The essence of fashion. To understand fashion, art itself has the biggest play to bring a fashion trend to the world stage. It is an interesting read from the work of Joan DeJean. In order to understand fashion, the author had bring us with different perspectives to see fashion like fashion clothing lines, perfumes, culinary art, champagnes, furniture, interior design, mirror, umbrella and even street lights. How all these ordinary objects can become a luxurious item through the washing of fashion?
The Learning Points
How do we see fashion?
Let's see whether we are at a similar group to understand about fashion. These are some concepts that had been created by the "fashion leaders" since the 17s which are still being practised and deemed as a luxurious lifestyle:
- Celebrate with a champagne
- Diamond rings for the newlyweds
- A French fine dining on an anniversary
- Purchase of branded bags or cosmetic
- Driving high-end roadsters
And many more which the list will never have a limit. Yet, do we ever wonder how does this culture being started? Definitely, it is not something the commons were doing at the pre 17s due to the wealth gap. Yet, when the industrial revolution strikes, the middle-income group starting to have higher purchasing power which then gives rise to this fashion trend. So how do all these happened? And how can we recreate a brand that can become part of this luxurious image (personally, I am interested to learn more about it and build something along that line too!).
The foundation by Louis XIV
In the 17s and 18s, it was when France is the heart of fashion (currently still playing a big role too). Louis XIV as the monarch of the country had been playing an important role in this movement. Personally, he is a person with a passion in fashion, wearing wigs, high heels, French fashion clothes, cuisine and so on. The reason behind that he is able to venture into these hobbies is due to the peaceful time and France being one of the most developed countries at that time. Another reason for building the image of France as the heart of fashion is to rival the Hollands as the great trading country of that time.
One of his most notable action is to turn France into the city of light. At that time, all the cities are still very dependent on oil lamps which caused the night to be a dangerous and deserted time. Thus, in 1662 he had implemented a group of torch carriers with 1,500 individuals to provide light for travellers. Unfortunately, the service is too costly and has the restriction in scaling. In 1667, he decided to build near to 3,000 lanterns to brighten 912 of the streets of Paris. Despite the challenging part of keeping the lanterns burning with candles, yet it had achieved the vision of Louis XIV to bring life for the night. Besides, he had also spent a big hefty budget on refurbishing the city's infrastructure like the road and landmark buildings. This had then become one of the attraction points for the tourists.
Taking the lead of fashion
The next step of instilling the fashion into the mass is through "ambassadorship" which in this case from the royals. Since they are the ones who can afford the newest fashion and people look up to them for the best, naturally it is them who will become the "influencer" of their time to create the trend.
One of the ways that Louis XIV used to pass on which I personally think is very interesting is to create different rituals in his daily life and make it into slots to let the nobles to join and experience. For example, even having a meal will be categorized into formal and informal. The most informal meal setting has three mains and several sides. Such ritual will be opened for the lucky ones to participate and have a private meal with the King. So, in the process, the nobles will get to converse with the King, see what he is wearing and how he eats. Everything is then passed down to the close members, and slowly to the commons.
Another part of the story is that Louis XIV has this very strict requirement for the royals and nobles to follow fashion. Everyone will need to spend a crazy budget on their daily life which is a way to prove their loyalty to the King. On the other hand, it also can show how meticulous the King is on fashion which then creates a demand where fashion is not a necessity for the nobles but a must. A new wealth cycle is being created in that way.
The essence of how fashion is being dispersed to the heart of the mass is through advertisement. 300 years ago, the French had realized about this and were pioneering in using advertisement to sell a new lifestyle. There are three core elements that the marketing strategy revolves around:
- In the fashion world, the fashion season overrule the natural four seasons. In the high-end French fashion industry, there are two seasons in a year in which the sprint/summer and autumn/winter seasons. Hence this had given birth to the concept of fast fashion where there should be no limit on how many sets of clothes a girl should have in their wardrobe, plus even the fashion should be changed in a fast pace. The best and most luxurious fashion is when you are wearing something that none other than you are wearing. This stretches from the colour, materials, patterns, compositions and even the accessories.
- Impression is the king. Making the most straight forward, the clear impression is better than any verbal description. In the 17s, there are two trends that proof that impression does impact how people visualize fashion. One of it is the fashion doll where the dolls are dressed in the newest fashion and sent to shops globally. Yet, this method has its limitation as it can only reach a limited amount of audience. Hence, the rise of printed magazine with fashion is when everything regarding fashion can be dispersed to the public. Through printed materials, different classes of fashion are being depicted in different ways for the mass to see how fashions are for different classes. With that, it becomes a temptation and a channel for people to imagine to be part of the higher classes through fashion.
- The luxury is not just about objects but it is about the experience. The most prominent example is the culture of the cafe. France had built this impression where a cafe is a place where great artists and writers gather. At first, there is no cafe in France but dirty and smelly bars. Then, there is a revolution where the people had changed the cafe into a clean and luxuriously decorated place for people to gather. This had attracted a new group of customers which are the ladies where they come to appreciate the fashion and also showing off their personal touch too. Hence, the cafe has since then become a show house of fashions for the mass.
To be at the edge of the fashion, we need to understand that it is all about perception and being at the front of all. To be honest, keeping the position as the frontier, it takes a lot of commitment and resilience. Hence, fashion leader may change from time to time. Yet, we also see another new trend like LVMH that becomes a conglomerate that buys the fashion companies that are already established or in the becoming. Hence, it may become another path of maintaining the leading position in the fashion industry. Continue my research in another write-up :) Let me know if you have anything to comment or suggest.
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