Fashion and marketing have been around for centuries. Style is designed to change or keep up with the times, while marketing adapts to sell its product or service. Nowadays, we see this very same advertising strategy used by fashion brands, such as Ralph Lauren. Let’s unpack the synergy between fashion and marketing and their symbiotic relationship.
The history of fashion and marketing has been long
In ancient times clothing was used for protection against weather and insects or to signal status and class. As time went on, this was used as a form of communication in certain tribes. Later we see clothing used for protection from the elements and as a way to display wealth.
In the 17th century, with Western Europe emerging from feudalism into the age of enlightenment, clothing became more than just protective adornment. The upper class used it to convey information about their status and lifestyle choices, expressed through their selection of materials, colours and accessories. This also included the word common tongue and words with hidden meanings.
In the 19th century, marketing became more prominent through advertisements, which changed how fashion was marketed to a particular group of people. As product branding started to emerge with mass production, fashion illustrations were used for advertising clothing. This made it possible to distribute fashion drawings with an appeal to many consumers from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Using images allowed manufacturers to show their products in use instead of only being displayed on a pedestal or hanging on a mannequin. In addition, they could be easily replicated and distributed cheaply throughout Europe or America at a relatively low cost, making them accessible for many different people from various social classes.
Marketing and advertising
Since the dawn of marketing and fashion, they have constantly been evolving and adapting to keep up with the times and consumer demand. Marketing is now continually changing its format to attract potential customers. As we adapt to social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, images are being used more frequently than ever before for advertisement purposes.
As the world continues to change, so do our society’s views on what is considered fashionable or not. The environmental impact of fashion has become a growing concern for many throughout the years. The leading cause of this has been overconsumption due to supply outweighing demand within specific markets or geographical regions, as well as wasteful practices to produce cheap clothing. Currently, fashion production contributes an estimated 10% of total worldwide oil consumption and uses up to 20000 gallons of water per ton of fabric.
Responsible fashion has become one of the essential concerns in the fashion sector at this current time. It needs to be addressed by all major players within this market if it is going to continue being a profitable industry. The way we view our clothing from both an ethical and environmental standpoint is dramatically changing, which means that companies have had to change their marketing practices to adjust to these changes in consumer opinion.
As a result, more sustainable approaches are being introduced to create new products and fix the fashion industry’s wasteful parts. Although there have been various setbacks in greening certain aspects of manufacturing, such as dyeing textiles or using water-intensive production methods, many companies have been trying to create innovative ways to fix these problems, such as increasing recycling and reducing water use.
Influencers: A growing phenomenon in today’s society
The way we choose our clothing has become more environmentally conscious, with online shopping being a popular choice for this reason. It has allowed companies who create sustainable fashion brands a way into the market by making themselves known through word-of-mouth advertisement. Through social media platforms such as Instagram, influencers have been able to influence their followers by showing them products they buy or items similar to those they wear a lot. This can be seen through celebrities wearing certain clothes from ethical brands and tagging them on their posts, so others are aware that there are sustainable brands.
“A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.”
What makes clothing/fashion ‘cool’? The influence of social media on how individuals perceive what is and isn’t fashionable (trends). Consumers always want to keep up with the latest trends and often wear clothes that align with this idea.- Fashion/clothing itself is also a marketing tool used by companies to promote their brand or specific products. Companies can use this as part of their advertising campaign, therefore impacting consumers at a subconscious level. For example, certain celebrities may wear specific brands/styles which become “in”, and consumers will follow suit without even realising it themselves due to the influence of their idols.
Fashion and self-image
Although society’s views on what is acceptable to wear have evolved substantially throughout the years, some aspects of design remain problematic for some individuals who feel excluded based on their appearance. The way we look at specific types of clothing can also impact mental health as it can influence how we think about ourselves. If an individual feels like they don’t quite fit into societal ideas of attractiveness, this could decline self-esteem and harm mental health. The fashion industry itself has been responsible for reinforcing this concept. It often caters to those with certain body types that society deems as “perfect”, which can be a contributing factor in why so many individuals feel self-conscious about their appearance.
For example, the only plus-size models featured in advertising campaigns are usually portrayed as someone’s mother or sister and wearing clothes that hide their figure rather than show it off. In contrast, other brands use skinny models to advertise specific products regardless of the person behind the brand. This sends out a message that if you don’t look like one of these models, then your body isn’t desirable, causing negative feelings around these concepts from an early age, leading to adulthood.
On the other hand, there has been a massive push around body positivity which is known as the rejection of the idea that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of bodies. Social media platforms have played a significant role in this movement since many influencers now share their self-love/positive body image journey. They do it through various techniques, such as posting side by side photos showing their weight loss progress or creating videos about it. This way, they can relate with others who feel insecure about certain aspects of themselves and try to reassure them that they are beautiful just the way they are. Something that would’ve never happened without social media allowing these individuals to connect with people who go through similar experiences.
This idea has impacted marketing campaigns for many brands; some companies will show plus-size models in their advertisements, whereas others use different adverts, which help the individual feel comfortable wearing whatever they want regardless of what society thinks about it.
Beauty is after all in the eye of the beholder
Overall, marketing as a whole has played one of the most prominent roles in how we view fashion today. The way we receive information about what is fashionable has changed immensely since our ancestors’ time. It will continue to change throughout our society until there is no more progress left to make within this sector.
It is important to remember that fashion is for everyone and whether you feel comfortable wearing a crop top or not, you should never let what society thinks about your outfit affect the way you view yourself.