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.
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.