Fashion and entrepreneurship have been linked since the dawn of industrialisation in Europe in the late 18th century.

About 200 years ago the word “entrepreneur” was made fashionable by someone who grew rich as a cotton factory entrepreneur. The French economic theorist, Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), is credited as the first in continental Europe to write about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. He was inspired by Adam Smith.

Others who learned from fashion created Hollywood. One hundred years ago the mostly Jewish entrepreneurs of Hollywood had a poor immigrant background, hardly any education, and experience in the garment industry.

Early on in their working life Samuel Goldwyn had been a successful glove salesman, Adolph Zukor (founder of Paramount) and Marcus Loew (who formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)  had been furriers and William Fox too had time in the furrier and garment industry.

Success in the fashion or garment industry, as in Hollywood, requires an appreciation of the taste of the masses, empathy with customers, and production of standardised consumer products. This is all practical know-how for entrepreneurs.

What can entrepreneurs in various other industries learn from fashion or garment industry today? Consider these five observations about the application of entrepreneurship in the fashion industry over recent decades.

  1. "beverland_luxury_brand"Fashion thrives in e-commerce and social networking (there’s an abundance of blogs about it).
  2. Fashion grows publicity.
  3. Fashion depends on rapid innovation for survival (fashion cycles faster than ever before).
  4. Fashion is an outsourcing leader, outsourced manufacture is the norm.
  5. Fashion (particularly luxury brands) churn out a regular stream of lessons on brand building (see diagram).

Graphic credit: By Australian management author, Michael B. Beverland, University of Melbourne, Department of Management.

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Noric Dilanchian