Abstracts

Alyssa Dana Adomaitis

IMPACT OF SEX IN LUXURY FASHION ADVERTISEMENTS ON BRAND CREDIBILITY, IMAGE AND PURCHASE

Advertising is a key institution of socialization in postmodern society (Shields, 2002). According to Shields (p. 34) “images of ideal bodies, most often female bodies, are some of the most dominant and consistent images produced by advertisers.” Shields suggests that images give shape to expectations concerning how women “should look and be looked at, how we should feel and be made to feel, and how we should act” (12).  Researchers have noted that the use of sex in general interest, men’s’ and women’s magazines has been increasing since 1964 (Nelson & Paek, 2004; Reichert, & Carpenter, 2004).  However, it is women’s magazines rather than men’s that often feature the greatest proportion of nudity and women are more likely than men to be shown in suggestive body poses, partially dressed, or in the nude (Stankiewicz & Rosselli, 2008; Monk-Turner, et al, 2008) and linking sex to the advertised products.

Luxury products are defined as products that are superior to comparable products due to their design, quality, durability, or performance (Roux, Tafani & Vigneron, 2017; Thomas, 2007). Researchers have documented that sex in luxury advertising is effective in garnering the viewer’s attention (Persson & Wilson, 2015; Reichert, Heckler, & Jackson, 2001) as well as their interest (Putrevu, 2008). Few researchers have documented how sex in advertising impacts viewers’ ideas concerning the advertised product, the product’s ability to deliver on the outcomes suggested, or to what extent the use of sexual imagery affects a brand’s image (GÜdelki & Çelİk, 2014; Dahl, Sengupta & Vohs, 2009).The first purpose of this multi-stage research project was to examine both gender portrayals and the use of sex in luxury brand advertisements across cultures (e.g., South Korean, New Zealand, and United States).

The second purpose of this research is to examine viewer’s responses (cognitive, affective, and behavioural) to the use of sex in luxury fashion advertising within the Consumer-Company Model (Bhattacharya & Sankar Sen (2003), who developed a series of questions to assess consumer behavior based on self-identification. The consumer – company model provides a means to measure responses to advertisements featuring different levels of sexuality. The model asserts that consumers identifying with a brand will prompt consumer loyalty, and intention to purchase.

To address the first purpose, a content analysis of luxury fashion advertisements presented in Vogue Magazine in three countries (U.S., Korea, and New Zealand) was conducted. Advertisements in six issues published from September 2009 until February 2010 comprised the data (n = 129). Of the 129 advertisements, almost all contained some type of sexual content and featured women as the sexualized object. To address the second purpose, Likert items were developed from Bhattacharya & Sankar Sen’s (2003) concept of consumer – company model that pose a series of questions regarding brand loyalty and intention to purchase. Participants were asked to respond to these Likert items after viewing advertisements of luxury brands using a high degree of sexuality and another using none or very little sexuality. After IRB approval, the survey was administered to two universities in the United States.

Findings suggest that women are featured over men in luxury advertisements. To communicate sexuality in these advertisements it was also women rather than men that were used. When men and women are shown together, women are frequently in some state of undress and men are fully clothed. Thus, luxury advertisements consistently use sex to sell their products. These advertisements present a limited view of the role of women within society. From the survey, it was apparent that brand loyalty and intention were linked to the degree of sexuality in the advertisement. As the majority of advertisements were featured across markets, this limited view appears to be promoted world-wide.

