Setting The Standards Of Luxury Fashion Brands Cultural Studies Essay

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The study of costume and fashion is not always including the eccentric and sensual dimension of dress. Fashion in the age of "maturity" and in the age of general serial repetition often has to do with stereotypes, whether of an average notion of beauty, sexual gender or social roles. As an image and as a system conveyed through images fashion is the place of imitation par excellence, the place where identity has strictly to do with repetition. Clothes as conveyors of meaning and value give shape to a system of objects in which the body finds the space for innumerable and complex sensorial identities (Adams and Calefato 2004 p2, 3).

It is the fact that in the last fifteen years the study of fashion is transformed in a way that it has gained ground across the humanities and social sciences. The experts have approached the fashion from a number of perspectives challenging the marginal place of fashion within traditional academic scholarship. Earlier in philosophy and sociology for example were the sciences where fashion has been considered not worth enough for a serious analysis (Entwistle and Wilson 2001 p1).

Since fashion has become a veritable syntax of the "dress" people are familiar with the sense of alienation from one's own body which dressing according to a system of socially controlled images induces. The history of dress, school, military and prison uniforms are some of the examples how clothing can control the body sanctioning a closed system of correspondences between external appearance and social order. However, fashion often has to do with stereotypes. Fashion as image represents identity that has strictly to do with repetition. Clothes give shape to a system of objects where the body founds the space for innumerable and complex sensorial identities (Adams and Calefato 2004 p2, 3).

The study of fashion is called fashion-ology. "Fashionology is a sociological investigation of fashion, and it treats fashion as a system of institutions that produces the concept as well as the phenomenon/ practice of fashion." It is as well concerned with the social production process of belief in fashion. Clothing items must go through a process of transformation in order to be labeled as fashion (Kawamura 2004 p1).

Fashion is created not just by one individual, but its creators are all those involved in the production of fashion. It can be said that fashion is a collective activity. For a great number of fashion authors, fashion begins with clothing. The word itself is used to refer to clothing styles and appearance. However, fashion is a concept that separates itself from other words that are used as synonyms of fashion. It is symbolic product (Kawamura 2004 p2).

In fashion designers are key figures when it comes to the production of fashion and they are playing important role in the maintenance, reproduction and dissemination of fashion. Without designers clothes do not become fashion. Their participation in fashion determines their status and reputation; they are presented as the stars in the production of fashion (Kawamura 2004 p57).

The sociological understanding of fashion is involving the analysis of consumers who are adopting fashion and their consumption behavior because they are participating directly in the production of fashion. When fashion is produced it has to be consumed in order for the belief to continue. "Fashionology involves the study of the social context in which fashion is not only produced, but also consumed, and the meaning intended and assigned to the acts and setting of production and consumption". Fashionology is consisting of a sociology of fashion production and sociology of fashion consumption (Kawamura 2004 p89).

But is fashion really driven by designers or consumers? Are the designers those who are deciding what fashion "is going to be" or the fashion is there to be "created" by us?

"Serving the customer and customer satisfaction are central to every formulation of the marketing concept", says Morris Holbrook, in his book "Consumer Value: A Framework for Analysis and Research" (Holbrook 1998 p1).

This research will provide insight into the luxury fashion brands and it will determine if they are driven by design or consumer. The primary beneficiaries of this research are all the future and present designers and fashion houses and their cooperatives as this research will provide a clear direction to follow when designing clothes.

Research Aim

The principal aim of the research is to determine if the fashion luxury brands are driven by design or consumer

Research Objectives

In order to carry out the research and achieve the aim, there needs to be a framework, which includes a set of relevant and necessary objectives for the research to be tailored towards. This will ultimately ensure a structure and give the project direction. The research objectives will comprise:

To investigate luxury fashion brands

Which are the most successful luxury fashion brands of today? Which are the fashion capitals, why? Where fashion houses are based? The history of fashion industry

To investigate the most famous designers of today

Who are they? What is most important to them when it comes to fashion? What are their professional goals?

To examine trends

What are trends? Who decides what new trends will be? What is the inspiration for the design? Does design changes regionally? What are seasonal influences on the design?

To examine the need for clothes with status symbols

Consumers of luxury fashion brands have the need to be unique or indifferent? To them the most important is quality, design or brand name?

To investigate the marketing strategies of fashion houses producing luxury clothes

Who are the fashion idols of today? What has been shown to be most effective way to promote luxury brands and their products?

Theoretical Underpinning

According to Tungate "everything" began in Paris. Later the fashion has spread to New York, Milan, London and Tokyo, but most of the experts agree that fashion was born in the French capital (Tungate 2005 p7, 12).

