‘Art and commerce, eliteand ordinary cultures, spaces, times, professional and amateur practices meetand intertwine in the field of the fashion media’ (Bartlett 2013:1). In thisessay I will be looking at how Fashion media has changed in form as well ascontent, throughout history encompassing so many influences as Bartlett pointsout. I will start off by looking into the rise and fall of Print Media and itsefforts to stay current, looking at the ways in which print reflected the timesthrough its medium as well as content. Then taking a digital shift, I will belooking into the rapid growth of the image medium as well as digital cultureand current social media platforms most popular for its involvement withfashion media. I will be focusing on the acceleration of our fashion time andquestioning where Fashion media is going next. Before the influence oftelevision and movies, let alone digital platforms and social media – fashionmagazines were solely responsible for spreading the Parisian fashion trendsaround the world (Christopher Brewerd).
Print media is the oldest and most wellestablished form of fashion media to date. Women as early as the 1700streasured magazines, taking inspiration from the sketches of the up-to-datedress and accessories to see what was going on in fashion at that time. Mostfashion ‘journals’ at the time, took the form of engraved illustrations,woodcuts and sketches of costumes and dress of the wealthiest Europeans. Movingon to the 1800’s Both Harpers Bazaar, founded in the United States in1867, and Vogue magazine, in 1892 were created to provide sketches andpatterns of fashion derived from Paris designs. Vogue was expresslydesigned to promote the superiority of French couture to an ‘increasinglywell-informed provincial and urban female readership eager for the latest newsof fashion’ (Blackman 2007: 6), to the elite American clientele who couldafford to buy the clothes, mirroring the simple, straightforward engagementbetween society and fashion at that time, magazines only purpose was to sell aproduct.
After the Industrial Revolutionin 19th century, development of the fashion magazineparalleled the development of the fashion industry from ‘a simple manufacturingto a culture industry’ (Breward 2003:115) due to printing technology and thecapacity to reach the masses. A rise of full-blown consumerism with theemergence of industrial capitalism swept across Europe, causing a greatermiddle class with ever increasing disposable income. ‘The ‘society ofconsumers’ stands for the kind of society that promotes, encourages or enforcesthe choice of a consumerist lifestyle and life strategy and dislikes allalternative cultural options’ (Bauman 2007:2). The changes in societiessuch as market demand, print technology, transportation systems, and financing’worked to place magazines in the hands of ever-greater numbers of readers. AsAmericans gained more leisure time and became more literate, they turned tomagazines for education and relaxation.’ (Zuckermann 1998:16).
Because ofthis, even the style of writing became more relaxed and informal, connectingmore to the readers, magazines were not used just to sell a product but moreand more to connect and educate their readers in such way, gaining devotedfollowers as well as their trust. In the 1850s/60s thefirst fashion photographs were created by Parisian fashion houses to documenttheir designs. US Vogue was ‘the first magazine in which fashion photographywas the norm rather than the exception’ (Cunnington 2010:156). As well as the first photographic cover for a magazine shot byEdward Steichen, (a Luxembourgish American photographer) for US Vogue in1932.
Photography, this new source of fashion media ‘allowed for thevocalization of aspiration and lifestyle messages’ instead of ‘documentingfashion’. Its shifting aesthetic demonstrates shifts in ideas of fashion inrelation to gender, class, bodies and culture throughout the 20th andearly 21st century. Publisher Condé Nast thought fashionillustrators were too interested in exploring their own ‘artistic aims’ and notfaithfully show casing the clothes, which he believed the readers wanted tosee. Magazines were a staple of communicationand culture in the 1950s and considered to be the height of print. Televisionwas new, therefore print media was a main source of leisure as well as the waymost people kept up to date with the current trends and world events. Howeverdue to the times, it was a less globalised world, there for fashion and themedia surrounding it wasn’t so quick.
There were no computers there foreeverything was done manually, taking around four months to produce one issue. Niche magazines began toexpand in the 90s including art photographers, which further blurred thedistinctions between the commercial sphere and art, blurring the distinctionbetween art/fashion, celebrating independent labels/aesthetics, and ignoringmainstream fashion trends. This collapse of former divisions should be seen inrelation to postmodernism (Cotton 2000; Kismaric and Respini 2008).
