Category Archives: Social Psychology of Clothing

What’s in a Name?

Is YSL the same with the Y? Is Maison Martin Margiela the same without the Martin? How does a luxury fashion house stay current and new without sacrificing their age-old legacy? ID Magazine takes a dive into the dubious issue of rebranding the luxury name:

“Unless you’ve been living under a WiFi-less rock for the past six months, you’ve probably noticed a few changes at Margiela. At creative director John Galliano’s debut show in London—itself a change from the house’s usual Paris slot—the designer made waves when he removed models’ customary masks and came out for a bow following the finale walk. Amidst all these shocking switch-ups, it was easy to miss one other change: Galliano quietly dropped “Martin” from “Maison Martin Margiela,” ushering the avant-garde house into a new era.

An overwhelming majority of fashion’s top labels still bear the names of their founders, but what happens when times change: the designer leaves or the name just sounds off? Of course, Galliano isn’t the first to play the name game: everyone from Hedi Slimane to Ralph Lauren has tinkered with titles. In the wake of MMM’s streamlined new moniker, we did a little digging into the histories of nine other brand names.

SLP

Saint Laurent Paris
Hedi Slimane is no saint, but when the designer decided to drop “Yves” from YSL following his appointment as the storied house’s creative director back in 2012, he became fashion’s biggest sinner (Colette even started selling an “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves” T-shirt before the house requested a cease and desist, then promptly cancelled the boutique’s order of their spring/summer 14 collection.) Amidst cries of blasphemy, Slimane explained the name change was actually inspired by one of Yves’ own: in 1966, the designer launched the ready-to-wear line as “Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.” Slimane’s rebranding also pulled from this era visually, opting for a sharp Helvetica inspired by the original logo’s sleek typeface.

MbMJ
Marc Jacobs is never short on a sense of humour, especially when it comes to names: the designer’s “Jacobs by Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs in Collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs” tote (seriously) puts a much needed satirical spin on the endless splintering of diffusion lines. In the spring of 2001, Jacobs debuted his secondary line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, one of the most successful diffusions of its kind. Following Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley’s creative takeover in early 2014, Jacobs opted for a streamlined new look, re-dubbing his youthful label simply “MbMJ.”

prada

Prada
Although the ready-to-wear empire has remained all in the family since its founding in 1913, the house originally opened its doors as a leather goods firm named “Fratelli Prada,” or “Prada Brothers.” Although it’s unsure when the name was changed, it probably happened around the time that Mario Prada’s daughter Luisa took the house’s helm (despite the fact that Mario did not believe women should have a role in business.) After taking over for her mother, Miuccia again played the name game in 93 when she launched Prada’s sister brand Miu Miu, its title taken from her own childhood nickname.

Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is undoubtedly one of the most iconic names in fashion, a paragon of Americana since the label’s debut in 67. So it’s the ultimate irony that Lauren’s actual last name was something different entirely: Lifshitz. Having made the switch when he was just 16-years-old, the designer once told Oprah: “My given name has the word ‘shit’ in it.” “When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That’s why I decided to change it.” The rest is seersucker history.

Yohji Yamamoto
Before the Japanese designer debuted his eponymous collection in Paris in 1981, Yohji Yamamoto had already produced under the line “Y’s” as early as 1977. These early designs were launched in Tokyo, before the designer—alongside Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake—took the fashion world by storm with their anti-fashion avant-gardism.

burberry

Burberry
Founded in 1856 when Thomas Burberry opened his own shop in Hampshire, “Burberry” actually was the store’s original name. Because so many customers around the world kept referring to it as “Burberrys of London,” the company switched to “Burberrys.” When the brand’s Knight Logo was later developed in 1901, the Latin word “Prorsum,” meaning “forward,” was added to the trademark, and has since become the name of the house’s high-fashion division headed up today by Christopher Bailey.

Acne Studios
Originating in Stockholm back in 96, Acne Studios was initially conceived as a branch of the creative collective ACNE, an acronym for “Ambition to Create Novel Expressions.” The original collective focused on film, production, advertising, and graphic design, but in 2006, the coalition branched out into separate entities, including Acne Film, Acne Advertising, and of course, Acne Studios. Despite the confused reception of such an outlandish name at its outset, the industry’s embrace proves that the product speaks for itself. Jonny Johansson’s modest denim project has since become a global fashion powerhouse, presenting menswear and womenswear at Paris Fashion Week.

