As many of you may know the fashion industry has long been known as the rag trade. This sobriquet encapsulates the history of the business and the nature of clothing itself in many ways. In the Victorian era in London and New York, the two biggest commercial centres in the world at that time, members of the Jewish community would sell old clothes acquired from those who could afford to throw them away. The involvement of the Jewish community in the rag trade remained and grew, as subcultures invest and network within favoured industries. Many clothing manufacturers were of Jewish ancestry in cities all over the developed world. From rags to riches is a fitting title for many stories that emerged out of the clothing business over the years.

History of the Rag Trade

Garments and clothing were very expensive prior to the industrial revolution and the factories making these items. Poor people wore homespun clothing and hand me downs were usual right up to the latter part of the twentieth century. The globalisation of trade has seen westerners purchasing clothing produced far more cheaply in China and India since the 1990s and beyond. As subsidies and trade barriers were dismantled by western governments casual wear became substantially less expensive to buy. High end fashion remains expensive due to the cache of the designer and the superior dressmaking involved.

Plumes of a Decidedly Better Feather

Rising up the ladder of success is, usually, accompanied by a whole new wardrobe of swanky clothes. How can the designer duck differentiate himself or herself from the drab denizens of ordinary Australia without resorting to plumes of a decidedly better feather? This is where our young fashion designers, fresh out of fashion school and design courses, come to the fore with stars in their eyes. Fashion is an integral part of the entertainment business. You can’t have stars that don’t shine with sequins and beads of success.

Signifier of Status in Our Societies

Clothing has always been a signifier of status in our societies. Even today, when functional wear is to be had for peanuts, we see the rich and famous opt for something special. Designers must come up with ever more outlandish creations to set the elite apart from the rest. We cannot have celebrities dressing down, it would not please the paparazzi or the fashionistas. Gossip magazine sales would be down, and entertainment shows on TV would take a dive in the ratings. Fashion is important for the welfare of the rich and famous. We don’t want people like Jamie Packer dealing with more mental health issues, do we.