Indeed, the’erosion of the older distinction between high culture and so-called popularculture’ (Jameson 1985: 112) is one of the key features ascribed to postmoderntheory on contemporary culture, reflecting a new form of contemporary visual andpopular culture. Asproduction of consumer goods kept increasing and became more readily available,the need to educate and inform themarket increased, and so did the desire to consume. ‘Fashion becamepart of the popular consciousness, and the mass manufacture of clothing enabledit to become part of popular culture’ (Wilson 2013: 157) Dressingfashionably as a popular mass phenomenon and as a leisure activity wasinfluenced by other leisure activities like cinema, sport, music, television -which all influenced different styles of dress. ‘Journalism, advertising and photography have acted as the masscommunication hinges joining fashion to the popular consciousness'(Wilson 2013: 157) Since theearly 90’s ‘The rise of digital culturehas caused readerships to shrink’ (Jamieson 2015: 7) and mainstreammagazine (eg Teen Vogue now publishing quarterly, magazines like The Face,Arena and more Recently Glamour all closed down) are struggling to stay afloatdue to the rise of digital culture in the late 20th and early 21stcentury.
Advertisers moved business online, as it’s cheaper and are even reachingmore consumers. However, there aremore independent magazine titles on offer than ever before as digitaltechnologies have created a demand formaterial objects that can be kept and treasured – in distinction to thefast moving digital environment. ‘Traditional print publishing … is increasingly presenting its products asvaluable objects and collector’s items, by exploiting the physical and tactilequalities of paper’ (Ludovico 2012: 154). Ten-twenty new publicationslaunched per month, according to Jeremy Leslie of magCulture.com and digitaltechnologies have made it easier topublish magazines (eg getting it printed, reaching suppliers and sellingsubscriptions).
‘The printed page hasbecome more valuable, less expendable’ (Ludovico 2012: 29). Magazinesare experimenting with the over all look: formatting, binding, paper stock,size and shape of magazine, producing long articles and photo essays withlimited edition runs, focusing more on the appearance of the magazines, turningthem more into collectibles. In addition, advertising is specially created(i.e. The Gentlewoman and American Apparel) either very minimal, selectivelycurated, or completely absent, relying on cover price or crowd funding to keep thebusiness afloat.
This allows for modes of readership that digital media doesnot (slow reading, collage and tearing out, annotating, referring back toetc.) ‘The printed page, with its senseof unhurried conclusiveness, allows the reader to pause, to reflect, to take notes'(Ludovico 2012: 29). None the less print’srole as the up-to-date communicator of news has been superseded by new media,and the decline and efforts to resist are evident.
The traditional role of print is unmistakeably being threatened by thenew digital world; but it is also, paradoxically, being revitalised'(Ludovico 2012: 7) The death of print has been frequently acknowledged sincethe beginning of the 20th century and ‘essentially, any new mediumalways claims to possess characteristics superior to those of printed paper,and thus to be in a position to potentially supplant it’ (Ludovico 2012: 8-9).Magazines now look to advertisers, web content, TV networks, and productlicensing much more to stay alive as well as constantly revamping their styleto increase interest and public attention. For example, Edward Enninful beingappointed as the new editor of British Vogue, switching up and bringing new,exciting and relevant content to the magazine focusing on important yet populartopics such as diversity, race and gender representation which will defiantlygain readership, resisting and holding back the decline of print.
In the mid 1990s therewas a shift in the way fashion was mediated, a digital turn which changed thepath for fashion media forever. The first fashion websites Vogue.comappeared in 1995 (as well as Net-a-porter (2000); SHOWstudio (2000);DazedDigital (2006) in the following years). Fashion Media relating to the timewas a less globalised world, therefore fashion websites ‘becomekey platforms for the circulation of fashion discourse’ Rocamora (2015:86) around the world, posting content on the seasons runway shows and stylefrom the top fashion capitals around the world, updated every few days,speeding up the amount of information people received then ever before as therewas no time needed for print, therefore increasing the pace of Fashion.
Following swiftly after this, the rise of the first fashion blogs appeared in 2001, as well as first personal style blogs in 2004. Bloggerslike Kathryn Finny, Bryan Grey Yambao of BryanBoyand Susanna Lau of Susie Bubble along with many others created a more relaxed andin depth style and a new doorway into the fashion industry. A few years afterthey launched their blogs, they were seen attending New York Fashion weeks,giving the idea and sense that anyone can do it, creating the beginning of asocial breakthrough in Fashion. As Social media began to increase so did theability for more and more peoples voice’s to be heard, especially in Fashionand the Arts.
The release of smartphoneswith cameras in early 2002, taken up more widely in 2005 with release ofphones with autofocus and flash made images a significant and readily accessibletool as well as a gateway into the communication of Fashion Media. Tied to fashion’s preferred way ofcommunicating its product: through visual means (eg illustration, photography)as well as intertwining into blogs and how people read online, ‘online readers allocate short fragments oftime to each text they engage with, favouring a swift movement through webpages … often being very short, blog posts allow for such swift movements on-and offline and for the rapid flicking through of information’ (Rocamora2014: 88). Due to a need for shorter, faster and more instant onlinecommunication, this became the start of the rise of social media today. Between2003-4 My Space and Facebook, two of the biggest social media and image sharingplatforms launched.