Balenciaga
Although Balenciaga has kept founder Cristobal Balenciaga’s name intact all throughout its 100 year history, former creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere was one of the first designers to insist on adding his name to the brand. However the days “Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere” are certainly no more, as the designer still finds himself squaring off against the house. Current creative director Alexander Wang doesn’t insist upon the same personalisation, so for now it’s back to good ol’ Balenciaga.

tiffany

Tiffany & Co
Although the American luxury jeweller did undergo a name change from its original 1837 moniker “Tiffany, Young and Ellis” to “Tiffany & Company” when Charles Tiffany established the firm’s emphasis on jewellery in 1853, that’s not what landed the iconic blue box on our list. Because Tiffany is one of the first American luxury brand names, it sparked a wave of status-seeking parents (including Donald Trump) actually naming their babies Tiffany in the 80s. This yuppie staple demonstrates just how powerfully luxury brand names can infiltrate mainstream culture.

Credits Text Emily Manning
Photography Marshall Astor of Prada, Marfa by Elmgreen and Dragset”Original post: http://bit.ly/1zD5L8i

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Textile Traditions – The Hmong Tribe and Kantha Quilts

Native, traditional, Eastern, or often times called, “fixed” dress, that of the indigenous peoples of East-Asian territories, may seem to be the antithesis of the current Western standard of the sartorial etiquette which relies on constant fashion change and the unwavering push for newness. However, these precious, contextually and sentimentally loaded, incredibly detailed traditional textiles are finding their way into the hands of Western designers and customers. Either sold as the authentic pieces of culture they are, straight from the indigenous hands who made them, or upcycled/recycled into fashionable accessories, traditional textiles from the Akha Hill tribes of East Asia are popping up in the homes and closets of savvy, socially conscious consumers around the world, particularly in the UK and US.

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Photo from Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures: Promoting Heritage

For some of these tribes, like the Hmong who live in the hills of Laos, Thailand and China, the dissemination of these handmade textiles (which they have every part in making from growing the hemp for making the fiber to sewing the end product into garments) is one of the few tangible ways of preserving and sharing their cultural heritage. As Western influence and inexpensive materials make their way to the remote areas of this purely oral-tradition tribe (meaning they have no written language), the skillful art of the traditional Hmong embroidery technique becomes threatened.

For others, such as the Bengali women of India, opportunities to create handmade kantha quilts in their home to sell abroad provides them with financial freedoms otherwise denied women residing in such areas. With a salary they can afford to put their children through school, combatting the sex-trafficking epidemic that is so prevalent in this area, affording independence and stability for at-risk women.

kantha quilts

Kantha Quilts

No matter how they reached the Western markets, the story behind these intricate pieces of textile art, and that of those who made and wore them, need to be preserved. H. Leedom Lefferts Jr., a Lao cultural expert, says in his article promoting the importance of the conservation of Lao material culture, that “Textiles weave indigenous cultures together; they thus provide strands of meaning and action which can be picked up by observers to understand cultures and assist them in coping with the pressures of modern life.” Designers are taking note of the customer craving authenticity and history in their adornments, and what better way to satisfy that need than highly intricate, handmade traditional and ceremonial textiles from age-old tribe techniques.

Sometimes classified as “vintage” fabric, these recycled textiles can be found in mainstream stores such as in the furniture upholstery of Anthropologie, West Elm, and Sundance Catalog. They are also often upcycled into fashionable accessories such as bags, shoes, and garments as in the case of Elliot Mann and Sophia Costas, and the Etsy sites Dazzling Lana and Fairlyworn, to name a few.

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Menswear Monday – Tuxedo Talk

Buying a tuxedo is a major investment. There is a process involved in finding the perfect tux, getting it tailored appropriately and then matching the right accessories for the perfectly polished look. When it comes down to it, the fact of the matter is that the tuxedo is just a suit on steroids. And just like suit wearing, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will guarantee a successful execution of a dapper tuxedo ensemble:

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10 Commandments of the Tuxedo

I. Honor Thy Body Type

The slim fitted tuxedo has gained a lot of traction recently, but it isn’t a look that can be pulled off by everyone. Be true to your body type and dress accordingly. For slim, and slender frames, opt for the one- or two-button coat preferably with a narrow peak lapel. For heavier-set physiques, experts suggest a box style one-button tux with wide lapels and a deep V-cut down the center of the body. This creates a vertical focal point and elongates the appearance of the torso, creating a slimming effect.

For Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of Barneys, New York, shoulder fit is an essential part of the proper tux fit. He recommends a snug and high armhole. Even though this may feel a bit restricting, the sacrifice in arm movement will pay off in appearance.

2. Thou Shall Wear a Bow tie

Bow ties with tuxedos are an absolute must, this a universal agreement amongst luxury designers across the board. As the legendary designer, creative mind, and menswear enthusiast Tom Ford proclaims, the everyday four-in-hand necktie is plain inappropriate for a tuxedo, in his words, it is, “just wrong.”

Invest in a high quality bow tie, preferable a self-tie. Something just doesn’t feel right topping off a formal tuxedo ensemble with a clip on. Tying a bow tie knot isn’t as hard as it seems, it just takes a little practice. With the plethora of YouTube tutorials available, there is no excuse!

 3. Thou Shall Stay Proportional

The type and size of bow tie worn with the tuxedo should be based on the kind of shirt collar and lapels it will be paired with. It isn’t rocket science; wide lapels call for wider collars such as the spread collar, and should be matched with larger bow ties, usually the typical butterfly style. For narrow lapels, pair with a slim collar such as the cut diamond collar and opt for the narrower bow ties in the diamond point or bat wing style.

TF JT

Tom Ford and Justine Timberlake in Butterfly Bow Ties

4. Remember Thy Grooming Habits

If donning a tuxedo, odds are, the event you are attending is kind of a big deal, don’t offend by showing up scruffy and unkempt. Clean-shaven is the best look for tuxedo wearers, but if facial hair is your signature, then make sure every hair is in place.

5. Love thy Tailor

“Your tailor is your best friend,” says Michael Hainey, deputy editor of GQ magazine, “What’s weird is that guys spend all this time within the culture of the gym, getting toned, fit bodies, and then they wear suit coats that are two sizes too big.” Never underestimate the power of the perfect fit, as menswear guru Alan Flusser says, “The custom made tuxedo represents the highest expression of tailoring art and sartorial know-how.”

6. Thou Shall Not Disregard the Details

Don’t be afraid to show a little cuff, as it is customary to do so, “the half-inch rule for the cuff reveal has always been inflexible,” Michael Hainey decrees. Tuxedo trousers should have a length that maintains a modest break at the top of the shoe, and should have no cuffs. For footwear, Tom Ford proclaims pumps as preferential. In a standard two-button suit, “the closure defines an anatomical equator,” says Alan Flusser, noting that the closure should be lined up with the bellybutton.

7. Know Thy Suit Coat Options

Notched-lapel blazers are usually reserved for the business/corporate realm, so go for the peaked lapel tuxedo coat. Another, less conventional, option that has become popular in the celebrity scene lately is the shawl collar. The rounded, narrow lapels are reminiscent of the smoking jacket and exude the elegance of old Hollywood glamour.

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Shawl Collar

8. Thou Shall Not Be Afraid of Navy

Even though the term is “Black Tie,” that doesn’t mean you can’t venture out of the black and white category. A dark navy tuxedo is a stylish yet sensible take on the look, giving the tux a modern edge. Navy looks especially great in a slim fitted tux. If venturing into the navy realm, be sure to keep all other aspects of the ensemble simple and classic.

 9. Thou Shall Always Be Elegant

“It’s about elegance,” says prominent menswear designer John Varvatos about wearing tuxedo, proclaiming that there is nothing elegant about yards of cotton bunched up under your coat. He suggests wearing a tapered shirt – you will be more comfortable, and with clean, straight lines will look thinner and much more put together.

tux 2

And finally,

10. Thou Shall Not Rent

As Michael Hainey says, renting a tuxedo is, “the equivalent of wearing a bowling shoe.” If within your means, buy, don’t rent.

