Theories of Fashion Adoption
Fashion moves from one person to the other. Therefore, to study fashion adoption, one has to study those people who are the first to adopt a fashion. These people are known as fashion leaders.
The following theories of fashion adoption explain the different ways in which fashion knowledge and adoption moves from one person to the other:
X The Trickle Down or Downward Flow theory
X The Trickle Across or Horizontal Flow theory
X The Trickle Up or Upward Flow theory
The Trickle Down or Downward Flow Theory
The Trickle Down or Downward Flow theory is the oldest theory of fashion adoption and maintains that people belonging to the higher classes in the social pyramid have to first adopt a style before it can become a fashion. People belonging to the lower social classes, who tend to imitate the fashion trends followed by the upper classes, then take up this style. In this way, the style acceptance moves in a downward flow.
This theory is based on the belief that the lower classes look up to the higher classes for inspiration. The higher classes, in turn, tend to disassociate themselves from the styles, which have moved down to the lower levels. Therefore, hunt for something new by the high-class consumers starts.
The economics of the fashion industry support this theory, because each new fashion is introduced at a high-class level as expensive merchandise, with only the affluent class possessing the money power to indulge in it. The newly introduced styles are expensive to cover the experimentation costs. With the style becoming popular, its copies are introduced in the market at a lower price for the masses, and the upper class moves on to try something new.
This theory is applicable to a society with high-class people at the top and the lower classes below them. However, today’s society is made up of many social groups and fashion moves in these groups in different directions. The changing face of the communication and the production industries has made fashion available to everybody at the same time for easy adoption.
The Trickle Across or Horizontal Flow Theory
According to the Trickle Across or Horizontal Flow theory, there exist social groups in each class of the society that have their own fashion leaders and followers, and fashion moves horizontally in these social groups. This is because, as mentioned earlier, the changing face of the communication and production industries makes the fashion available to everybody at the same time for easy adoption. Therefore, fashion leaders of all social groups tend to adopt fashion at the same time.
This theory also believes that fashion is adopted by every group in a society but this adoption is dependent on the fashion requirements of an individual. For example, teenagers might not be interested in wearing an adult fashion, or a sari-wearing clientele will not pay attention to new styling in suits.
Manufacturers and retailers should recognize the fashion leaders in their own target customers and look for their approval when they introduce new styles.
The Trickle Up or Upward Flow Theory
This Trickle Up or Upward Flow theory can be explained by the fashion-adoption process, which became prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s.
According to this theory, the youngsters from the low-and high-income groups are the first to try out new daring styles in fashion, as their social position does not restrict. their behavior. Once these groups have adopted the fashion, it can move to the middle classes, who are more concerned about their social position.
To state a few examples, Denim overalls, tee-shirts, miniskirts, backless cholies were first adopted by the lower classes, then gained popularity with the upper classes, and were finally adopted by the middle classes.
Fashion Leaders and Followers
The above stated theories of fashion adoption have one thing in common: they recognize the existence of fashion leaders and followers. Let’s explore these in detail.
A very small percentage of society comprises fashion leaders. Such people are not the creators of fashion, but are the first ones to discover and wear new styles. They constantly search for new fashions and are therefore responsible for introduction of new styles.
A fashion leader, known as fashion innovator, is the first person to try out new designs. They also influence fashion as their counterparts seek their advice for selecting the right ensemble and are known as fashion influential. A fashion innovator may or may not be a fashion influential. Fashion leaders are quite famous and grab the attention of the media. The general public looks up to them for inspiration. They can be from royal families, such as Late Gayatri Devi, political figures, such as Sonia Gandhi, industrialists, such as Anil Ambani movie stars, such as Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, and sports stars, such as Sania Mirza, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. These fashion leaders have confidence in their dressing style and dare to be different. People, especially fashion followers, keenly observe their fashion leaders and imitate their dressing style.
Some fashions even bear the name of the personalities who are responsible for their popularity, such as the Sadhna hair cut named after the movie actress Sadhna, the Nehru jacket worn by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Eisenhower jacket worn by General Eisenhower during World War II.
Fashions can also be associated with famous personalities, without bearing their name, such as the Pillbox hats of Jacqueline Kennedy, fitted saris worn by Asha Parekh, lungis worn by Mumtaz.
Fashion followers are the people who follow the fashion trends introduced and accepted by fashion leaders. Most of the people in the society belong to this group. They are responsible for the existence of the fashion industry, as mass production and distribution is possible only when a large number of consumers adopt a fashion.
There are various reasons for people to become fashion followers rather than leaders. It may be because they feel insecure in trying something new, or they admire a famous personality, or they may simply lack interest and time to be a fashion leader.