New creations referred to as the “latest fashions” may not yet be accepted by anyone. At this first stage of the cycle, fashion implies only style and newness.

Most new styles are introduced at a high price level. Designers who are globally respected for their talent may be given financial backing and be allowed to design with very few limitations on creativity, quality of raw materials, or amount of fine workmanship. Naturally, production costs are high, and only a few people can afford the resulting garments. Production in small quantities gives a designer more freedom, flexibility, and room for creativity.

2. Rise/Increase in Popularity:
Where copies or knock-offs enter market as duplicates. If a new style is purchased, worn, and seen by many people, it may attract the attention of buyers, the press, and the public. In self-defense, most couture and high – priced designers now have secondary bridge and or diffusion lines that sell at lower prices, so that they can sell their designs in greater quantities.

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The popularity of a style may further increase through copying and adaptation. Some designers or stylists may modify a popular style to suit the needs and price range of their own customers. Some manufacturers may copy it with less expensive fabric and less detail it order to all the style at lower prices.

3. Culmination/Peak of Popularity:
Where the fashion is at its peak for sufficiently longer period. When a fashion is at the height of its popularity, it may be in such demand that many manufacturers copy it or produce adaptations of it at many price levels. Some designers are flattered by copying and others are resentful. There is very fine line between adaptations and knockoffs.

Volume production requires a likelihood of mass acceptance. Therefore, volume manufacturers carefully study sales trends because their customers want clothes that are in the mainstream of fashion.

4. Decline in Popularity:
Where boredom sets in, and the sale is on a decline. Declines are faster. Eventually, so many copies are mass produced that fashion – conscious people tire of the style and begin to look for something new. Consumers still wear garments in the style, but they are no longer willing to buy them at regular prices. Retail stores put such declining styles on sale racks, hoping to make room for new merchandise.

5. Rejection of a Style or Obsolescence:
Where a strong distaste for style occurs, and sales is at its lowest level. In the last phase of the fashion cycle, some consumers have already turned to new looks, thus beginning a new cycle. The rejection or discarding of a style just because it is out of fashion is called consumer obsolescence. As early as 1600, Shakespeare wrote that “fashion wears out more apparel than the man”.

It is impossible to predict the length of cycles. Rapid developments in communication have speeded up fashion cycles. Because of this, intense competition also sets in. An appetite for constant newness/change is insatiable for the consumers.

Economic depression like war periods could lead to breaks in cycle. Broken cycles pick up after normalcy from where it has stopped.

Long-run fashion cycles take more seasons to complete cycles, whereas short-run fashion cycles take fewer seasons to complete the cycle.

  • Silhouettes are long-run fashions as they do not change drastically.
  • Details which undergo subtle changes are short-run fashions.
  • Colors, textures, which were once thought as short runs have been considered as long runs as studies have shown that emotional and psychological changes influence color.
  • Accessories (shoes, handbags, jewellery, millinery, gloves, belts, caps, scarfs, cosmetics, etc.) are regarded as apparel items and have full fashion cycles. They are long runs.
  • Classics have the longest runs. Examples are sweaters, cardigans, jackets, and so forth.
  • Fads which are here-today-gone-tomorrow have the shortest runs.

Concepts of Fashion Acceptance
Fashion is first accepted by one society or group of people and goes on to be followed by other groups. There are three concepts related to the adoption of fashion (Figure 2) They are as follows:

Concepts of fashion acceptance
Figure 2: Concepts of fashion acceptance

1. Downward flow theory (trickle-down theory): Here, fashion is first accepted by people at the top of the society who form the higher income group, and later on adopted by people at the lower level group, who form the low-income group. ‘Haute couture’ are major fashion houses of the world, run by internationally recognized famous designers. They show their collections – which are their own original creations – at international fashion shows and sell their garments for exorbitant prices.

2. Horizontal flow theory: Here, fashion is adopted by people at similar social level or income levels. They are accepted by peers, friends and others who are of an equal status. These are also called the ‘designer wear’ or ‘prêt-à-porter’ and are ready-to-wear garments sold at exclusive department or specialty stores. Designs are not unique but are produced in limited numbers.

3. Upward flow theory (Trickle-up theory): Here, fashion is first accepted by the young low-income group, and moves to higher income group (e.g. khaki pants, jackets, cowboy dresses, etc.). ‘Mass market’ or ‘street fashion’, as it is called, are cheaper versions of garments that are produced and sold to the people of lower income group.

The more affluent will buy several haute couture outfits but turn to designer wear for every day. Women who mostly buy designer ready-to-wear may occasionally splash out on a couture dress for a very special occasion. Those who generally buy only mass marketing clothes may still buy designer wear occasionally if only from discount stores.

Fashion moves through different stages during its cycle of existence. Not only design but special features also go through a cycle such as color, texture, and fabric. The goal of the fashion cycle is the ability to gauge the timeliness, or occurrence at the right time, of a fashion is critical in the development and marketing of fashion products.


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