Various designer quotes from:

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Remembering L’Wren

L’Wren Scott, acclaimed costume designer and celebrity stylist has taken her own life, her body was found by her assistant the morning of March 17th. It has emerged that the A-list socialite was massively in debt, “Accounts for her business LS Fashion LTD show it had a deficit of $5,899,548 (4,237,164 Euros) and the designer owed creditors $7.641 million (euros 5,488,125)” (The Mirror).

 L'Wren3

The discourse surrounding L’Wren’s death has revolved around her connections with the celebrity elite (I.e. being Mick Jagger’s long-time girlfriend and being best friends with Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin, Daphne Guinness, and Rachel Feinstein), but Ms. Scott had many accomplishments besides being an A-list socialist.

DaphneGuinness

L’Wren began her career in the fashion world as a model in the 1980s for Thierry Mugler. At a height of 6 feet 3 inches, Scott became known as the model with “The Longest Legs in Britain.”

L'Wren4

Her modeling career was short-lived, as she moved to the business-side of the fashion industry with a knack for styling and an address book full of celebrity high society members like Madonna, Julia Roberts, and Angelina Jolie. In 2000, L’Wren was actually named the “official” stylist of the Oscars.

L'Wren and Karl

Expanding into costume design was the next logical step for the highly connected fashionista. Her costume design repertoire includes Ocean’s Thirteen, Eyes Wide Shut and Martin Scorsese’s documentary about The Rolling Stones. In 2006, L’Wren launched her own collection and became a favorite among the London Fashion Week scene, always showing at the end of the week in an intimate setting with a small but ultra-posh audience and the finest of catering (that always matched the collection).

L'Wren Scott

 

It is sad to see such a talent succumb to the pressures that go along with being a high-profile fashion designer (which brings to mind the late Alexander McQueen, R.I.P.). Just goes to show that the glitz and glamour of the fashion scene is sometimes just smoke and mirrors and when the illusion dissipates, the harsh realities of maintaining a successful fashion business is sometimes too much for creative minds to cope with.

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Who Wears the Pants?

Dockers          Dockers

In order to understand the world and the endless amount of information we take in every second, the human brain has developed the use of ‘schemata’ or categories which are used as frameworks so that information can be easily and quickly filed away to help us interact appropriately in different situations. Everyone has their own set of schemata influenced by background, upbringing, experiences and relationships. Yet, there is no doubt that everyone uses them. They have to, as some scholars say, or else there would be information overloads and no interaction would be able to take place. Some schemata are shared by the general populous, such as gender schemata. The female schema contains characteristics such as nurturing, facilitating, polite, dependent, and unaggressive. The male schema says men are dominant, aggressive, stoic, successful, independent, and the breadwinners. There are also other schemata that go along with race/ethnicity, class, religion, occupation, national identity, and sexuality.

These universally accepted schemata can be easily discovered by simply looking at the media and advertisement portrayals in how the represent their markets. It seems that Dockers has very different schemata traits when it comes to gay and straight men which we can see in their most recent advertising campaign. This campaign began a in early December of 2009 which called for men to go back to their roots, to act more manly, and to ‘Wear the Pants’.

Most of the ad’s have the same general format; a man standing in front of a plain background, the top half of him is a saying and he is wearing Dockers pants. What is interesting is the difference in the word choice given the context the ad will be seen. Can you guess which one of the above ads I found in Out magazine, the national gay fashion and lifestyle magazine for the US? Without getting into the phrases used, you could probably tell just by the style and fit of the pants. The ones on the left are an orange/pink and the fit is much tighter than the khaki’s on the right which are looser, wrinklier, and a dull tan. Even the stance of the two are remarkably different. We have one who is almost posing sexually, looking to the side, or behind him as if looking for someone to make a connection with, versus the other man who seems to have no interest in what is going on around him, rather he is looking out with his hands on his hips as if he just accomplished a trying task or is contemplating the meaning of life. Getting down to the more obvious of differences, we see what the Dockers advertising campaign sees as the difference in priorities between gay men and straight men through the phrases they chose to make up the body (in both sense of the word) of their ad. ‘Behold the Second Dawn of Man’ goes along with the main theme of the Dockers new ad campaign which, in summary, claims that our society has become genderless, and is therefore crumbling.  It calls for men to drop their non-fat lattes, put on their pants, be men and help little old ladies cross the street, discipline misbehaving children, and of course, buy Docker’s pants. It is easy to see the sexism in this campaign, but further drudging of the advertisements brings to light more prejudice ideals. First of all, the ad I found in Out is much harder to track down in other outlets. In fact, it doesn’t even appear in a Google search. Does Dockers not want to be identified with the gay community,? if so, why advertise in a gay magazine?