Keywords:  brand image, fashion advertisements, luxury, and purchase intent

Kenneth Appiah – Nimo

LUXURY FASHION IN SOUTH AFRICA: STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE THE VALUE OF LOCAL BRANDS

The consumption of luxury fashion in Africa has grown significantly in the past decade. South Africa, the continent’s leading economy remains the strongest luxury fashion market with the biggest footprint of international luxury brands. This phenomenon has created an intensely competitive retail environment that threatens the sustenance of local luxury houses. As global concerns of ethical manufacturing and the integrity of luxury branded products deepen, Africa’s craft dominant creative economy provides an alternative of ethically manufactured luxury goods. For this reason, the sustenance and subsequent transformation of African brands into global players are of great necessity. This study, premised on the assumption that a product’s price reflects value perception by consumers, explored the operational environment of 10 local South African luxury brands to understand factors responsible for vast price disparity between products of local and international luxury brands. The study adopted qualitative methods from a social constructivist worldview providing deeper insight into the highly discreet and niche luxury fashion industry. It was evident that price disparity between products of local and international provenance extends beyond the country of origin effect, and is attributable to multiple challenges in the product value chain of local luxury brands. The study identified poor manufacturing capabilities, inconsistent product pricing strategies, weak brand identity, ineffective communication strategies, as well as low capital investments in a highly competitive retail environment. A review of literature on the anthropology of South Africa’s luxury market revealed the prevalence of class and racial contestations that find expression in conspicuous consumption. The Veblen theory of conspicuous consumption was therefore adopted to analyse interactions between price and perceptions of brand luxuriousness and the viability of prestige pricing strategies for profitable and sustainable growth. Strategic recommendations for local luxury brands include: the establishment of exclusive production and distribution chains, building synergistic manufacturing competencies to tackle capital intensive and highly technical processes, enhancing brand identity and visibility through advertisement and social media campaigns and the adoption of innovative business models to attract capital investments. These recommendations are expected to catalyse growth for local brands and provide the foundation for nurturing global luxury brands of African origin.

Keywords: luxury fashion, emerging markets, premium price, marketing, South Africa.

Charlotte Bik Bandlien

POST LUXURY

Not only the most googled fashion trend of 2014, but also runner-up for neologism of the year by Oxford University Press, normcore generated numerous headlines such as “Normcore Is (or Is It?) a Fashion Trend (or Non-trend or Anti-Trend)” (Los Angeles Times, 2015) or “Everyone’s getting normcore wrong, says its inventors” (Dazed 2014) – indicating a multi-faceted and intriguing phenomenon.

This paper employs the timing of post peak normcore to investigate a trend that surely entailed more than meets the eye. Described as “a unisex fashion trend characterized by unpretentious, normal-looking clothing” by Wikipedia, normcore was in fact not meant to be a trend at all, nor to be used to refer to a particular code of dress.

Initially a spoof marketing term, coined by the art collective/trend forecasting group K-HOLE in 2013, normcore was originally a subversive concept, anticipating an alternative way forward, proposing anti-distinction (and its psychological implications) as the radical new luxury, or rather, as a mode beyond luxury – as post luxury.

Combining anthropology (Appadurai, 1986), consumption theory (Csabia, 2008) and critical theory / fashion theory (Elke 2014) with a practice-based background in trend analysis and brand planning as well as the art school context – a schizophrenic outlook indeed – this paper is an attempt to frame and unpack normcore in order to speculate about the future of luxury.

keywords: aesthetic politics in fashion, fashion mechanisms, normcore as prism, anthropology, post luxury

Dr Annette Condello

PROLONGING THE OFFCUTS: DRIES VAN NOTEN, SUSTAINABLE LUXURY AND MAKING-FASHION-GOOD

At his first fashion show in Paris in the 1980s, the unconventional Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten embraced nature. He envisaged a real grass catwalk, a rustic atmosphere, foreseeing the future of a sustainable luxury catwalk show. This organic-rustic element was also evident in his 2015 collection with his collaboration with Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou and her expansive longitudinal-landscaped catwalk tufted with recycled Patagonian wool for the Paris show. Van Noten’s imagination and folkloric experimentation with abundant natural resources and technology has profited from low-cost labour, prompting a burgeoning market for sustainable luxury products. In his attempt to embrace the idea of sustainable luxury, Van Noten transfigures art, fashion and architecture into new “lived-in” quality garments, manufactured to last for multiple seasons.

