of enhanced consumer value by identifying trends responding quickly to them and

Of enhanced consumer value by identifying trends

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of enhanced consumer value by identifying trends, responding quickly to them and shaping sartorial behaviour. This article brings together both supply and demand sides of consumption changes, identifying linkages to gain a more nuanced way of understanding the institutionalization of fashion as a system (Kawamura, 2005), and provides a fuller explanation of changes in material culture that are fashioned by reconfigured commodity chains. Apparel industry: Background Clothing manufacture is a low-capital and high labour-intensive industry, notable for the preponderance of small manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) with relatively unsophisticated technology (Dicken, 2007). With low entry barriers, it has been a
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249 GLOBAL COMMODITY CHAINS AND FAST FASHION haven for immigrant entrepreneurs who are able to exploit low labour costs associated with low-skilled, predominantly female (and often immigrant) workers in high-wage economies (Bonacich, 1990; Waldinger, 1986). It was also an industry characterized by standardized production for a mass market, supplying a large number of retailers with goods designed for two to four retail seasons (Taplin & Winterton, 1995). Manufacturers typically produced standardized goods in long production runs and retailers were more likely to be concerned with production costs than discerning variable consumer needs. A small fashion-orientated segment of the market, where style is more important, had a faster rate of product turnaround but geographic proximity and speed of delivery were key drivers in this higher value-added segment rather than low cost (Doeringer & Crean, 2006). Hierarchically-structured retailers provided merchandise for designated market segments according to price and fashion, with the bulk aiming at the mass market where sales volume and standardization were key drivers. Whilst female consumers were more likely to engage in ‘status competition’ in their buying habits, a function of class mobility and identity creation (Crane, 2000), most restricted the purchase of high price goods to special occasions. For men, uniform dress codes engendered a style conformity that encouraged mass production of basic items, without much regard for seasonality or individual expression (Entwistle, 2000). Retail revolution Whilst subsequent iterations of the GCC concept examined ways in which firms responded to changed trade environments with new production and marketing strategies (Gereffi & Kaplinsky, 2001; Spener et al ., 2002), the growth of inter-firm networks has increased the complexity and interdependence within supply chains. Large firms were able to exert greater buying power in these networks, which are now globally embedded because of tariff and quota rule changes. But in addition to seeking cost savings for low value-added products, such firms imposed an operating logic based on flexibility that goes beyond the early assumptions of disaggregated production systems and achieves success in smaller runs of higher value-added and more fashionable products. Modified GCCs remain subject to intense buyer-driven
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