The phrase used for the advertisement placed in a gay context states, ‘Attract the touches of friends, boyfriends, and even the occasional stranger’. So, straight men wear their pants to maintain order in society, gay men wear pants to be promiscuous and attract attention from occasional strangers. Though it seems trite to take such a critical view of these two seemingly unimportant advertising images, it does bring light to how mainstream corporations view different subcultures and instill representations and reinforce stereotypes. As the introduction to Erving Goffman’s book Gender Advertisements says, “Advertisements depict for us not necessarily how we actually behave as men and women but how we think men and women behave. This depiction serves the social purpose of convincing us that this is how men and women are, or want to be, or should be not only in relation to themselves but in relation to each other” (Gornick, 1979).

It is important to understand the implications and affects these representations have on our culture. From creating unfair homogenous stereotypes of a group to instilling an unattainable body and lifestyle ideal people try to live up to.

*Re-post from last year in honor of #ThrowBackThursday

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Missing the Target – 3 Recent Fashion Industry Fails

From a graphic design nightmare to a potential trademark lawsuit, the fashion industry has seen some major epic fails over the past couple weeks. I.F. comments on three major mishaps the fashion industry would rather we didn’t talk about.

1. Target’s Photoshop Mishap

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At least, one would hope it was a mishap. It’s painful to think that a graphic designer would blatantly remove a section of the model’s crotch (perhaps in a seriously failed attempt at taking the “thigh-gap” to another level – as some people outraged in response to the image). The image went viral and Target removed it from the site, but not without a serious backlash from the internet community.

Learn to proof, Target.

2. Recipe for Disaster: Fast Fashion Meets Fast Food

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Jeremy Scott, recently appointed creative director of Moschino, presented his debut collection at Milan Fashion week; “an ode to the 1980s, 1990s and American brand iconography, referencing Cheetos, Hershey’s, Froot Loops, SpongeBob SquarePants, Run-DMC and, notably, McDonald’s.” The day after the show, a ten-piece capsule collection appropriately named, “Fast Fashion – Next Day After The Runway,” became available for purchase in Moschino boutiques and online at moschino.com.

Seven of the ten pieces in the collection featured a heart-shaped motif that looks exactly like a pigeon-toed version of the McDonald’s Golden Arches, mustard and ketchup colors and all. It has been discovered that Moschino did not approach McDonald’s for permission to use the Golden Arches logo, and it is inconclusive as to whether McDonald’s has grounds for legal action as the law related to trademark “dilution” is tenuous. (For a more detailed explanation of the legal side to this matter visit this great article by The Business of Fashion)

However, the most interesting discourse surrounding this issue deals with the interplay of fast fashion with fast food; “McDonald’s could argue that Moschino uses the heart-shaped motif in fashion designs to draw an unflattering comparison between fast food and fast fashion. Naming the capsule collection ‘Fast Fashion — Next Day After The Runway’ and retailing it on the day following the show both skewers the high street chains creating fast fashion and beats them at their own game, but at the expense of McDonald’s Golden Arches. In 2001, McDonald’s was the primary target in Eric Schlosser’s bestseller Fast Food Nation. In 2012, fast fashion came under similar scrutiny in Elizabeth L. Cline’s book Overdressed. Katha Pollitt of The Nation praised the book, saying ‘Overdressed does for t-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.'” (Anjli Patel of BOF)

3. More Flaws in Bangladesh Factories

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It’s been almost a full year since the epic Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, resulting in over 1,000 deaths – and it appears history is destined to repeat itself. In a recent inspection, Bangladesh factories were found to have “cracked support beams, substandard building materials and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.” The group leading the inspections is comprised of mostly European Fashion Brands who got together after the Rana Plaza tragedy shed light on the disastrous working conditions of many Bangladesh garment workers (of which there are over 4 million) who work in the factories who produce their products. It seems a bit distressing that it has taken this long to START the inspections stage… never mind the fact that there is no evidence that the inspection has any clout (a bad rating from this group does not mean other brands will not still use their services). It is yet to be explained how the group is actually helping the workers, there seems to be no suggestion that they plan to provide solutions to even simple problems they could themselves implement (like providing lunch for workers), never mind solve architectural issues.

