So how does this raw fabric, freshly woven and dyed, reach store shelves across the world? It's purchased by design houses in the world's major fashion capitols, including London, Paris, Milan, New York and Los Angeles. From there, it's transformed into garments that will be shown in the annual fashion shows. The items presented at these shows will influence fabric and fashion for the coming year, with manufacturers quick to copy every new trend.
Fashion designers can use fabric in two ways. First, they look at the existing fabric supply for inspiration. A great texture or look may become the basis of design for the hottest new fashion. On the other spectrum, designers will contract with fabric manufacturers to create an exclusive material just for them. The fabric producer will generally make a variety of samples to meet the designer's specs. From these, the designer will choose the fabric that best meets the look, texture, color and feel of what they're working towards.
The majority of fabric production these days takes place in Asia, with China leading the way. Bangladesh and India are also major exporters. These countries have taken over the role of fabric and clothing production because of low wages and low workplace safety standards. Garment workers across the world are exposed to extremely poor working conditions.
Because there's a growing movement towards locally produced fabrics. In the United States, this sentiment is especially popular, with fabric and apparel manufacturers using their "Made in America" status as a powerful marketing tool. The largest fabric and apparel producer in the United States, American Apparel, has long emphasized it's anti-sweatshop stance, and on the company Web site, they point out that their average employee makes $12 per hour. Their fabric and clothing is shipped worldwide, and presents one of the first real competitors to the Asian and Indian fabric markets.
To learn more about fabric creation, apparel manufacturing and the fashion industry, see some of the links on the next page.