Last post we delved into the relationship between the fashion industry and the media, a relationship which can be equally volatile and joyous in its creation and development. This post however, we jump into fashion and the external communication efforts undertaken by major fashion houses, their in-house and outsourced marketing and PR gurus, and examples of where systematic templates have required a change to better suit the businesses surrounding target publics.
To begin, we should review the efforts by ancestral fashion moguls including Mary Quant, who ‘watched her beloved “Dolly Birds’ altering the lines of dresses in her late fifties dressing rooms, [and who] was working ahead of customer-led marketing strategies, widely used by most industries today. Her role in the promotion of Fashion is not underestimated. In the 90th anniversary edition of Vogue, successful designer Luella Bartley describes Quant as her continuing Muse’ (Sheridan 2010, p.20). It’s this culture-altering method of communication that has time and time again been adopted into fashion houses to achieve the greatest level of likelihood for the longevity of the business and its values. Sheridan (2010, p.6) notes this through Christopher Breward, who ‘believes that “fashion now occupies the centre ground in popular understandings of modern culture’, 11 and he and others have turned the Cinderella’s slipper of popular discourse into the diamond tiara of cultural theory’. Sheridan acknowledges these essential efforts to success through communication with Tom Ford and Gucci, where through an equal level of connection to the public and a desire to propel oneself into the future was the greatest elements to success and longevity.
In analysing these key elements to the greatest chance of success I think it’s best to look to Rauwers, Voorveld and Neijens’ (2016, p.460) study into the effects of communication features in digital magazines, where ‘the results show that a digital magazine with (vs. without) external communication features was perceived as more interactive, and that this had a positive effect on consumers’ digital magazine attitude’. Thus, in moving with the future and the changing digital platforms available through which to connect with your desired consumers, we must work with results that show ‘that the integration of internal communication features enhanced community feelings among magazine readers through increased feelings of social presence, and that consumers’ digital magazine attitude became more positive as a result of these enhanced community feelings’ (2010, p.460). Although we are now attempting to solely focus on external communication between a brand and their target publics, we must acknowledge this near necessity to successfully integrate both internal and external communication into a hybrid type model that successfully propels itself above the model of previous PR legends.
As ‘external communication…is crucial for creating brand image and identity’ (Volujevica & Holm 2012, p.21) efforts should be centralised on the ‘specialised field of stakeholder communication’ (Ingeniumcommunications.com 2009, p.1). For instance, we can attempt to adopt Ingenium Communications’ (2009, p.1) best principles which ‘set up the parameters for planning effective stakeholder communications’ which include:
Set yourself up for success
It’s about relationships
Focus on people, not structures
Stakeholders talk to each other
As is clearly evident, ‘good business habits drive good external communication’ (Volujevica & Holm 2012, p.21), and in today’s Western culture and attitude, the need for boundary spanners is evidently far greater than ever before. As ‘ boundary spanners are responsible for making a communication contact with external information sources and providing their colleagues with information concerning the outside environment’ (2012, p.22), it should now be clear how valuable an effective boundary spanner can be in ascertaining an organisation’s boundaries, where to push farther, and accordingly how to effectively communicate within and across these boundaries. In an industry such as fashion which is super dynamic and innovative, the need to maintain these boundaries and efficiently report back about the movements of these boundaries is vital to the success of the business, its brand and the longevity of customer loyalty. Sheridan (2010, p.8) fluently describes the power of fashion across the globe as:
Shoehorned in after two world wars and before global warming, Fashion, as an international force, is a pleasure embedded in our lives through subtle and seductive means. At the cutting edge in the 20th century, as a powerful ingenious industry using computerized technologies to reach waiting markets, it is now avant-garde in the way it sells itself universally while remaining idiomatic, exclusive and mysterious.
A great example of a dynamic fashion communications business is Fabrica, in Italy, where ‘intentions are given form’ (Sheridan 2010, p.12). Being a ‘communication centre made available to 20 students from around the world…these artists-designers-researchers learn by making’ (2010, p.12). By adopting a blank page approach where information is collected based on ‘global issues such as racism, fear [and] famine’ (2010, p.12) institutions such as Fabrica work to ensure they are never pigeonholed on one particular path and accordingly resolve to remain a resounding voice amongst the clatter of fake-news, trolls and uneducated opinion leaders.
As Alexa Chung explores with different PR and branding consultancies, the value of keeping on-top of cultural desires and movements ensures the credibility and longevity of the PR business, and accordingly their clients (assuming that these clients never tender to another PR firm). One firm which really grabbed my attention was K-Hole (not to be confused with the trip experienced when taking Ketamine), who is a group focusing on trend forecasting and are responsible for the trending term, NormCore. Pulls from their official issues, including Youth Mode: The Death of an Age include resounding statements that incorporate satire and deflation. Their first statement, underlined for maximum impact, is as follows:
It used to be possible to be special — to sustain unique differences through time, relative to a certain sense of audience. As long as you were different from the people around you, you were safe. (Youth Mode: A Report On Freedom, 2013)
Based on ambassadors such as K-Hole and previous fashion gurus such as Mary Quant or Azzedine Alaia it is clear what needs to be done. Brands must remain progressive and “on-trend” however it is all well and good to argue these points when it can be near impossible to successfully achieve these channels. Instead, I argue that new innovative attitudes like that of K-Hole or the methods of Tom Ford and the bankrupt house of Gucci should be studied by PR organisations as stepping stones to truly understanding and grasping those key elements to success.
Ingeniumcommunications.com. (2009). Best Practices in Stakeholder Communications. [online] Available at: http://www.ingeniumcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/06/BestPractices_StakeholderCommunications.pdf [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
Rauwers, F, Voorveld, HA, & Neijens, PC 2016, ‘Full length article: The effects of the integration of external and internal communication features in digital magazines on consumers’ magazine attitude’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 61, pp. 454-462. Available from: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.042. [18 November 2017].
Sheridan, J 2010, Fashion, media, promotion : the new black magic, Chichester, West Sussex ; Ames, Iowa : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Volujevica, A. and Holm, A. (2012). Role of Internal and External Communication: Case of Bank Citadele. [ebook] Denmark: Aarhus University. Available at: https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj548HS3MnXAhWFJJQKHcL9D0MQFggqMAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.researchgate.net%2Ffile.PostFileLoader.html%3Fid%3D56b8bd585f7f718cda8b4579%26assetKey%3DAS%253A326888384942080%25401454947672256&usg=AOvVaw3cuEU4eA6EOqCRpHyAgLmu [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
Youth Mode: A Report On Freedom. (2013). [ebook] New York, Sao Paolo: K-Hole, Box 1824. Available at: http://khole.net/issues/youth-mode/ [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].