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Primark’s Mark on UK Youth

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Broadly speaking, fashion can be divided into two separate industries. Firstly there is High Fashion: the big name designers, haute couture clothing, and celebrities that epitomise the fashion looks. High Fashion is only a small part of the fashion world, the majority is the Grass Roots of fashion. This is reality, the normal, and the every day fashion of consumers.

High fashion is trying to sell an ideal of what we should look like, and what we should buy. In order to make more money this ideal changes rapidly and often. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as this is part of the fashion industry: it’s meant to make money.

One of the problems that grass roots fashion faces is that because this ideal changes so frequently, it becomes more expensive to mass produce garments and get them to the consumers before they go out of style and the ideal changes again.

This is where the bargain store super giants come in. In the UK you have Primark as the market leader for the latest fashion trends at an almost irresistible price (very rarely does an item of clothing breach the £15 mark). According to their own website it can take as little as 6 weeks for the trend to be recognised and then be available in their stores. Primark state that they keep the costs low with bulk buying stock and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.

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Primark, or Primarni as it is sometimes referred to, is the go to shop for many young adults in the UK, as the price point is low and young adults have the one of the highest rates of fashion consumption.

Young adults in general, but specifically teenagers and pre teens, are one of the main targets for Primark as a business. Most are at the age of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world, they have a disposable but quite limited income – pocket money or part time jobs, and no major expenditure as often living with parents while they are at school. Another major attraction of Primark is that because of the low prices, it’s possible to create whole looks and wardrobes for a fraction of the price of their style competitors in the UK (H&M, Topshop, River Island, to name a few). This ability to purchase a large quantity of clothes serves to make these young shoppers feel more independent, which in turn makes them feel even more connected to the experience as learning independence and doing things without parental controls is a big part of growing up.

Primark Oxford Street

Due to the mass production of styles and garments, at a price a lot of teenagers can afford, means that whole groups of friends wear similar clothes from the same shop, creating their own high street trends. This means that Primark is effectively creating their own trend, which attracts more consumers due to the availability and the low cost of the products.

Of course this isn’t to say that the youth of the UK is blindly purchasing whatever is put in front of them, driven only by consumer need. The way clothing shops are accessed in the UK market has part to play in how teenagers shop.

Almost all clothing shops in the UK will be found on the high street of the town or city, much like Oxford Street in London. This high street may have stemmed from the original town centre, sometimes dating back hundreds of years. These high streets are often pedestrian only areas with good public transport links. Put this together, and you can see that teenagers often go for shopping trips with friends, but without adults as they can make their own way there. Once at the high street, it is much like visiting a mall: all the shops are close together, with food and restrooms nearby.

These unsupervised trips with friends are pivotal moments for the individuals involved. It helps them to build their look and identity based on the opinions of the people they are with. These opinions are the most important to them, as they affect their ability to belong and connect with the people they want to. One of the most fundamental parts of growing up is learning how to be part of society and to feel connected. What Primark is enabling is a way for these teenagers to feel like they belong, whilst also securing a large number of repeat customers.

 

“I love a vexing, thorny question. And perhaps there is no question in fashion today more troublesome – and overdue – than that of what fashion would be like outside an endless cycle of consumption. Let’s face it; our experience of fashion today is so dominated by buying stuff that it’s almost impossible to imagine fashion in any other format. Fashion is buying high street and high end. It is watching, shopping, purchasing. In the consumer society we organize our ideas about fashion around commerce and consumerism and end up becoming dependent on them. And yet this incessant cycle of consumption is not all that fashion is, was, or can be. We are, so to speak, shopping ourselves short. By elevating the power of what we buy to be the ultimate arbiter of fashion innovation; we are missing out on fashion’s other-than-market potential; on the multitude of fashion moments that flow from who we are, not from just from what we buy again and again. With consumerist fashion’s emphasis on looking from a distance, we are also straying even further from fashion’s original meaning – as a group activity of making and doing. And what is more, it seems that consumerism is creating an anachronistic form of fashion itself. For we know that fashion always reflects its context; and today its context includes sustainability. So when we see fashion as achievable only through ever-greater consumption; this blinkered ‘performance’ is quite simply, no longer fashion.” – Kate Fletcher

