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Z is for Zipper. Efficient, popular, accessible, and chic, zippers offer so much more than just a simple fastening technique. From combat boots, to jeans, to winter and leather jackets, zippers seamlessly tie our fits together. Not only do zippers provide a method of functionality, but in many cases a zipper might take on a central attraction or “eye-catching” element of an item or whole outfit, enhancing an overall aesthetic.

The original zipper design, crafted by Whitcomb Judson, was first seen at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. However, it was not until the early 1900s that the zipper’s relevance became notable. B.F Goodrich, a renowned international rubber and boot manufacturer at the time, bought the rights to the new “fastener” and coined the clever onomatopoeia, “zipper.” The zipper was then featured in all of Goodrich’s boot products, increasing its global presence and attractiveness. The zipper’s purpose as an effective fastener began appearing on jackets, pants, and dresses, elevating the wearer’s style, while promoting a new, hot commodity.

Today, the zipper market is valued at a staggering $13 billion dollars. The Japanese YKK Group currently has a monopoly over the global zipper market, producing more zippers than any other zipper manufacturers in the world. The YKK Group is unique for several reasons, the first is that their business follows a completely vertically-integrated model, meaning that YKK oversees the entire manufacturing process of their zippers from start to end. Smaller zipper manufacturers, many based in China, do not carry out such a thorough in-house model, leaving room for error. The second reason is that YKK zippers are reliable! An average 14-inch YKK zipper can be bought at a unit price of 32 cents. For a clothing item that costs roughly $50 to manufacture, and sells at a retail value of three or more times that, it is crucial that the zipper not be faulty. Therefore, quality zippers are essential to a successful product. As mentioned, rival zipper companies might offer zippers at cheaper rates, but their reliability and quality are poor. Since YKK group is a vertically-integrated company, they are able to manufacture zippers in any color, material and shape, satisfying an eclectic range of clients, from Nike to Dior to the small business owned by the girl down the street.

Beyond the fastening technique, zipper embellishments have seen an increase in desirability and popular aesthetic in the past 15 years. Designers such as Michael Kors, Alexander McQueen, have implemented zippers as key design elements in their pieces. In 2013, for his women’s resort runway show, Calvin Klein featured several outfits decked out in flashy zippers, which, at the time, rocked the internet. Recently mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article, Calvin Klein’s Creative Director asserts that zippers “lend a functional, yet sexy and modern element to clothes,” which I could not agree with more. There is definitely a chic-grunge, sexy element to a zipper that appeals to a wide variety of customers, enhancing its global presence even more. Despite the notion that 21st century fashion trends rise and fall at rapid rates, the simultaneous allure and practical purpose for zippers, shows no sign of slowing down.


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