Fashion… It’s something, an image or ideal we all hold. Whether that ideal is immersed in joy or disdain, this word calls upon those valuable memories we hold close. In today’s age, however, the value of fashion and its points of discussion have moved from being solely commercial to diving into politically and socially charged topics. Through new platforms including social media, these discussions have become wonderfully convenient, cheap and easy to undertake, as is evident through such new fashion ventures including ethical fashion. First, however, it’s valuable to review the business models adopted by fashion brands, especially luxury brands that sell a dream rather than a product. The major model ‘rests on strict principles that maintain the uniqueness of luxury preserve the non-comparability of those luxury brands that follow these guidelines’ (Mohr 2013, p.19) which are:
- Luxury represents the local culture and refined art de vivre.
- Do not advertise to sell: Luxury communicates a dream.
- Communicate to non-targets: non-owners must recognize the quality craftsmanship.
- Maintain full control of the value chain: luxury quality can only be delivered if the brand has 100% control.
- Maintain full control of distribution: Distribution is one-on-one service. The experience must be exclusive.
- Never issue licenses: Licensing translates in loss of control and increases the risk of consumer dissatisfaction.
- Always increase the average price: never trade down nor cut the luxury brand’s prices.
- Develop personal relationships with clients: Luxury means treating all clients as VIPs.
As you can already ascertain, exclusivity and being untouchable are the main elements to a luxury business model that again, sells a dream. What Mohr (2013, p.19) warns, however, is that although businesses can adopt this model is today’s society and current technological advancements, effort must always be placed on ‘continually [finding] new ways to connect with customers, build strong relationships, and [increase] social engagement to build growth’.
News reporter Katie Hope addressed the growing tendrils of fashion and its media reach through Burberry’s choice to hire ’16-year-old son of David and Victoria Beckham’ to shoot their ‘latest fragrance ad campaign’ (Hope, 2016). This publicly critiqued choice to hire Brooklyn Beckham, due to his ‘5.9 million Instagram followers, rather than his parents’ (2016) caused major outrage by industry professionals as they felt this choice was ‘”insulting to every artist out there”, [and] “completely disrespectful to the artistic community”‘(2016). What Hope reviews, however, is that although this decision received, initially, major backlash from the artistic and fashion worlds for choosing an amateur photographer to capture Burberry’s vision, this choice is instead ‘a reflection of just how much social media has shaken up the fashion industry’ (2016). Thus, Brooklyn Beckham’s newfound success displays how ‘it’s now the number of followers on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, rather than your experience necessarily, that can secure you a top job’ (2016).
Hope’s BBC News article is quite in-depth and touches on many areas of fashion and the media industry. If you would like to read more, please click here.
This major change-up of fashion’s methods of reaching and attracting their target audience, done through a redefined business model, is also reviewed by Karen Kay and The Guardian, who looks to Lucinda Chambers’ scathing comments about ‘the fragrant world of glossy magazines [which] caused a public furore, and [which] spread faster on social media than a Kardashian wardrobe malfunction’ (Kay, 2017). These comments portray the challenges the facing the fashion world and their publishing efforts, such as Chambers’ argument that:
The June cover with Alexa Chung in a stupid Michael Kors T-shirt is crap. He’s a big advertiser so I knew why I had to do it. Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years … The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive. (cited in Kay, 2017)
Instead of ‘catwalk shows [which] used to be held twice a year for a closed shop of editors and buyers’, catwalks are now ‘live-streamed and consumers can order the clothes as soon as they have appeared’ (2017). Thus ‘the glossy magazine doesn’t have the power it once did’ (2017) as the major stakeholder in a brand’s success, their customers, are seeking connection and interaction via different digital mediums. Frances Corner believes this to be correct as ‘the evolution of technology and social media has allowed all consumers to have a voice’ (cited in Kay, 2017), which displays the equally invigorating and destructive the forces of new technology can be. Like the battles which ensue between taxi’s and Uber drivers, Frances Corner argues that:
The fashion world has been shaped in the same way as politics – where Trump, Corbyn and Macron have captured the imagination of sections of society who previously went unheard. Fashion is now far more democratic. There is no one bible and there is a marked shift in the way we consume fashion: the sources of our inspiration are increasingly fragmented and tailored to more specific audiences. I follow numerous Instagrammers and bloggers who appeal to my personal aesthetic, and there are many niche, magazines challenging the status quo of traditional fashion publishing and setting a different agenda for diverse audiences. (cited in Kay, 2017)
Karen Kay’s article via The Guardian is excellent and addresses further impacts made on the fashion industry by media and further technological advancements. If you would like to read further, please click here.
With the powers of new technology and fashion, we have also come to see the likes of Jeffree Star come into power, and many other Youtube stars, who bring in their own niche audiences through specific modelling of their brand and products through social media and other digital mediums. In Jeffree Star’s case, his opinion is so well respected, predominantly in the Youtube world, that new items into the market can succeed or fail depending on whether something is “Jeffree Star Approved”.