The Vexing Question of What Fashion Would Be Like Outside The Endless Cycle of Consumption

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“The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses is well- established. By contrast, the study of dress has traditionally suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of fashion as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. It provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the analysis of cultural phenomena ranging from foot binding to fashion advertising. Fashion Theory provides a vital contribution to cultural studies, art, history, literary criticism, anthropology, fashion history, media studies, gender studies, folklore studies and sociology.” – Fashion Theory, Editor’s Introduction of the Journal, Valerie Steele, 1997

“The importance…

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Who Wears the Pants?

Dockers          Dockers

In order to understand the world and the endless amount of information we take in every second, the human brain has developed the use of ‘schemata’ or categories which are used as frameworks so that information can be easily and quickly filed away to help us interact appropriately in different situations. Everyone has their own set of schemata influenced by background, upbringing, experiences and relationships. Yet, there is no doubt that everyone uses them. They have to, as some scholars say, or else there would be information overloads and no interaction would be able to take place. Some schemata are shared by the general populous, such as gender schemata. The female schema contains characteristics such as nurturing, facilitating, polite, dependent, and unaggressive. The male schema says men are dominant, aggressive, stoic, successful, independent, and the breadwinners. There are also other schemata that go along with race/ethnicity, class, religion, occupation, national identity, and sexuality.

These universally accepted schemata can be easily discovered by simply looking at the media and advertisement portrayals in how the represent their markets. It seems that Dockers has very different schemata traits when it comes to gay and straight men which we can see in their most recent advertising campaign. This campaign began a in early December of 2009 which called for men to go back to their roots, to act more manly, and to ‘Wear the Pants’.

Most of the ad’s have the same general format; a man standing in front of a plain background, the top half of him is a saying and he is wearing Dockers pants. What is interesting is the difference in the word choice given the context the ad will be seen. Can you guess which one of the above ads I found in Out magazine, the national gay fashion and lifestyle magazine for the US? Without getting into the phrases used, you could probably tell just by the style and fit of the pants. The ones on the left are an orange/pink and the fit is much tighter than the khaki’s on the right which are looser, wrinklier, and a dull tan. Even the stance of the two are remarkably different. We have one who is almost posing sexually, looking to the side, or behind him as if looking for someone to make a connection with, versus the other man who seems to have no interest in what is going on around him, rather he is looking out with his hands on his hips as if he just accomplished a trying task or is contemplating the meaning of life. Getting down to the more obvious of differences, we see what the Dockers advertising campaign sees as the difference in priorities between gay men and straight men through the phrases they chose to make up the body (in both sense of the word) of their ad. ‘Behold the Second Dawn of Man’ goes along with the main theme of the Dockers new ad campaign which, in summary, claims that our society has become genderless, and is therefore crumbling.  It calls for men to drop their non-fat lattes, put on their pants, be men and help little old ladies cross the street, discipline misbehaving children, and of course, buy Docker’s pants. It is easy to see the sexism in this campaign, but further drudging of the advertisements brings to light more prejudice ideals. First of all, the ad I found in Out is much harder to track down in other outlets. In fact, it doesn’t even appear in a Google search. Does Dockers not want to be identified with the gay community,? if so, why advertise in a gay magazine?

The phrase used for the advertisement placed in a gay context states, ‘Attract the touches of friends, boyfriends, and even the occasional stranger’. So, straight men wear their pants to maintain order in society, gay men wear pants to be promiscuous and attract attention from occasional strangers. Though it seems trite to take such a critical view of these two seemingly unimportant advertising images, it does bring light to how mainstream corporations view different subcultures and instill representations and reinforce stereotypes. As the introduction to Erving Goffman’s book Gender Advertisements says, “Advertisements depict for us not necessarily how we actually behave as men and women but how we think men and women behave. This depiction serves the social purpose of convincing us that this is how men and women are, or want to be, or should be not only in relation to themselves but in relation to each other” (Gornick, 1979).

It is important to understand the implications and affects these representations have on our culture. From creating unfair homogenous stereotypes of a group to instilling an unattainable body and lifestyle ideal people try to live up to.

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