Product Innovation in the Global Fashion Industry

Product Innovation in the Global Fashion Industry (Palgrave Studies in Practice: Global Fashion Brand Management)

The history of fashion and its evolution is closely linked to the history of civilization—it has been and still is conditioned not only by customs, traditions and cultures but also by scientific discoveries and international trade. From the skin of wild animals and the bark of trees used for clothing, the subsequent discovery of vegetable fibers, wool and synthetic fibers to smart clothing, technological innovation has a tremendous impact on how we dress. At the same time, symbolic meanings of clothing within a society have evolved continually throughout the years. The underlying reason behind these constant changes was conforming to the social stratum to which one desires to belong and differentiating oneself from strata with which one desires to disassociate. The essence of the fashion evolution has been constant innovation, which is the utilization of new ideas to produce new products, processes, services or business practices.

In mature industries, design or style often serves as the source of innovation. As seen in the success of Apple’s iPhone, it was not a result of inferior technology that Nokia lost its market share but, rather, aesthetics. Combining technologies to create aesthetically and symbolically appealing products—thus creating something drastically different from previous products in the market—is the key to success even in sectors that are traditionally driven by technological standards. In many industries—from automobiles to hotels, not to mention creative industries such as fashion and design—a growing portion of innovation is linked with aesthetic and symbolic elements of products or services (i.e., style) (Cappetta, Cillo, & Ponti, 2006).1 While not systematically addressed, innovations in style or design are a critical agent of change in mature industries.

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