“Man is a social being. We can never explain demand by looking only at the physical properties of goods. Man needs goods for communicating with others and for making sense of what is going on around him. The two needs are but one, for communication can only be formed in a system of meanings. His overriding objective as a consumer, put at its most general, is a concern for information about the changing cultural scene.”
Fashion – Could Any Social Invention More Obviously Be a Social Invention?
The purpose of fashion is to stimulate demand. It’s a pretty brilliant ploy, really, to compel people who have a perfectly good product to replace it.
The new production methods worked very well for making clothes. In the decades after Crowell’s success with continuous production, the textile and garment industry grew about two or three times as rapidly as any industry. By 1915, only steel and oil were larger industries than the clothing trade.
“’The way out of overproduction.’ Wrote one fashion expert, ‘must lie in finding out what the woman at the counter is going to want; make it; then promptly drop it and go on to something else to which fickle fashion is turning her attention.’” Constant change was essential to prosperity of manufacturers and retailers.
The information economy was rich in symbols used for communication and computing. The genius of fashion is that it made the consumer’s goods a symbol, one they would pay dearly to enhance and maintain. In an age that was - at least politically - increasingly democratic, fashion was an important symbol of status, signaling rank. Fashion became fashionable just as aristocracies faded. Fashion made the consumer a symbol.
 James R. Beniger, The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986) 101.
 William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1994) 93.
 William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1994) 94.