Marketing Faculty Publications and Presentations

Fashion, consumer markets, and democratization

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Previous research illustrates several attempts that consumers have made to create new markets when marketing organizations have not responded to their desires; however, individual efforts alone are insufficient to assure success in having voices heard. The effectiveness of these efforts heavily depends on the democratization of institutions. Discussions regarding the “democratization of fashion” have had some historical appeal in academia and popular media. However, an incomplete appraisal of democracy may have led to premature conclusions regarding fashion's democratization. Affirming that democracy requires acceptance of differences and empowerment of different groups as a principle, this study conceptually and critically examines the history of the outcomes of fashion consumers' attempts to have their voices heard and assesses the degree of democratization of the fashion market. Our research contributes to prior debates regarding the democratization of fashion by reviewing the pivotal chronological events in fashion history. Contrary to some previous views, it shows that diffusion of fashion to larger consumer segments across history does not automatically imply democratization of fashion, which has been greatly limited despite the potentials presented by the advents of sustainable fashion and digitalization in contemporary times. We conclude that the cycle of fashion becoming a principle of economic interest is largely the culprit for retarding democratization, and we offer reflections for key stakeholders in order to have a more democratic, sustainable, and inclusive fashion system.


© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Publication Title

Journal of Consumer Behaviour