At the end of the 19th century the first designer label was created in Paris. Its founder was English but the main market was France. Charles Frederick Worth has put up the new rules in the fashion world. Before him dressmakers were not creating styles or dictating fashion. Worth was born in Lincolnshire on 13th October 1826. At the age of 20 he has moved to Paris where he has started his career. At first together with Otto Bobergh a wealthy young Swedish draper he has established Worth & Bobergh at 7 Rue de la Paix in 1858. Very soon after that Worth was designing for the most glamorous women of the time. Worth was as well a marketing genius. He has invented the concept of a fashion model. Until that time the clothes was displayed on a wooden busts. He was the first one to sit his clients down and have attractive woman he called "sasies" or "doubles" present his models. He also would indentify a fashionable woman in society on who he could place his dresses. In private he called them jockeys knowing that they would create a buzz as they mingled in high society. Worth looked and acted as a proper fashion designer, dresses all in velvet with a beret on his head. He was the one who came up with the idea of runway shows, elitism, celebrity models and a brand spokesman. He has designed a pattern for other designers to follow (Tungate 2005 p9-11).

Latter the young designer Paul Poiret has continued the revolution and innovation of fashion. His wish was to free woman of the complicated structures that have been encumbering the upper body. Poiret has excluded the corset and has revolutionized the way how women were dressed. He was the first one to produce a branded perfume in 1911 which was called Rosine after his oldest daughter (Tungate 2005 p11).

Francois Baudot has written in her book Mode du Siecle (1999) "Before than no fashionable woman would or could, lace herself into or escape from her carapace without the aid of a second person. They had to wait for Poiret before the appearance of clothes they could put on by themselves". Poiret opened branded boutiques in major French cities, and he was designing for celebrities of the time. Already, by the 1920s he was dealing with his biggest rival, the woman who has become the fashion icon of the era Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel. She has considered that Poiret's dresses were costumes rather than clothes and a big number of women of the time agreed with her. According to her as she was quoted in the book L' Allure de Chanel by Paul Morand (1996) "Eccentricity was dying: I hoped, by the way, that I helped to kill it". "Extravagance kills personality" Chanel has said (Tungate 2005 p13, 14).

After the Second World War many fashion houses existed in Paris, however slowly focus started shifting to the United States of America. By that time American woman were buying expensive clothes imported from France or had more affordable copies manufactured at home. Before the war in the New York City designers were experimenting with synthetic materials, faster production techniques and light garments. Wartime innovations made the fashion "affordable" to almost everyone (Tungate 2005 p14).

1950s seen the rise of Christian Dior. He was a man who was visionary designer, the inventor of "The New Look". In 1947 he has launched his first perfume and a ready- to - wear store in New York in 1948. He has opened branches all over the world. He has realized that luxury can be repackaged as a mass product and he has believed that it is a key to the survival and profitability of a brand. Today the Dior brand is owned by the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) empire- the ultimate expression of luxury as big business. Already in 1960s the fashion was democratized and everyone claimed the right to be stylish. Pierre Cardin shared the Dior's attitudes and had acknowledged the potential of ready- to- wear (prêt- a -porter).In the book The End of Fashion by Teri Agins it is written that Cardin has said "My name is more important than myself". Today more than 800 different products bear Cardin's name. Cardin's strategy has brought him a fortune however it has undermined sense of exclusivity and exclusivity is the core value of the luxury brand (Tungate 2005 p14, 15).

In the period of 1960s and 1970s the fashion world gained another famous brand Yves Saint Laurent. His biggest success was a perfume Opium launched in 1987 which is still popular today (Tungate 2005 p15).

1970s were the ages of young designers, avant- garde clothing and the fashion press exploded and the first generation of stylists has told consumers what to wear and how to wear it. The Italian brands have risen in between 1970s and 1990s. Among many Italian brands there were Armani, Gucci, Cerruti, Krizia and Missoni. Many famous brands have shown up in London and the real powerhouses were created in Milan. The foundations of LVMH began in the 1980s. Ralph Lauren has created a world of aristocratic good taste. It was the perfect brand of 1990s when fashion has became less important than "lifestyle"(Tungate 2005 p15).

As the new millennium is entered fashion journalist Teri Agins has proclaimed The End of Fashion. It can be predicted that there will be no New Look next year in the sense that Christian Dior launched his "New Look" in 1947. At this time it was possible for a fashion designer to transform the way woman dressed. Paris was the capital of fashion but it's mode of influence owed much to American-style licensing and mass manufacturing. This is when fashion became available to everyone. As the time passed by the profile of designers was different as well.

Fashion has enjoyed a very good reputation. It gained success as a social and commercial phenomenon and remained the exemplum of superficiality, frivolity and vanity. Glittering and blinding fashion is drawing attention away from the substance of things. Irrational, capricious, fickle, unpredictable fashion is making its entrance every season with all the power of seduction. Fashion has created the division of being and mere appearance, the division of the sexes and of course the division of the classes. Some of the most influential fashion analyses have been done from a sociological perspective. Fashion represents both class and gender. However, it does not certify these as natural but rather it is exposing them as artificial (Hewson and Vinken 2004 p4-5). Fashion does not only represent the structure of democracy but also natural order of society (Hewson and Vinken 2004 p15).

The identity of individuals from whom information is obtained in the course of the Project will be kept strictly confidential. At the conclusion of the Project, any information that reveals the identity of individuals who were subjects of research will be destroyed unless the individual concerned has consented in writing to its inclusion beforehand. No information revealing the identity of any individual will be included in the final report or in any other communication prepared in the course of the Project