Spurred by novel craft technologies and lost antique traditions, Van Noten’s exceptional quality-clothing line has enabled him to establish flagship stores in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Originally a men’s outfitters, his main boutique in a late nineteenth-century Antwerp building, the Het Modepalaeis (Palace of Fashion), irrevocably links him to the era’s preceding ostentation and excess. Shopping at the Het Modepalaeis adheres to a nineteenth-century experience today, creating an everlasting experience. This paper will review the idea of sustainable luxury in the context of refuse and the “refuse-ful”. It demonstrate how his contradictory deconstruction-designs use luxury offcuts, as well as in a conceptual way, are recombined into distinctive sustainable luxury garments. Van Noten’s realistic approach transforms the future of sustainable luxury fashion practices, allowing for the prolonging of luxury offcuts to be made-good into new garments. Van Noten creates a “refuse-ful” world.

Key words: sustainable luxury, refuse, offcuts, fashion, architecture

Professor Louise Crewe

PRODUCING LUXURY FASHION: DISSOCIATION, BIO-COMMODIFICATION AND THE CREATION OF VALUE

This paper explores the strategies that are adopted by luxury fashion houses in order to maintain aura and grow their markets whilst retaining brand value and signature under increasingly complex global conditions. Luxury fashion markets have uncertain and unstable value and rely on judgement devices  such as brands and labels to create value (Karpik, 2010). There are evident tensions between the continued expansion and growth of luxury retailers and the requirement for luxury products to be exclusive.

There is a great deal of scholarly attention afforded to geographical association and origination as  luxury strategies that focusing on provenance and place (Made In Italy, Made in Britain). Much less attention has been paid to the ways in which luxury fashion firms employ techniques of dissociation that actively encourage the consumer not to reflect where our clothes are made, by whom, from what and under what conditions (Made By , Made Of). This paper argues that luxury fashion, so often positioned as fast fashion’s alter-ego, has a dark geographical underside that uses techniques of dissociation in order shift the marketing message away from geographical origins of production towards the context of consumption.. Luxury firms are emphasising the symbolic and immaterial qualities of their goods in order to create value, creating an economy of qualities in which a finish, logotype or print evokes the essence of the brand. This tactic enables luxury firms to conceal their exploitative supply chains and disguise their practices of bio-commodification that produce contentious commodities made from fur, feathers, exotic skins and hides. This geographical dissociation from the places, practices, people and raw materials of production, and the assertion of the primacy of the brand represents a strategy of super-commodity fetishism.

Taken together, these examples illustrate how luxury fashion houses carefully choreograph their representational strategies in order to both reveal and conceal social and geographic relations. Luxury fashion is a sharp illustration of the powers of aesthetic capitalism in the contemporary era (Gasparina, 2009) in which luxury is increasingly traded in symbolic terms rather than being a sector defined by high skilled and artisanal craft production or by a fixed geographical manufacturing identity.

Dr Fabian Faurholt Csaba

RETHINKING MEANINGS OF LUXURY THROUGH OBJECT BIOGRAPHIES

Many luxury brands depend on a strong sense of heritage and tradition, and consequently seek to manage and guard narratives of their histories carefully. However, the rise of participatory media and imperative of consumer engagement and co-creation, seem to challenge conventional approaches in luxury management and assumptions about the manageability of luxury brands and meanings of luxury. In response to these developments, we have seen steps towards developing more consumer-centred approaches in which luxury is conceived in terms of consumer’s lived experiences and co-construction. In this paper, I seek to advance this mode of inquiry, through an analysis of a set of consumer brand stories generated through a promotional campaign offering loyal customers an opportunity to trade-in a used product for a new, relaunched version of the same design, on the condition that the returned item was accompanied by an account of its life story.

