Hypertextuality and Remediation

The work of Agnès Rocamora has helped me understand, more fully, the evolution of fashion communication where she synthesises, really clearly, ideas from a number of theorists such as that of Barthes, Bourdieu, and Baudrillard. I’d very much like to meet her one day.

Today I was rereading her article Hypertextuality and Remediation in the Fashion Industry (2011) as I’m starting to think about how I’ll carry out my discourse analysis and some of the ideas presented here really stand out to me as being useful in helping me do so.

First there’s the concept of the blogosphere as a “hypertextual space [or] electronic linking of a wide range of written texts and images, brought together in a constantly shifting configuration of networks” (p. 94). This leads on to the notion of fashion blogs as dynamic – “texts in perpetual movement, always new, never ending”.

Another interesting observation in this article is the linking that goes on between one blog and another (or a number of others), which Rocamora positions as being unlike fashion magazines and more traditional media. This is something I hadn’t really considered before but I do know that community is a huge thing for bloggers, both on and offline. There are strong networks that exist today for bloggers to network, for example the North East Blogger Network. This implies that bloggers do not view each other as competition but rather as equals and colleagues of the profession who can (and will) help each other.

The other line of discussion I took from this article was “where printed text is static, hypertext responds to the reader’s touch” (Bolter 2001, p. 42, in Rocamora, 2011, p. 96). I just really like this quote and feel that it adequately demonstrates the power of the reader. I’m starting to build up a really clear mental of image of an interconnected blogosphere where fashion bloggers provide signposts for the much valued followers the needs of whom they serve.

References

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing space. New York: Routledge.

Rocamora, A. (2011). Hypertextuality and remediation in the fashion media. Journalism Practice. 6(1). Pp. 92-106

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fashion as self-identity

Today I’m just going to update you with a little overview taken from the indicative literature review I carried out over summer; the first part of which deals with fashion as self identity.

Fashion is recognised today as being more than just the latest trends in clothing and accessories. Rocamora (2002, p. 342) states that “fashion can provide invaluable insights into [the] sociology of cultural consumption and production”. This is in line with Bourdieu (1996, np) whose research focuses on high fashion and “the consumption of culture”; the idea that fashion is about buying into a lifestyle. Bourdieu’s work has been criticised for its focus on luxury fashion and for being more relevant to Parisian culture and might therefore be considered less relevant when discussing fashion involvement at a more mainstream level, where “fast” and “disposable” fashion is growing in prominence (Entwistle and Rocamora, 2006); however it does contribute to what is becoming a global arena for fashion discussion, where luxury fashion forms a significant part.

… blinding themselves and others to the fact that they hold their jobs partly because they look like executives, not because they can work like executives, (Goffman, 1990, np).

As my research will look at various aspects of identity construction (fashion and online), Goffman’s theories are a good place to begin. Goffman (1990) maintains that identity can be expressed through aspects of everyday life, where individuals seek to control how they are perceived by others by managing their personal settings, appearance and manner.

Kleine and Kleine (1993) explore the relationship between consumption and identity and the differences between the “self as I” which links to thinking and behaviour and the “self as me” which combines possessions, attitudes and beliefs, and social attributes; fashion as a way of expressing identity would relate most closely to the “self as me” aspect of Kleine and Kleine’s research. They also stress the importance of achieving identity-related goals and schema. Schema is an inner repository of knowledge relating to specific identities which enables one to express that identity; this is mostly made up of experience and feedback from social interaction rather than stereotypes, in line with findings from Chassin et al, (1985). Other interesting observations include the extent to which individuals will adopt a number of identities and the subsequent use of “identity salience” which is the value individuals attribute to an identity and this can influence the extent to which this identity is adopted.  These themes will be considered throughout the proposed research.  

Bourdieu (1984, np) identifies ways of dressing amongst other expressive communication as manifestations of taste and the identity. Fashion is seen as “cultural capital” which can be used to create a “sense of belonging”; this is in line with studies into the construction of social identity online where, particularly in earlier research, users were found to seek a sense of belonging through groups.

Fashion events are a key part of the industry’s lifecycle and are therefore a central arena in which fashion commentary takes place. Communication has become more instantaneous with the advent of online social media and new players like fashion bloggers, with collections being ranked in terms of their coverage on social media.

Fashion events are a core aspect of the industry’s generic lifecycle. Today, a number of cities around the world host “fashion week” events and these form part of the “industry’s calendar”. Singer (2013, np) estimates that there are around eighty of these events in the world today and discusses two types of fashion week: those in the fashion capitals that serve as working events for the industry; and those in which the “spectacle of catwalk shows is treated largely as an end in itself”. In fact there are so many fashion weeks held across the world today, that it is difficult to find a complete list.

Despite its ostensible aim to simply showcase next season’s fashionable clothing, we suggest that LFW’s main function is to produce, reproduce and legitimate the field of fashion and the positions of those players within it, (Entwhistle and Rocamora, 2006, p. 736).

Fashion weeks are acknowledged today as being “an important moment within the life of the industry” (Entwhistle and Rocamora, 2006, p. 736). Entwhistle and Rocamora’s research focuses on a study of London Fashion Week (LFW); an event that they feel embodies fashion as a broader sector. One of the important characteristics that they emphasise is that the event brings together influential people within the industry, representing designers, journalists, buyers, models, celebrities, stylists and students. This is in line with Bourdieu’s (1996) field theory which focuses on culture and power and concurs that an event such as LFW is about much more than just showcasing the latest fashion collections; it is concerned with “position taking” (choices which individuals take to signal their position) and “habitus” (lifestyle and values of social groups). This theory will be considered as part of my research, particularly in terms of identity construction, the role of the actor, and to help evaluate the intended message.

