Bloomberg recently published this interesting piece talking about the death of clothing. The reasons are as follows: we’re spending more on experiences, as well as technology (tech spending surpassed apparel spending in 2010); casual dress in the workplace has become more widely accepted; fast fashion companies like H&M and Zara are putting downward pressure on prices; and social media influencers – instead of big companies – are now the ones showing us what to buy and wear.
Here is a graph from the article comparing experiences, apparel, and technology expenditures:
The first thing I noticed is that experiences, while still increasing, haven’t really spiked since 1977, even though everybody seems to be talking about how social media-fueled Millennials are all about experiences. I was also surprised to see that the share of US employers that allow casual dress every day seems to be closing in on 50%. (Informal survey for the comments and for Twitter: Do you wear casual clothes to work? I’m a no.)
But perhaps the biggest contributors to this decline are fast fashion and low-cost manufacturing. Stanley Pignal – South Asia business and finance correspondent for the Economist – pointed out on Twitter that since 1982 inflation in US apparel was only 123% compared to 248% for overall CPI. So maybe a lot of the above reasoning is just a distraction.