In 2014, Georg Jensen Damask, Denmark’s oldest manufacturer of household textiles, launched a range of products based on designer collaborations, and relaunched the first in a series of its classical, renowned designs. In an effort to support the relaunch, the company came up a campaign entitled ’a tablecloth for a tablecloth’ offering customers to swap a new Dandelion tablecloths, originally launched in 1972, for their old one and its story. Over a couple of months, the somewhat ill-considered campaign, which was communicated mainly to loyal customers subscribing to the companies newsletter, brought some 150 used tablecloths back to the company. Due to the lack of clear terms, the stories accompanying the traded-in tablecloths vary greatly in their length, content and narrative style. In this paper, I analyze the stories submitted to Georg Jensen Damask as part of the campaign. Through the lens of object biography, I explore how consumers’ narratives of the ‘lives’ of possessions, they are about divest themselves of, relates to luxury consumption and brand heritage.

The study of fine tablecloths as luxury goods reflects a certain conception of luxury - a view that does not not necessarily identify luxury with the consumption of elites, but rather with special occasions, seasonal and festive consumption rituals of social and cultural significance (for gender, family, generational etc. relations and identity)

The brand stories offer insight into the use and materiality of tablecloths including the processes of wear and tear as well as practices of care. They provide a data for a kind life-cycle analysis linked to consumption rituals prescribing frequency of use, use occasions, stylistic considerations regarding e.g. ensemble and obsolescence. This analysis has relevance for discussions of sustainable luxury, a key conference theme.

Finally, I discuss the theme of crowdsourcing of brand stories and co-construction of brand heritage:  How might consumer brand stories enhance and, in turn, redefine brand heritage. I discuss the   research related to the question posed in the conference outline regarding contemporary conceptions of luxury. To what extent might luxury and the heritage of luxury brands be understood in terms of the stories and lived experience of consumer (and other stakeholders)?

Keywords: brands stories, consumer-centric approach, luxury brand heritage, object bibliography, sustainability

Miss Michelle Raena Jogiastra

Dr Mersha Aftab

REDEFINING VALUE IN THE CHANGING LUXURY FASHION MARKET (CONSUMPTION & CONSUMER ATTITUDES)

The luxury market is having to change its ways of business to stay at the forefront of fashion. Along with the ‘democratization of luxury’ or ‘luxurification of society’ (Atwal and Williams, 2009; Tsai, 2005; Yeoman and McMahon-Beattie, 2005, cited in Hennigs et al., 2015), the definition of luxury itself is evolving. The distinction between true luxury and accessible luxury is blurring especially with the entry of the ‘masstige’, which incorporates luxury strategy and values into generally inexpensive products. Traditional conspicuousness does not seem to add value as much as it used to either. In view of the luxury industry’s inexplicable ties with value, the values of luxury are also changing. This paper seeks to investigate the redefinition of luxury’s important values which can then lead to the redefinition of luxury itself to fit today’s market.

Through Case Studies as the design methodology, data was collected from four established luxury brands. Observation and open structured interviews were conducted with relevant individuals in the brands. Results were then made into a value centrifuge to determine findings and verdict. The value centrifuge takes into account different values in the retail environment, product, branding, and emotive consumer relationships with the brand and product. The results support the initial hypothesis that luxury should be about fulfilment and the values that accompany it should reflect excellence that contributes to said fulfilment.

This study presents different values of four brands, two from the retail perspective and two other from the management/design level, and creates a proposition which embraces a new way of luxury business. The findings of this research have significant implications on the future of the luxury industry and its ways of business as well as paving new grounds of research for the industry. By addressing the significance of values in the industry, luxury brands can then use these value propositions to stimulate growth and consumer consumption while maintaining the core values of excellence and fulfilment.

As the review on existing literature and the analysis of the four different luxury brands indicate, the value of luxury lies beyond experiential, financial, and social value as it was once thought to be. It instead is enriched with the concept of fulfilment through excellence. Personal value and the pursuit of self-actualisation has become one of the main drivers of luxury fashion consumption. As such luxury needs to remember its quality and excellence-centred roots to convey the true value of luxury.

­Keywords: luxury brand management, luxury values, design value, luxury consumption, consumption & consumer attitudes.

