Friday, May 14, 2010


Looking at fashion as communication medium is looking at value sets. What people wear speaks to what they hold important. What does the red coat say? What does it communicate to the world? In Marx's terms, the coat represents use value, to provide warmth, but also more subjective mystical values, like aesthetics and status. The mystical values may mean one thing to the wearer, and another to the world, but normally there is an unspoken, shared understanding. Below a more lavish fur coat on male rapper 50 Cent, sends socially shared messages of indulgence and luxury. It also communicates the more abstract concept of "pimp," which has been built over time through social and media constructions of identity.

Clothing and accessories are signs. They represent values and we instantly understand the connotations. We do not have to discuss a crown to understand that power is suggested. Even in the feathered Native American crown below, we understand a sense of regality. But fashion designers, stylists and photographers play with established codes and enrich the story of human expression. The codes then are not fixed but in constant negotiation.

Some fashion speaks louder than others. This is most obvious in brands and advertising that literally shout verbal messages at the consumer.

The logotype is a fashion sign that sends a strong textual message and marks fashion territory. Brands and logos then are the most obvious form of fashion communication. They are meant to be clear and direct in order to be understood by the largest number of consumers so to increase sales.

The contrast to commercial fashion communication is experimental fashion design, as in Pierre Cardin below.

The message becomes so abstract that the number of people who understand the subtlety of the message decreases. The object still expresses values, though less use value and more mystical, aesthetic value to the point many consider it art. This is the realm of aesthetic appreciation in which chic is negotiated by the leaders in fashion who define the messages in fashion media for a larger audience.

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