How Does Fashion Express Identity in Modern Cities Essay

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Capitalism's Affects On Fashion, Consumption And Choices In The Modern, Urban Context

"Fashion provides one of the most ready means through which individuals can make expressive visual statements about their identities."

~Bennett, 2005, "Culture and Everyday Life"

The paper will creates and applies an interpretation of the above statement within the context of the modern, urban environment. The paper contends that capitalism has a series of multi-layered affects upon urban inhabitants. Capitalism affects the fashion choices of people who live in large cities, including affects upon urban residents' consumption behaviors, and their individual choices for fashion, and thus, affecting the consumptive behaviors and choices for individuals' means of visual, expressive statements about their identities. The paper will explore these affects and how big city capitalism specifically creates a dreamy, surreal, or hyperreal, marketing landscape, leading (or luring) customers toward luxury products that diminish uniqueness, rather than promote it. The paper shows how a long-term affect on residents in areas of big city capitalism is the degradation or erosion of distinctive identities and the generation of identities that are more materialistic, less authentic, and resembling dreamy images of mass fashion.

The following paper is a discussion of the above quotation. The paper will consider this statement in relation to ideas of globalization and postmodernism. Though only one statement, there are a few parts to the idea it expresses and the paper will examine each. The first section of the statement, "Fashion provides one of the most ready means…" This section implies that fashion has multiple functions. From the consumer perspective, the functions of fashion may be quite different from the functions of fashion from the perspective of designer, manufacturer, and distributor. There are many uses for fashion, and there are multiple perspectives from which to consider fashion. Since the implied perspective is from that of the customer, we can infer that one of the uses for fashion, from this perspective, is to serve as "one of the most ready means through which individuals can make expressive visual statements about their identities." The author of the statement sees that one of the functions of fashion, from the perspective and experience of the consumer, is for it to function as a method of expression. Fashion, in this respect, is a form of communication, perhaps falling under the category of non-verbal communication.

Fashion is a non-verbal way that individual consumers to express themselves visually. Fashion communicates statements about individuals in an expressive and visual manner. The non-verbal communications that fashions provide individuals are statements regarding their identities. Fashion is a form of expressive and visual communication for consumers to demonstrate a range of character traits with which they identify superficially, to fundamentally. Meaning, fashion can express aspects of a person that are surface elements of who he/she is, and fashion can additionally express aspects about a person that are deep. This is the function of fashion upon which the paper focuses. The above textual analysis is how this reader interprets the quotation. The paper will go on to consider this interpretation of the statement within the conceptual contexts of capitalism and globalization. The paper contends that latest print advertisements for fashion clearly demonstrates essential characteristics of postmodernism. The paper illustrates key components to the postmodern philosophy and how those characteristics translate into many forms of media and aesthetics, such as in the case of advertisements, fashion, and capitalism in big cities.

The human relationship to knowledge undergoes great change or shift that directly corresponds to the advent of specific media and communication technologies within the postmodern condition. There is increased awareness within the consumers, as well as within the media itself of itself as media. Within the context of this paper, fashion is a form of media, as much as it is a form of expression or statement of identity. (Svensen, 2006) In a big city, capitalist environment, fashion is mass media because the fashions of the residents/consumers can be seen and purchased by masses of other residents/consumers. A person can buy a dress and handbag from Ralph Lauren in New York City. That sweater is available for purchase in that city on a massive scale. A person wearing that sweater in that city is likely to be seen in that sweater by masses of people. This is an example of how capitalism affects fashion in a big city and shows how fashion is a form of mass media, which is another way that capitalism affects fashion.

Mass media (in this case, fashion as mass media) is used as part of a power strategy so as to inoculate and perpetuate specific discourses that are lived in the everyday experiences of subjects within such systems where mass media is used in such ways. This is one way fashion as mass media in urban capitalist environments erode individual identity. Fashion as mass media uses images, among other tools, to lure influence choices with surreal, dreamy images of luxury that do not exist and to which consumers will never have access. The illusion or dream of luxury and uniqueness is an affect of capitalism. The model in the Diane Von Furstenberg ad looks as if she is in a daze, haze, or intoxicated confusion brought on by the sheer degree of luxury in which she is posed. These affects are heightened in large cities with high concentrations of individuals in close proxity. Mass media has the power to affect how consumers perceive themselves and reality; with regard to the relationship between power and discourse, mass media sits between the two, interlocking them together.

Mass media used to spread discourses of power, instead of promoting or expressing individual identity. The influence of and the presence of mass media (fashion) in highly urban areas is nearly impossible to avoid. Mass media is embedded with codes and messages regarding discourse and the discourse of aforementioned subjects such as sexuality, capitalism, and power. Mass media's power is that it represents the discourses the consumers are meant to adopt and mimic internally and independently. Consumers then both consciously and unconsciously adopt the discourses as presented to them via mass media. The content and distribution of such media often comes from sources who objectives, goals, and methods are misaligned with those of the consumers or that reflect the perspectives and goals of a small minority of the general population. Mass media is a power to be used toward the distribution, inoculation, and assimilation of the discourses coded within the content, the aesthetics, and other aspects of the mass media form as representation, in this case, fashion as visual, expressive statement of individual identity. Part of the dreamy haze capitalism creates is that fashion does indeed express individual reality, which is an illusion. Fashion actually expresses group or mass identity instead. A woman wearing a Ferragamo suit expresses her identity with the group of other women wearing the same suit and the same brand of clothes.

The power of mass media to facilitate the internalization or individual adaption of the content and codes is the most formidable. This internalization affects how the consumers perceive themselves, especially in contrast to the representations of figures they relate to within the mass media forms they consume. The internalization of mass media additionally affects how consumers perceive and conceive of the world outside them as well as with reality in general. In these ways, mass media has great potential to change the world; mass media alters the inner worlds of consumers whose reactions to mass media forms affect the outer (general) world. (Domzal & Kernen, 1993)

Postmodern objects, art, or design can also be characterized by an awareness of itself as an object, as a commodity, and an awareness or necessity for interactivity with the audience. Postmodern thought furthermore concentrates on the relationships between humans and their technologies. Fashion is definitely aware of itself as a commodity; consumers of fashion are additionally keenly aware of fashion as commodity. Many brands play on this postmodern awareness in them and their consumers as part of their marketing strategies, that often work well. Additionally, postmodernism is characteristic of consumer culture, of which American culture certainly is, and that many other cultures, due to the convergence of a capitalist, global economy due greater in part because of the Internet.

It is common knowledge that the beauty industry in conjunction with the fashion industry (and others, but narrowing focus to just these two for the scope of this paper) blatantly and subversively conspire together to manipulate, distort, and prescribe standards of beauty to which females must conform and adhere. (Barnard, 2007) This standard also is aimed at men, in terms of that they are meant to desire women only in addition to that the women that they desire and consider beautiful are women who adorn make-up as beautifully and artistically as models in ads.

Having beauty, being beautiful, and fashion as the bridge between beauty and art, is fundamental to the brand and branding. This strategy and application of branding is characteristic of…[continue]

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