Professor Annamma Joy

A CASE STUDY OF SUSTAINABILITY IN THE LUXURY INDUSTRY: LESSONS FROM THE KERING GROUP, GUCCI AND MAGGIE’S ORGANICS

This paper examines the relationship between sustainability and artisanal quality in the production of luxury goods. Specifically, we provide a case study of Gucci, whose president and CEO Marco Bizzarri released a “Culture of Purpose” sustainability plan in October 2017 ushering in sweeping environmental, social, and technological changes over a ten-year framework to inculcate ‘responsibility’ as a core brand value. In its quest to incorporate environmentalism into its corporate ethos, Gucci will offer traceability of ninety-five percent of the raw materials used in producing its products, and has pledged to use organic cotton, along with other environmentally sound products. The commitment of the global luxury group Kering, the corporate parent of Gucci, includes not using child labour, sourcing from conflict zones, or using genetically modified cotton.

We argue that the luxury sector previously delayed committing to sustainability because supply chain management did not use sustainability principles in sourcing and creating luxury products.  We use Maggie’s Organics as a special case to show the impediments that exist for a fashion company to operate within sustainability principles.  Maggie’s Organics is a small company that makes socks and T-shirts primarily and who is committed to operating with high standards and principles of sustainability.  Their story of hardships and successes will act as an exemplar for other companies, especially luxury fashion companies such as Gucci to emulate in their quest for sustainability. With the increasingly apparent impact of global climate change, consumer appreciation for sustainable practices continues to rise. We further argue that sustainability principles in place throughout the supply change must be recognized as essential to any definition of luxury, with product quality in essence serving as a surrogate for sustainability: if a brand offers the former, in keeping with its core values of authenticity and worldwide responsibility, the brand must also provide the latter.

Use of organic cotton fits within the overarching principles of the luxury brand industry: a deep respect for origin, artisanality, and longevity. Origin refers to the use of environmentally sustainable production methods; artisanality embodies craftsmanship with experimentation, innovation, and extensive training implicit in the term; and longevity encompasses both the endurance of a given product over time, and its innate value regardless of changing fashions. As Gucci’s sustainability plan suggests, the contemporary appeal of luxury goods extends beyond high-quality materials, timeless designs, and venerable brand narratives to include environmentally and socially responsible production and manufacture. Our study of Gucci’s multi-pronged approach to incorporating such global responsibility, and its commitment to encourage other sectors to do the same, however, may not be as simple as it looks.

Key words: sustainability, traceability of raw materials, organic cotton, luxury brands, environmentally sensitive luxury retailing.

Father Andrew More O'Connor

CRAFT AND THE HANDMADE

The issue of sustainable luxury should also imply a sustainable purpose as well as a sustainable origin.  Regarding origins, it is increasingly common in the luxury market to question the sustainability of the materials used. Additionally, manufacturers often want to display superior norms.  The luxury market is an educated, but conservative market, and blesses consistency and excellence.  Furthermore, as the consumer becomes more globally conscious so too the pressure to credibly prove the durable benefit to lives of those who make luxury market goods. A sustainable purpose asks a different question of luxury: in conscience what justifies this product, that is to say, what justifies the price, rarity and beauty of this product?  The response might be like that of King Lear when his daughters denied him his customary guard.  You don’t need them they said.  “Reason not the need,” he replied.  The desire and even the “right” to luxury does not need to be explained, until it does.

This paper examines the sustainable purpose of luxury through the lens of craft and the handmade. Craft and the handmade constitute a means of testing the social fabric.  Three levels of the discussion are engaged: a history, a scenario of sharing craft and the handmade in an era of globalization as a means of fortifying culture, an analysis of the tension between the hand and the machine in design.

History. The ascendancy of craft and the role of the handmade in history of luxury clothing after the Enlightenment straddled the French Revolution.  The shift between le bien commune in L’Ancien Régime to le volonté générale  of the Assemblée Nationale can be seen in the rococo rustification of the gardens of Le Petit Trianon to the post-revolutionary Les Merveilles et L’Incroyables, Parisians who put on the airs of royalty in dress, suppressed their “r’s” to rile against the San Cullottes in 1795.   Democracy begat a cross pollination of classes.

