Fashion and marketing
Fashion—styles and trends in clothing and accessories—is an important part of our culture and economy. The fashion system is a term used to describe everything that is part of fashion—its art and craft, business and industry, production and consumption, and the language and imagery it uses.
The evolution of modern fashion and a modern fashion industry has depended on the development of technologies that have made possible mass production in factories, mass distribution using trains and planes, and mass consumption through retail outlets such as department stores and boutiques.
At the most basic level the fashion industry involves the production of fashion goods, sales, and promotion. This includes a very wide range of processes, stages, practices, and jobs which are carried out in research, design, manufacturing, advertising, public relations, brand development, distribution, marketing, retailing, merchandising, and customer relations. The fashion industry includes a very wide variety of businesses, from high-street retailers to leading fashion houses and from one person start-ups to huge global brands.
‘Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’ (The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2016). Marketing includes the activities which help businesses to develop, promote, and sell products to customers. Modern marketing was made possible by the development of mass production, distribution, and advertising in the middle of the 20th century.
The fashion marketing cycle
Above all marketing is about communication. While it is helpful to talk about a marketing cycle with distinct stages, remember that in practice these will all be taking place at the same time for a fashion marketer.
In the first stage (analysis), market and marketing research make use of sales tracking data, fashion forecasting, trend analysis, surveys and focus groups, the examination of media coverage, and customer profiling to identify market opportunities. This stage of the marketing cycle focuses on defining products, brands, and potential customers.
In the second stage (planning), the development of a marketing strategy draws on all of this information to target particular segments of the market, whether these are existing customers or new markets.
In the third stage (action), marketing tactics focus in more detail on what products to offer at what price and where they will be promoted. Marketing communications, campaigns, and advertising are used to develop these.
In the final stage (measurement), the performance of strategies is analyzed in order to assess their success. Sales, consumer behavior, customer feedback, media coverage, and web analytics all provide ways of measuring the marketing strategy and these inform the research which marks the start of the next marketing cycle.
Promotional activities include the use of fashion shows by designers to show their collections to customers and to the media.
Fashion shows date from the early 20th century, later becoming a regular part of the fashion calendar. They have become increasingly spectacular, with music, models, and catwalks and an audience of clients, buyers, journalists, bloggers, fashion figures, and celebrities.
Increasingly fashion promotion has taken the form of branding. Promotional activities are used to establish brand recognition and reputation. It has become important to consider which marketing channels to use or to adopt multi-channel marketing, using a mix of print, broadcast and online advertising, catwalk shows, and visual merchandising. It is also becoming more common to employ an omni-channel strategy to ensure a seamless experience for the customer.
Debenham & Freebody advertisement A Debenham & Freebody advertisement from 1905 for new autumn fashions in hats, jackets, and golfing jerseys, showing the prices.
A ‘brand’ is anything that is used to distinguish one business from another in order to express its character and distinctiveness. According to Jean-Noel Kapferer (2012), a brand consists of a number of facets including its ‘personality’, the culture of the business, and its relationship with its customers.
The fashion landscape
Fashion and fashion shopping have been transformed since the beginning of the 21st century. Luxury brands have become more profitable and visible, and they have also become more accessible through their collaborations with the high street. There have been moves towards cheap, disposable ‘fast fashion’ and copies of designer garments, but at the same time there is also a concern with developing long-lasting and environmentally-friendly clothing, ethical fashion, and forms of ‘eco chic’.
Fashion designers are increasingly important cultural figures. They are the subject of blockbuster exhibitions, such as ‘Savage Beauty’, commemorating Alexander McQueen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2015. The stories of designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel are turned into documentaries and full-length feature films.
Other kinds of celebrities—performers, musicians, and actors—have also become prominent within fashion, on the covers of magazines, in advertising campaigns, and on the front rows of catwalk shows. Some celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham, have created their own fashion lines and become famous because of their personal style.
Donatella Versace Donatella Versace at the ‘Versace for H&M’ launch in London in 2011.
The Beckhams, Anna Wintour, and Julia Gorden The Beckhams, Anna Wintour, and Julia Gorden at the Burberry ‘London in Los Angeles’ event in 2015.
‘Savage Beauty’ A preview photocall for the Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015.
The changing landscape
There are also more crossovers between the worlds of fashion, art, film, and TV. Some design houses have opened their own art galleries, funded major art exhibitions, or asked artists to create fashion merchandise for them.
Shows like Sex in the City and Mad Men and films like The Great Gatsby have provided inspiration for fashion looks while reality shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians have be...