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What Is The Role Of Fashion Promotion Within The Fashion Industry, And How Will It Develop In The Next Five Years?

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What is the Role of Fashion Promotion Within the Fashion Industry, and how will it develop in the next five years?

I am going to write about what the role of fashion promotion is within the fashion industry and discuss how it might develop in the next five years. To do this I shall review what fashion promotion is by defining it and finding out how, when and where it started. To understand what fashion promotion really is in a contemporary context I shall broadly look at how it is used and what many forms it has taken since the beginning up until the present day.

To look at how fashion promotion may develop in the next five years I shall analyse and critique specific examples in more detail, such as finding out how these specific types of fashion promotions are used, by whom and for what purposes. I shall discuss the benefits and shortcomings and compare and contrast the examples to extract the implications of their usage. It is difficult to predict fashion's future but researching its history and development, identifying reasons why and how things have happened to make it what it is today, and analysing the pace at which it is developing, will help us to think about and envisage where fashion may progress in the next five years.

Designers and manufacturers design and produce garments; promoters and communicators then deal with the next steps, such as: image concept or brand to either an audience or market. The Oxford English Dictionary states that fashion is "a popular trend, especially in dress" and "the production and marketing of new styles of clothing and cosmetics." It states that promotion is an "activity that supports or encourages", "the publicizing of a product or celebrity", "(promotions) the activity or business of organizing such publicity" and "elevation to a higher position or rank".

Fashion Promotion comes in many forms: in the past designers promoted their own work in modern day plays; as this was a good method to show their designs to people of the time who had money. Before this, soirees took place in stores; chairs would be put out & people would come and watch the shows inside the shop; this still happens today for instance Topshop will put on a catwalk of their latest collection inside their flagship store on Oxford Street.

(19/10/06 Topshop Vogue Catwalk inside Topshop Flagship Store)

However contemporary fashion shows are as much about being seen at the event as they are about what is being shown on the catwalk. The audience wants to feel important and exclusive and the front row seats show status. There is also more press coverage now about the clothes themselves, which is the reason why designers make extreme and un-wearable clothes. "Current fashion participates in an economic system that is developing very differently from its nineteenth-century origins, which pioneered the techniques of retail and advertising to promote the garment. Now the fashioned garment circulates in a contemporary economy as part of a network of signs, of which the actual garment is but one." (Bruzzi S. & Church Gibson P. (eds). 2000. P.96)

We need to understand the fashion industry's cyclical nature in each historical period and its technical development to see how fashion promotion has developed into the forms existing today. Changes in women's influence and power, money supply, changing tastes and interests in sports, shapes, and ongoing cultural issues and events such as terrorism and the continuing war in Iraq, mood in society and culture reflected in exhibitions and music have all had an impact on fashion today as have similarly powerful factors throughout history. They are the backdrop to the story of how fashion has become what it is today. Therefore to predict where it might be going in the next five years we should look at when events like those in the past that affected fashion may occur again and what effects they might have next time round.

Illustrators and editorials were the dominant media communicating the fashions until technology developed and other media such as photography became more common. Photography can tell us a story of periods in history; "fashion photography constitutes a historical document that offers us evidence of the practices and ideals of a given period" (H.Radner (2000) in S.Bruzzi & P.Church Gibson Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations & Analysis, London: Routledge, pp. 128-134). In the 1940's photos were very staged, prim and proper and the models were the children of the rich of that time, by the 50's there were some social changes such as more disposable wealth, to which the fashion industry responded by having studio lit photographs and beginning to move away from static, manikin style shots. By the 60's subject and style went under transformation as a result of changes during the post Second World War era and the revolution of the 'single girl' began. Fashion photography started to be shot outside with the model often walking or running to show that she is 'active'.

(Ruth Orkin, American Girl in Italy, 1951)

Fashion isn't fixed: it follows a repetitive cycle, which is moving so fast that cyclical ideas are being used up too quickly. In response, brand new ideas and concepts are being invented. The growth in virtual space means knowledge spreads faster, ideas are downloaded and lower designers take them before higher designers who came up with the designs get it into their own store, which is one reason why fashion is becoming cheaper. Boundaries between higher and lower level brands are becoming blurred as is the distinction between classes.

Celebrities will now buy into the lower market, which would have never happened in the past. For example super model Kate Moss, who stars for designer brands such as Burberry, Dior, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein jeans and Versace, now has her own collection at high street store Topshop, and will be seen wearing both designer and high street goods herself. "Moss is a long-time fan of the store and has always shopped there - mixing in cheaper pieces with the rest of her ultra-stylish wardrobe" (telegraph Kate Moss: Topshop's new muse 20/09/2006). Topshop is a prime example of how fashion promotion and marketing can completely re-brand an image of brand so that it stands out from other stores on the high street; it was described as "the most creative store on the British high street if not the world" (telegraph Kate Moss: Topshop's new muse 20/09/06).

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