However, neither took off for Fashion, and as the on goingdevelopment of personal devices increased, they became dated for youngeraudiences. The increase of camera qualities in phones enabled the emergence of media platforms that privilegethe image. Instagram launched in the summer of 2010, an internet-based image drivenapplication that allows consumers to share pictures and videos either publicly,or privately to their followers. Theapp has been rapidly embraced by fashion brands and ‘influencers’ imaging theirproduct/themselves for visual consumption. Instagram revolutionised the way inwhich fashion is mediated, allowing anyone, anywhere, of any race, ethnicity orreligion to suddenly have a platform and compete to be a voice. Breaking allboundaries, Instagram enhanced and intensified the effects of globalization in thefashion industry by connecting the masses.
This gavein rise to Insagram celebrities, suddenly many different platforms rose tofame, gathering enormous amounts of followings and dedicated fans, which woulddo and essentially buy whatever the platforms told them. This lead toinfluencers collaborating with brands, and advertising their products on theirbehalf. Lately, Instagram has now created a setting for paid sponsorships,linking to one’s images, Instagram influencers are now earning a living byposting images of subjects they enjoy. Consuming visual constantly and therelentless circulation of images instantaneity ‘has become… a dominant value society is striving for’ (Rocamora2014: 84). On top of posting images, many Instagram influencers opt forcreating moving image posts, using Instagram stories or Snapchat, anotherpopular social media platform used to promoted fashion media nowadays.
Videosand other styles of moving image such as boomerangs and gifs tend to have aneffect of friend to friend marketing. Even though influencers are advertising aproduct, which is initially a job and gaining them income, an influencer has togain trust of their audience in order to sell, videos are a way in which aninfluencer can show a more “vulnerable” side and begin to relate to theiraudience, growing their following. ‘Theflow of posts replicates the flow of goods, with the posts and goods of todaypromised to be rapidly overtaken, out-fashioned by newer arrivals that freezetime, and fashion, online into a perpetual present’ (Rocamora 2014: 90).
In fashion-oriented media, the flow ofgoods is given significance through branding. The brand selling the product, or in thiscase the person (blogger/influencer) imaging it – symbolically links theproduct and the image, tying the consumer goods into the image of theinfluencer and what s/he represents. Instagrams ease of networking, beingconnected to brands and its easy accessibility truly reflects the times inwhich it was created.
Rocamoraargues that time as a concept in the field of fashion is being redefined: we’reseeing the emergence of ‘a new timedefined by the speeding up of the circulation of material and symbolic goods'(Rocamora 2014: 80). The increasing of fastfashion, and sped up media cycle as now ‘the rapid flow of commodities has been paralleled by an increasinglyrapid flow of immaterial fashions’ (Rocamora 2014: 86). An increase ofthe sense of fluidity and rapidity, through hypertext and hyper links allow amovement across websites and images, one can see fashion’s constant change ‘mirrored in the rapid renewal of posts andthe endless replacing of one site by another that links enable'(Rocamora 2014: 89).
One is constantly fed hundreds of different images andinformation a day, on any subject matter one is interested in. Our society has gone from beingexposed to about 500 images/ads a day in the 1970’s to as much as 5,000 images a day today, everyblank space is filled with some kind of brand logo or advertisements and ourmind is constantly bombarded, questioning as to where the future of fashiongoing? In conclusion it has become evident that fashion media reflects thetimes in which it was created, in terms of medium as well its content. The riseof social media will continue to break boundaries of the way Fashion media isexhibited, pushing and increasing the speed of fashion media’s communication andglobalisation to higher heights.
More dated platforms of fashion media such asPrint need to make more of an effort to stay up to date and relevant with thechanging times, and our modern economy. I believe readers don’t read content theway magazines intend them to. People don’t want undeviating articles andinformation following a structured theme but instead access to a wide varietyof articles and photos from many different sources. From there, we canlook around and read what truly inspires and interests us, curating our ownexperience.
Magazines are still insisting to express to us what should beimportant, however this goes against everything our modern society believes in. We don’t want to be told what to like or how to act anymore, we can dothat on our own. Therefore, magazines need to become part of theconversation and stop trying to forcefully lead it. In a culturedominated my images, fashion media feeds this popular desire to regenerateourselves constantly through images and their connotations, images have becomeso integral to our lives, they are our witness our fashion identity and awitness of the real, ‘Photography’s vauntedcapture of a moment in time is the seizure and freezing of presence.
It is theimage of simultaneity, of the way that everything within a given space at agiven moment is present to everything else; it is a declaration of the seamlessintegrity of the real’. RosalindE. Krauss.