With all these changes surrounding how fashion retailers and businesses reach us, their target audiences, through mediums including social media, events, blogs, radio and video, the impact on impressionable minds, especially younger minds, appears to be immense. Unfortunately, it has been documented that ‘43% of girls are “extremely” or “very” concerned about body image’ (Berman & White 2013, p.39) which makes the value of translating fashion values vital to the success of the business, their brand, and also the potential wellbeing of the consumer. As social media is so freely accessible on a vast array of platforms no matter where you are, the necessity for ethical communication seems paramount. Naturally one cannot attempt to support all men, women, girls and boys through the translation of fashion media; however, steps can be taken to ensure transparency and therefore a freedom of information for interested and impressionable consumers. These steps are arguably monolithic, as every individual experiences a different up-bringing, culture and interests, however, further research and planning models should be built around the ‘relationship between the transmission of body ideals in the media, the internalisation of these ideals by young people and their levels of body dissatisfaction’ (2013, p.39).
Berman and White (2013, p.49) provide a plausible method to diminishing the potential for fashion and media to impact younger minds, highlighting that ‘social benefits that can result from enhanced critical thinking skills when applied to the media’. Thus, it can be argued that through new teaching methods in schools and at home, younger minds and even older minds can experience a greater resistance to negative attitudes toward themselves and their body image. If fashion businesses can adopt new business and communication models that simultaneously keep them relevant to their key audiences and encourage the attitude that reflects and endorses their products and/or image, the negative impact currently documented is anticipated to decrease and therefore allow males and females to embrace their own self created image without any detriment. Obviously, of course, we must remember that ‘ultimately, the fashion industry is a commercial behemoth with the remit of selling clothes’ (Kay, 2017) however their in-house or outsourced communications teams should perhaps research into the long-term benefits of a more people focused, positivity enhanced business and communication models.
Besides endorsing positive body image across a target audience, fashion businesses can also re-brand their image as one of ethical sourcing, production and retailing. As it has been noted often throughout the past five years, ethical fashion is on the rise, as shoppers become more aware and emotional to their purchases and fashion sense. This is evident in brands including Jeffree Star Cosmetics, who state that:
Our whole line is cruelty-free! Makeup is for humans, not animals. We have also researched our manufactures and know 100% they don’t affiliate or get ingredients from places that are not cruelty-free! (Jeffree Star Cosmetics, 2017)
Further, there are fashion brands such as Reformation, who use their “RefScale” to determine their impact on their environment. They state that:
At Reformation we think about all the costs in creating fashion—not just the price tag. RefScale tracks our environmental footprint by adding up the pounds of carbon dioxide emitted and gallons of water we use, and pounds of waste we generate. Then we calculate how Reformation’s products help reduce these impacts compared with most clothes bought in the US. We share this information on every product page of our website and tell you exactly what impact each garment has on the environment. This way we all get to see the total cost of fashion so you can make empowered choices, and we can keep creating better solutions when it comes to making clothes. (Thereformation.com, 2017)
As you can see, ‘in the wake of erratic climate change and a rapid decline in biodiversity and cultural diversity throughout the globe, ecofashion has emerged as both a media “happening” and powerful shift in lifestyle that scholars have only begun to register’ (Root 2008, p.419). From cosmetics to clothing, and even home wares, if the consumer derives self satisfaction from their purchase because they are aware of where and how the product was created, and whether it impacted animals and its surrounding environment, they’re more likely to complete the transaction. This is because ‘the concept of sustainable fashion celebrates ingenuity, self-awareness, and empowerment’ (2008, p.420).
Although ethical fashion can be seen as another ‘media event’ (2008, p.420) for which the popularity and interest will soon die off, these new methods of discussion regarding different topics that are politically and socially charged, display how valuable it is for the fashion industry to continue investing in different digital mediums in order to connect with their target audience. Business and communication models which introduce new topics for discussion like ecofashion, or positive body image, portray the value of keeping up to date and in vogue with your target audience and therefore, maintain loyalty and a keen interest in the developments and changes within the brand.
BERMAN, N, & WHITE, A 2013, ‘Refusing the stereotype’, Youth Studies Australia, vol. 32, no. 4, p. 38.
Hope, K. (2016). How social media is transforming the fashion industry. BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35483480 [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].
Jeffree Star Cosmetics. (2017). F.A.Q. [online] Available at: https://jeffreestarcosmetics.com/pages/faq [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].
Kay, K. (2017). Does the fashion industry still need Vogue in the age of social media?. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/jul/08/does-fashion-industry-need-vogue-in-instagram-age [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].
Mohr, I 2013, ‘The Impact of Social Media on the Fashion Industry’, Journal of Applied Business & Economics, vol. 15, no. 2, p. 17.
Root, RA 2008, ‘Letter from the Editor’, Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 419-425. Available from: 10.2752/175174108X365327. [28 October 2017].
Thereformation.com. (2017). Reformation. [online] Available at: https://www.thereformation.com/whoweare#sustainablePractices [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].