- The fashion industry and media as a popular culture
- How did the fashion media develop into a popular culture?
- Characteristics of print fashion media as a popular culture
- Modern aspects of the fashion media
- Modern consumer behaviour and its impact on fashion media
- Financial crisis and the impact on print media
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Print media has been the most powerful pathway for the transmission of fashion, fashion designs and other elements of the fashion industry. In fact, fashion magazines have been the key to the fashion industry (Stone, 2004). For several centuries, the fashion industry has increasingly taken the modern advantage of technological advancements in printing.
In turn, technological advancements have turned the industry into a major consumer of print technology. Nevertheless, towards the end of the 20th century, the fashion industry made a major trend by incorporating the internet (Stone, 2004). Since 2000, the fashion industry has experienced the influence of internet revolution.
Thousands of readers are migrating from print to online media. According to Kansara (2009a), readers are increasingly getting access to the free and abundant information available online. Moreover, according to Kansara (2009b), advertisers are also pulling out of the printing industry. Advertisers are the main source of revenues in print magazines (Hill, 2004).
Their migration from the print media (fashion magazines) to online magazines and blogs has left print magazines in a poor state. This state is actually forcing them out of business (Kansara 2009b). The situation worsened between 2008 and 2010 during the global economic crisis. For instance, major fashion companies were adversely affected by the crisis- major fashion and luxury titles declining significantly (Ovide & Adams, 2009).
According to Clifford (2009), renowned fashion publishers such as Conde Nast had their performances declining by 2009, a factor that worried many in the industry. In fact, Clifford (2009) asserts that the problem persuaded most people to evaluate the fashion industry within the context of migration from print to digital media.
Since then, major printers have resolved to increase their efforts towards digitalizing their business, which, with no doubt, is killing the print media (Keen, 2008). Currently, many print magazines are still circulating every year. Nevertheless, the value, volume and significance of the printed materials in the fashion industry are reducing (Stone, 2004).
Two important aspects of the digital world are worth discussion as a cause of the decline- the economics of print media versus digital media and the change of consumer preference from print media to digital media in the fashion industry. Therefore, the statement “print media is dead” seems to be true as far as the state of the migration is concerned.
The fashion industry and media as a popular culture
According to Storey (1997), a popular culture is simply defined as the culture that is widely appreciated and favoured or liked by many people and organizations. Storey asserts that such a quantitative index is the one that meets the approval of many parties. To provide an example, Storey argues that such objects as books, DVDs and CDs are part of a popular culture.
Within the context of media and the fashion industry, the print magazine presents a popular culture because they have enjoyed a wide appreciation and approval of many people across the globe (Albertazzi & Cobley 2010). In addition, fashion is a part of a culture that has been popular since ancient times. From Storey’s definition of popular culture, it is worth taking fashion media as a form of popular culture that has grown significantly with the development of media technologies since 1670s.
How did the fashion media develop into a popular culture?
To answer this question, it is necessary to review the presentation of fashion magazine and its historical context. According to Barker (2000), the first fashion magazine started in France in 1672, appearing under the title “Mercure Galant”. The magazine, which was printed in Paris, provided the public with information on the latest clothing styles. It quickly became popular throughout Western Europe.
By 1677, Louis XIV authorised the publisher to produce the magazine on a monthly basis as a way of enlightening the minds of his cabinet (Kondratiev 2010). At first, the magazine presented fashions in the form of drawings. However, with increasing popularity of the media, the publisher started producing issues of “Mercure Galant” with photographic representations of fashions.
In the 20th century, the magazine, together with others that had sprung up in the 19th and 20th centuries, used sophisticated print and photography innovations to deliver real presentations of fashion. The fashion media combined fashion and art. Later, the magazine included short articles written by artists. Therefore, a new era of fashion was born. It became a popular culture in the western world.
According to Bailey and Seock (2008), the most successful and long-lasting player in the fashion media is the “Vogue Magazine”, which was first printed in 1892 in the US. The magazine quickly gained popularity in the US and Europe because it had a high degree of duality. In fact, the Vogue delivered information on the latest trends in fashion. It combined fashion with art and photography (Bailey & Seock 2008).
After the Second World War, fashion media expended significantly due to changes in perceptions towards women and feminine priorities. In fact, fashion styles became more and more dynamic- the cycles of change from one fashion to another became a common phenomenon. Women became the main target- most of the magazines contained large volume of information on the latest and expected feminine fashions.
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Secondly, by 1960s, the magazines had started targeting young people, including teenagers. In fact, teenagers had a greater desire and purchasing power for fashions. In addition, they had their own styles. It was also during this era that numerous fashion magazines emerged and became popular in Europe and America, including the Elle, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Marie Claire, Glamour, InStyle and Grazia.
