Tag: Natty

Schumpeter and the Fashion Industry

Today we are treated to a discussion of the fashion industry from Ms. Richter & Ms. Li.   The first from the Schumptoberfest collection.  Enjoy!


“The evolution of the capitalist style of life could be easily – and perhaps most tellingly – described in terms of the genesis of the modern Lounge Suit.” -Joseph Schumpeter

Creative destruction saturates the fashion industry; you must be the trend-setter otherwise the “foundation of your very life” will be in jeopardy. Large firms enjoy an advantage in spreading risk over many projects (e.g. inventions that never “catch” as a trend) and have the resources and brand power to set trends, thus helping their inventions turn into successful innovations, driving the fashion cycle forward through induced obsolescence. Due to lack of IP laws, large firms do not enjoy the monopolistic protectionism that IP rights provide, but they have other means justifying their investments. Schumpeter’s hypothesis suggests that large firms foment innovation for factors other than scale economies, and in the fashion industry, and the fashion cycle is a key example of this phenomenon.

The fashion industry, a $200 billion industry in the United States alone, is comprised of nearly 150,000 establishments, ranging in size from large fashion houses to smaller start-ups. Although there are a large number of firms competing in the industry, according to the 2002 Census, five percent of firms in the clothing industry accounted for twenty percent of total revenue and sales. These large firms, , also play an important role in the diffusion of new design trends and the continuation of induced obsolescence, the dynamic force driving the fashion cycle forward; the influence of large firms contributes to the top-down structure of the industry.

Consumers are not strictly motivated by price, but also pay attention to  brand, quality, design differentiation, or trendiness (flocking). Because of complex consumer decision-making, product differentiation and new designs are essential to driving the industry forward Raustiala and Sprigman (2009) argue that  induced obsolescence is the process by which designs, through copying and diffusion into mainstream fashion, become obsolete and therefore undesirable to fashion-forward consumers. These fashion-forward people then demand new designs, which are invented by top firms and diffused downward through trends, again, through copying. This process is called the fashion cycle. This cycle is very rapid and is completed each season.

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Schumptoberfest a Success

The Schumptoberfest celebration was a smashing success, with at least one of us understanding the Williamson debt-equity financing argument a little better at the end than at the beginning.  Thanks to all those who participated, especially Professor Galambos, who took time out from his sabbatical leave to read “100” pages and keep me in line.

As per usual with these events, we received word that there were some items left behind.  Here is a partial accounting: a set of dentures, a hearing aid, “a leather whip, a live rabbit, a tuba, a ship in a bottle, 1,450 items of clothing, 770 identity cards, 420 wallets, 366 keys, 330 bags and 320 pairs of glasses, 90 cameras and 90 items of jewellery and watches.”

Thanks to Tom for the tip.