How the Internet Altered the Fashion Industry

By Special Guest
Jonathan Brown
February 22, 2019



The internet is responsible for altering the ways numerous industries operate. The fashion industry is no exception. In the years between the time when the “world wide web” was a novelty to the modern moment wherein you’re digital or you’re dead, the fashion industry has undoubtedly been forced to evolve.

The following outlines the many ways in which the internet altered the fashion industry:

Clothes shopping experience

While buying clothes without trying them on was a thing long before the internet thanks to mail order catalogs, the obvious pitfalls of this system meant most people didn’t bother. Ill-fits and inaccurate descriptions coupled with agonizingly long turnaround times between the order and product arrival kept people going to the mall. Thanks to the internet and the resulting development of optimized online shopping, folks have finally embraced the idea of buying clothes from home. Whether it’s designers examining the cut, color, and fit of wholesale blank t shirts or consumers browsing the final product, the shift to e-commerce clothes buying has been a permanent one.

Trends and influences

For the majority of the 20th century, fashion trends were set by celebrities and elites. While these entities still hold sway over much of fashion, their influence has been diluted thanks to the rise of internet influencers. These men and women, who often cultivate their status via Instagram and other forms of social media, aren’t starring in the latest Hollywood blockbusters or have last names synonymous with wealth and power, yet they dictate to a certain degree the way in which those who are will dress. It’s a bit far out when you think about it, but makes sense considering the ways in which fashion trends have historically been guided from the bottom up rather than the other way around.

Intellectual property protection

This is a double-edged sword because the internet has given rise to widespread plagiarism in the fashion industry but has also enabled people to be quick to uncover instances where intellectual property rights have been infringed. For instance, it’s not uncommon for up-and-coming fashion designers to spot instances where major brands have basically copied their patterns and ideas. These cases represent both good and bad ways the internet has changed the fashion industry; whereas in years prior, those struggling to make a name for themselves in the industry may have felt powerless to take on big-name fashion houses who copied their designs, but today they can easily make the case thanks to the digital breadcrumbs provided by the internet. With that said, these breadcrumbs go both ways.

Boutique designer success

It used to be extremely difficult for small-time fashion designers to achieve even a modest measure of professional success. The internet changed that, thanks to the aforementioned factors tipping the balance more in their favor and the rise of e-commerce over the last few years. It’s still a challenge to become a successful startup in the fashion industry, but the internet has helped make it significantly easier.

Like many other industries, fashion has undergone an overhaul in the age of the internet. Within a span of roughly 30 years, the web has helped restructure the fashion industry to make it easier for independent designers to succeed and consumers to get what they want.



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