 

References

Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. J. D. (1996). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Chassin, L. et al. (1985). Self-image and social-image factors in adolescent alcohol use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 6.

Entwhistle, J. and Rocamora, A. (2006). The field of fashion materialised: A study of London Fashion Week. Sociology. 40(4). Pp. 735-751.

Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in public: Microstudies of the public order. London: Penguin.

Goffman, E. (1990). The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin Books.

Kleine, R.E. and Kleine, S. S. (1993). Mundane consumption and the self: a social identity perspective. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2(3). Pp. 209-235.

Rocamora, A. (2001). High fashion and pop fashion: the symbolic production of fashion in Le Monde and the Guardian. Fashion Theory: the Journal of Dress, Body and Culture. 5(2).  PP. 123-142.

Rocamora, A. (2011). Personal fashion blogs: screens and mirrors in digital self portraits. Fashion Theory. 15(4). Pp. 407-424.

Singer, M. (2013). It’s always fashion week somewhere. [Online]. Available at: http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/stylenotes/011413_Global_Fashion_Weeks/. [Accessed on: 16th Mar 2013].

Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening, (Coco Chanel).

This is one of my very favourite quotes by Coco Chanel; and she has a lot of quite fabulous ones! It’s the last part that I find particularly interesting: “Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. It just goes to show how ahead of her time the designer was where fashion has continued to evolve and surround our everyday lives. Is there anywhere that this is more evident than in our use of online social media?

With a first degree in communication and a job history in marketing, I now work in a teaching role where I contribute to the BA (Hons) Fashion Management course at Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, Scotland. Upon graduating I completed a Masters degree in Project Management, a management discipline which I feel can be fabulously useful in today’s fast paced working world. However, given my interest in communication, social media and fashion (of course!) it seems appropriate that my current research should focus on this link between fashion and communication.

“Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”; I’m interested in the evolution of these words and, more specifically, that of fashion communication.

Traditionally, fashion commentary was an exclusive entity, where experts in the field of fashion (experienced designers, editors and journalists) contributed to style columns and, to some extent, dictated the success of trends and styles. At the same time, magazines were critical by omission, only covering styles, trends and designers who their editors deemed worthy of inclusion. The power of fashion magazines is evident in the case of New York’s ascendance as a fashion capital (Rantisi, 2004), where the editors of publications, such as Vogue, played a huge role in helping New York reposition itself, alongside Paris, as a creator of world class designs.

For those who are interested in the changing nature of fashion communication, Anna Konig’s article “Glossy words: An analysis of fashion writing in British Vogue” is a really interesting place to start. This article has formed the basis for my literature review on the subject.

Text contributes to an understanding of fashion by assigning descriptive or interpretative meanings to the objects and images presented on fashion pages, thereby mediating a cultural understanding of the phenomenon, (Konig, 2004, p. 207).

Konig (2004) examines fashion writing in Vogue over a twenty year period (1980-2001) and the extent to which this has evolved. She recognises that this change has come, partially as a result of changing readership perceptions; this is in line with research by Rocamora (2001) who explores the differences between high fashion and pop fashion. Konig deconstructs writing in Vogue through the following categories: content; tone; lexicon (use of words, terms and phrases); and cultural references (presence of cultural references outwith main focus of article).

In terms of content, Konig found that, over the period studied, lengthy articles, consisting of often quite technical terminology and description of garments were reduced to shorter, more concise text which often focuses on more abstract concepts relating to “fashionability”, (p. 211). More recently, in recognition of the changing demands of the audience, articles have focused on providing behind the scenes insights into the world of fashion. Konig makes some valuable observations about the changing tone of Vogue, in particular the use of irony which “has been used so liberally that it can be recognised as a significant indicator of shifting attitudes toward fashion”, (p. 212).

Lexicon is something that Konig found has changed quite dramatically, where early editions of Vogue included unconventional syntax, tautology and a shift in discussion of garment construction to purely aesthetic elements; where earlier editions of Vogue drew on French language to discuss technical aspects of garments, later editions used this mostly for “ironic effect”, (p. 214). Lexicon is something that Barthes (1995) also explores in his semiotic analyses of the language of fashion and the fashion system. Barthes’ work focuses on what clothing actually says in terms of signs and symbolic meaning; something which we will discuss a little later.

The aim of my research is to build on some of the earlier theories in fashion communication and I will seek to investigate social media as a tool of fashion communication in order to answer the following questions:

1)      What is the nature and purpose of online fashion communication today and who is this aimed at?

2)      What is the producer’s intent and how do they go about projecting this through online identity?

3)      Is the message which the producer is trying to project consistent with that which is being received?

If you are interested in this research or would like to be involved in any way then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m going to be updating my blog over the next few months with various images, anecdotes and reviews of literature which will (hopefully) be of interest to anyone who shares my passion for fashion and communication.

 

References

Barthes, R. (1995). The Language of Fashion. Oxford: Berg.

Konig, A. (2006). Glossy words: An analysis of fashion writing in British Vogue. Fashion Theory. 10(1/2). Pp. 205-224.

Rantisi, (2004). The ascendance of New York fashion. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 28(1). Pp. 86-106.

Rocamora, A. (2001). High fashion and pop fashion: the symbolic production of fashion in Le Monde and the Guardian. Fashion Theory: the Journal of Dress, Body and Culture. 5(2).  PP. 123-142.