4. Fashion Promotion

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KEY TERMS
Modernism / Modernity
Consumer Culture
Public Relations / Branding
Rhetoric
Apperception
Producer / Reader
Interpellation / Propaganda
The Gaze
Hexis

SUMMARY

According to The Observer’s Lauren Laverne, ʺNothing beats leafing through the pages of the latest thriller – especially when it’s a posh clothing catalogue.ʺ

In its infancy, the fashion catalogue was the tool used by department stores to encourage loyalty and patterns of consumption, particularly amongst women.

Through the 1920s to 1960s, the success of catalogues like Kays was partially the result of responding to modernist principals in balancing text and image and, to some extent, borrowing from the psychological techniques used in advertising.

Since then, the proliferation of youth styles and media has left the fashion catalogue seeming a bit dated, but the recent resurgence in titles owes as much to internet shopping as to reimagining the relationship between the catalogue and consumer.

This lecture looks at the following key ideas: modernity and modernism; fashion persuasion; public and private taste; modernist principals of graphic design in catalogue design; consumer response.

LECTURE MATERIALS

Prezi presentation

READINGS

RESEARCH METHODS

Definition Case Studies

Robert Yin: Case Study Research

Rowarth-Stokes: Research Design

TO DO

KAYS HISTORY

William Kilbourne Kay worked for Skaratt but in 1886 began a rival partnership with George Jones trading as Kay, Jones & Co of Worcester.

In 1890, the partnership had finished and but Kay changed the company name to Kay’s of Worcester. It’s first bound catalogue was published this year.

By the late 1890s, the catalogue was publishing twice each year.

Up until the Second World War, illustrations were drawn by in-house graphic artists but photographs gradually became ubiquitous in the designed spreads.

During the period of austerity following the war, and despite paper rations, Kays continued to publish catalogues and introduced easy payment terms

By the 1960s, Kays and Worcester had become synonymous as this cover from S/S 1963 attests.

The strikes of the 1970s were the incentive for Kays to start a transport fleet, White Arrow Express

In 1994 Kays celebrated its 200th anniversary. In 2000, Kays was part of the Argos Retail Group and by 2008 it formed part of the Littlewoods Shop Direct Group.

In 2007, Kays relocated to Liverpool with Shop Direct thus ending its association with Worcester.

In 2010, Kays merged with 2 other catalogues from the Shop Direct Group to create the new catalogue K and Co

CATALOGUES AND CONSUMERS

In ‘Fashion and Anxiety’ Alison Clarke and Daniel Miller argue that, although production processes may “appear to explain the ‘origins’ of clothing and styles” an “ethnography of shopping for clothes” allows consumers to report on how they use catalogues as a response to anxieties about shopping.

Read chapter: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/people/academic_staff/d_miller/mil-3

“The last three decades have seen a clear decline in what had become the traditional form of fashion authority that is an authoritative claim as to what fashion is for a given year in terms of lengths of skirts or colours of the season”.

“Individuals are frequently too anxious about the choices to be made to proceed without various forms of support and reassurance”.

SOME REASONS FOR USING CATALOGUES:

“Clothing catalogues are often used as less risky forms of purchase and knowledge accumulation used to mediate the transition from home to workplace culture”.

Catalogues “constitute a form of distanced objectivity as regards the navigation of a daunting and temporal fashion world … through which the vagaries of fashion have to some extent been filtered and processed”.

“women use the experimentation of trying on different clothing and ‘looks’ as a form of self-display and narcissism in which the boutique is incorporated as a stage”.

They can be “a rational form of budgeting”.

“The last three decades have seen a clear decline in what had become the traditional form of fashion authority that is an authoritative claim as to what fashion is for a given year in terms of lengths of skirts or colours of the season”.

John Berger The Suit and the Photograph

The availability and affordability of the suit in the early twentieth century means that almost all could wear it as a Sunday / fete outfit.

Economic logic means passed styles of fashion are often made to look odd but here it is the bodies that look absurd: ‘Their suits deform them‘

The working men’s bodies are developed by toil and they have a characteristic rhythm and gait.

Suit of the late nineteenth century becomes a ruling class uniform. It embodies sedentary power and was made for gestures of talking and calculating. It is distinct from the costume of the upper class (gestures of riding, hunting, dancing etc).

Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony helps reveal the contradictions between the suit and the working men’s bodies.

In the following quote, Berger constructs an argument about the men and their suits via Gramsci’s use of the Marxist theory of hegemony. 

Bullet point the main points.

Use these to help you arrive at a working definition of hegemony

‘Yet nobody forced peasants to buy suits, and the three on there way to the dance are clearly proud of them.  They wear them with a kind of panache.  This is exactly why the suit might become a classic and easily taught example of class hegemony. Villagers – and, in a different way, city workers – were persuaded to choose suits.  By pictures.  By the new mass media.  By salesmen.  By example.  By the sight of new kinds of travellers […]

The working class – but peasants were simpler and more naïve about it than workers – came to accept as their own certain standards of the class that ruled over them – in this case standards of chic and sartorial worthiness.  At the same time their very acceptance of these standards, their very conforming to these norms which had nothing to do with either their own inheritance or their daily experience, condemned them, within the system of those standards, to being always, and recognisably to the classes above them, second-rate, clumsy, uncouth, defensive.  That indeed is to succumb to a cultural hegemony.’

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was a Marxist thinker who used the term ‘hegemony’ to indicate the predominance of one social class over others. Such control is not just political or economic but the ability to dominate over others in ways of seeing the world. Thus taste, for example, becomes a matter of ‘common sense’ or ‘natural instinct’ to those subjugated to a way of seeing the world through the eyes of the dominant class. Since taste appears to be subjective, Nowell-Smith points out that domination involves a willing and active consent (Geoffrey Nowell-Smith in Alvarado, Manuel & Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Eds.): Media Education: An Introduction. London: BFI/Open University  1992: 51).

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