Characteristics of print fashion media as a popular culture
According to Fiske (1989), a culture is the social circulation of pleasures, values and meanings to the process of forming social identities and relationships and the process of entering into the daily life. On the other hand, Fiske (1989) defines the term “popular” as ‘…statistically what is most renowned or appealing to most people or institutions’.
Moreover, Fiske argues that “popular” serves the interest of the people. It is worth noting that the term “people” is used in reference to a shifting set of social positions and interests defined by their relations to the prominent society. From these definitions, Fiske defines popular culture as a culture of conflicts and resistances that involve a struggle to make meanings, values and pleasures to those people without power.
The conflict and opposition between the class of people with power and those without describe “popular culture”. It is evident that fashion media is a form of popular culture for a number of reasons. For instance, fashion magazines are made for the purpose of advertisement, which ensures that the corporate (the class with power), connects with the consumers (those without power).
It is also evident that fashion magazines develop a relationship between the two social groups. Conflicts and oppositions between people with power and those without it define this relationship. For example, the consumers need to have adequate information on fashion trends and latest designs. They also want to know the future of clothing styles.
On the other hand, the corporate want to “own” the mindsets of their consumers. They compete with each other over the control of their consumers. Using fashion magazines, the designers seek to control the readers and outdo their desire to know the future of clothing styles. The development of this system of relationships between the two sides has produced a popular culture that has become a part of the modern society.
The wide range of fashion magazines that have emerged over the last century has become a part of the mass media, but they seek to convey information on fashions and fashion design. The definition of fashion media is not complete without a reference to fashion magazine because magazines have been the dominant feature in fashion communication.
According to Blackman (2006), fashion magazine is “the printed publication that seeks to provide information and news on the latest trends in fashion”. Noteworthy, the definition also refers to the publications that are issued monthly. It further incorporates advertisements, articles and information on such things as clothing, forecast on fashions, cosmetics and other accessories related to fashion.
Another definition, given by Brian Moeran in his essay “More than just a fashion magazine”, sees fashion magazine as a sociologically interesting material with two aspects- cultural product and commodities (Moeran 2006). Fashion magazines tend to deliver information on experiential and models of behaviour that reflects the lives of the readers and their ideal self (Blackman 2006). As commodities, fashion magazines belong to the publishing world and are a popular advertising and sales medium.
Modern aspects of the fashion media
As described in the introduction part of the essay, the modern fashion media is a sophisticated industry that is currently experiencing tremendous changes that affect both the consumer and the publishers. Technological changes and the internet are the main factors that cause changes in the fashion media. The invention of the internet in 1990s and its presentation to the public was one of the major breakthroughs in the history of communication.
The internet has given consumers the opportunity to break the geographical barrier and transform their relationships with remote individuals and communities. In the modern context, the idea is to perceive the world as a web of social, cultural, economic and political interconnections enhanced by technologies that facilitate timely delivery of information.
Therefore, this is the philosophy behind the World Wide Web and digital communication. Information and data overload have resulted from the presence of a huge amount of information crated and used by consumers. It further defines the modern communication. In the fashion industry, the consumer of information has been one of the most affected groups after the invention of the internet.
Modern consumer behaviour and its impact on fashion media
The Web 2.0 is the rebirth of the internet technology as a social medium that allows free interaction between people and groups (Kansara 2009). It is no longer a one-way communication because it allows people to interact with each other and share information on various issues affecting communities and individuals.
In fact, the modern aspect of the internet technology has allowed a consumer-generated content, which means that consumers share information and opinions regarding products, services, brands companies and other issues using social networks, websites and blogs. It has also enhanced a two-way communication between consumers and producers.
Consumers are no left out of major decision-making processes in industries. In fashion media, the industry had set its business model as a profit-maker through printing. Therefore, profits are a crucial element for the survival of the print magazine. Magazines must fetch and attract a large audience if they are to make profits. However, Web 2.0 has brought significant changes in this model.
For instance, whereas the print magazines sought to “lock-in” customers by proving to be the product with the most useful information about fashion, the internet has facilitated the springing up of thousands of websites. Customers are free to visit these websites from their remote locations, which gives them the ability to make decisions when purchasing clothes.
Secondly, bloggers in the fashion industry are not mere internet users, but fashion consumers with a high interest in fashion. In the modern context, bloggers attend fashion shows and post pictures, photos and video clips with information on the latest fashion and fashion trends.
The Web 2.0 has produced a number of effects on the fashion industry due to the above-mentioned aspects. First, it has created and enhanced knowledge through information sharing. Considering the observation “knowledge is power”, it is clear that the internet has empowered consumers in the fashion industry. Consumers have taken the position of media professionals in the fashion industry by assuming the role of fashion journalists.
