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Fashion as Communication Essay

For this week’s task I had to read a quite difficult extract from ‘Fashion as Communication’ by Malcolm Barnard about how fashion is regarded in today’s society, whether it is trivial or not and highlighting how important it is in today’s economy. The first idea exposed is that fashion is ‘fit only for the intellectually disenfranchised’, suggesting that everyone working in the fashion industry lacks intelligence. Having chosen to study Fashion Marketing I completely disagree with this statement, but I am fully aware of the prejudices held against it. When I decided to pursue this course I realized most people did not consider Fashion Marketing a serious career, but the truth is that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to succeed in this industry and most people do not understand what it really entails. What struck me most was a quote from a letter in The Guardian’s Women’s page arguing that ‘fashion is irrelevant to serious minded persons’.

As Anna Wintour says in The September issue ‘Just because you like to put on a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress or a pair of J Brand blue jeans instead of something basic from K-Mart it doesn’t mean that you’re a dumb person’ and even if you make a choice that you think completely leaves you out of the fashion industry, you are nevertheless engaging with it. Fashion is a way of expressing yourself; people will judge you on what you are wearing so if you want to be seen as a ‘serious-minded person’ you will have to look like one, thus making fashion relevant. Barnard then goes on to present a counter argument by saying that ‘fashion seems to be inevitable, given the social and economic organization of most of the world’, which is true, fashion is everywhere, everyone is influenced by it and it hugely contributes to the global economy.

In addition to this ‘fashion is a product of a society with more than one class in it where upward movement between classes is both possible and desirable’, there is a market for every level of the social structure, from value to luxury, which have been developed because the elite cannot wear the same as everybody else. Fashion is thus a way of claiming social status and it creates a social mobility that could not otherwise be accessed.

Fashion is an industry based on creating a need where there is none and nowadays, due to the current recession, I can understand that fashion may not be people’s biggest concern. But we cannot qualify it as ‘trivial’ since we are surrounded by it; each new generation of customers is highly exposed to commercial influences. As I have seen through the text this industry ‘covers increasingly large parts of the world’ and its role on today’s economic organization and modern culture is just too important to qualify fashion as ‘trivial’. In my opinion people despise it or mock it because they don’t understand it or feel excluded from this world.

Barnard, M. (1996) Fashion as Communication 1st ed. Routledge pp 17-18


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