This is a critical situation because even the print magazines have to develop their own websites in order to interact with consumers. On the other hand, they have to endure criticism and enjoy appraisal from the consumer and consumer groups. In the modern context, media companies without websites and interactive platforms to engage consumers in dialogue have little chances of succeeding because consumers have the freedom to visit other websites that allow dialogue and socialization.
In fact, by just posting comments and suggestions on media websites, an armature becomes a professional. Consumers have assumed the role of fashion journalists, which gives them the power to examine publishers from all points of view. They gain the potential to publish both true and false information about companies. Publishers of fashion magazine must engage consumers in productive dialogue to avoid false information being posted on websites because it may destroy their reputations.
Print media cannot provide such platforms. It relies on company websites. Therefore, this aspect is affecting print materials in the fashion industry. In addition, consumers are increasingly creating websites and blogs to expose their feelings and opinions about fashion, designs and the fashion industry in general.
The amount of data available on the internet is impressively high. However, people tend to access this information and appreciate it with ease. Studies have shown that the internet-provided information is easily readable because it tends to be short and in the form of post messages. This means that the people’s ability to read information on print materials is on the decline.
In the fashion industry, this is a critical factor because the phenomenon has reduced the audience of the print magazine because people are migrating to the digitalised information. Since print magazines provide readable messages with junk information, consumers are increasingly opting to go for blogs, websites and social networks because they can find the information they need in the form of short messages and with large visual content.
Consumers tend to appreciate visual content (what they see) and shun written information (Schroeder 2004). Therefore, this factor is one of the issues that have contributed to the decline of the popularity of the printed fashion magazines. It is also worth noting that the fashion industry is concerned with consumer satisfaction. In fact, for a print media to improve its appreciation as a popular culture, it is necessary for it to retain its readers.
For example, consumers who read a magazine for the first time are likely to return to reading the same product again or failing to return based on whether there was an element of consumer satisfaction (Telsa 2010). If a fashion magazine did not satisfy the reader, it is likely that the reader will not return to read that particular magazine. He or she may not consider reading any other magazine.
The reader will look for an alternative source of information such as going for fashion exhibitions and shows. However, the internet-based fashion media has used this opportunity to capture and “lock-in” consumers. Since the internet supports multiple websites, blogs and social networks, a consumer who visits one of them is not likely to exit even if there is no satisfaction (Kansara 2009b). In fact, the consumer has the freedom to move from one site to another “with a click of a mouse”.
The internet seems to be the best alternative for consumers who are dissatisfied with the information presented by fashion magazines. However, the impact is that this aspect of the internet-based fashion media is the death of print media (Keen 2008).
Another important aspect of the online fashion media is the frequency of updating fashion consumers and the public in general. Whereas the print fashion magazines are issued once per month, the internet-based fashion media provides instant updates on fashion and trends in fashion. In fact, bloggers and online fashion magazines tend to compete with each other.
They are trying to outdo each other based on who provides the highest rate and frequency of updating their customers (Telsa 2010). Customers feel satisfied when they get instant updates. It eliminates the time needed to wait for the monthly updates. Digitalization of publishers is an issue that is inevitable in practice and discussion. Printers are feeling the need to ensure that they find a better way of interacting with their audience and responding to their requests.
Most of the requests made by consumers include the desire to get instant updates on the current trends and information (Telsa 2010). Obviously, the print media cannot provide instant updates. Therefore, a consumer will have to wait for the next issue of a fashion magazine. With the availability of large information and updates on the internet, consumers are compelled to migrate to the digital media.
Although this is a positive development for both consumers and the industry, a factor has contributed to the decline of the print fashion media. In fact, the desire to get timely updates has resulted into the migration from the print media to the digital media witnessed since 2000. Combined with other factors, it can be said to be one of the causes of the death of print media.
Financial crisis and the impact on print media
In addition to consumer behaviour, the frequency of economic problems in the modern world has contributed to the decline of the print media in the fashion industry (Clifford 2009). According to Brook (2009), the 2008-2010 global economic crises affected the print media. For instance, the number of fashion magazines printed in 2009 decreased significantly.
In addition, companies such as Vogue decided to increase the amount of information in their online publication due to the decreasing rate of reading in their print versions (Telsa 2010). In fact, it has been shown that some of the companies have decided to encourage online reading as a way of tackling the competition they face from independent bloggers, who have now assumed the role of fashion journalists (Clifford 2009).
In the fashion industry, print magazines have dominated the channels of fashion communication since 1670s. Therefore, print fashion magazines have become a popular culture in the world. However, the culture is experiencing technological changes. It is evident that the print media is slowly dying and its place taken by digital fashion media. A range of factors has contributed to the progressive death of print fashion media.
For instance, the digital migration has been motivated by the recent economic crisis, the easiness of information searching and communication provided by the internet, the availability of a wide volume of information, bulkiness of print media and the recent economic crisis.
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