A Scenario. The idea of this class exchange happens globally.  The poorest of the poor consume luxury and it often proves a greater factor in the desire to emigrate than the weight of poverty.  A scenario of aiding the poor in the ambit of luxury to integrate the existing crafts that feed the chain of luxury production with the handmade authentic is to indigenous cultures.  Globalization should be the context to enhance local culture rather than suppress it.

An Analysis. A tension exists between the handmade and the machine-made that is not unlike the tension Matisse notes in what he felt constitutes the art of painting, that is that the drawn line contains space and color leaps over those boundaries.  As Matisse claimed that the invention of the camera liberated the subject matter of painting from the figurative, the machine gains us an access to the humanizing influence of the handmade.

Key words: craft, handmade, luxury, poverty, class

Nathaniel Weiner

UNEXPECTED LUXURY IN ONLINE MENSWEAR CULTURE: THE UNINTENTIONAL LUXURY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF MILITARIA, RAW DENIM AND STREETWEAR.

Whereas much attention has been given to how clothing brands work to define themselves as luxury brands (cf. Fionda & Moore, 2009; Moore & Doyle, 2010), this paper concerns itself with how consumers attach notions of luxury to clothes produced by brands not usually thought of as ‘luxurious’: raw denim, streetwear and Japanese military reproduction brands. Reporting the results of an online ethnography of online forums dedicated to the discussion of men’s clothing and in-depth interviews with fifty users of these forums, this paper describes how menswear forum users explicitly rejected luxury brands.  They believed that these brands commanded prices that were a result of aspirational branding rather than construction or quality.

Forum users contrasted luxury brands with brands that were sold at similar price points, but were seen to be genuinely worth the price they commanded.  These brands were not luxury brands, but had much in common with them.  They were favoured by forum users because they were personalised, produced in limited quantities, made with high quality materials and manufactured by craftspeople using traditional techniques (Borstock, 2014). Forum users exhibited “production fetishism” (Appadurai, 1990) with a strong preference for makers in Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States.  Thus, this paper argues that these denim, military reproduction and streetwear brands could be characterised as being closer to the luxury ideal-type than many luxury brands.  The final section of this paper looks at how forum users’ preference for craft production processes (Campbell, 2005), items manufactured in the developed world, durability and ‘timeless’ style meant that their luxury consumption could also be described as sustainable consumption.  For some this was the result of an explicit ethical stance, while for others it was purely accidental.  In its expansion of notions of luxury to new subfields of fashion (Rocamora, 2002) and analysis of intersections between craft consumption, luxury consumption and sustainability, this paper contributes to the emerging field of critical luxury studies (Armitage & Roberts, 2016).

Dicky Yangzom

WHEN OLD IS THE NEW: THE SECOND LIFE OF FASHION

While fashion is defined by change where ‘newness’ has become central to its meaning, little remains problematized of what these categories mean. As classical scholarship on fashion indicates, if novelty itself is the imminent result of ‘conspicuous consumption,’ then what remains less explored is its parallel by-product; the category of ‘conspicuous waste’ (Veblen, 1899). In this regard, the production of conspicuous waste becomes of great significance to fashion studies as the ‘the old’ and the discarded for the following reasons: 1) in engaging with ongoing discourse on fast fashion and 2) in rethinking the boundaries of luxury where it’s determined not only by price-point and novelty, but the sheer enormity in which fashion is produced, consumed, and discarded on the macro level. Therefore, in reexamining the categories of ‘new,’ ‘old,’ and ‘luxury’ in fashion, as part of a larger study on the consumption of second-hand clothing in New York, this paper examines why rather than the ‘new,’ consumers of fashion choose the ‘old’? In doing so, the study 1) demonstrates how ‘worn’ and the process of  ‘wearing out’ generate new meanings that are produced by the objective material qualities of clothing where ‘re-use,’ ‘re-cycle,’ and ‘re-purpose’ develop into branding and marketing strategies; 2) illustrates how the relationship between consumers and used-clothing create these new meanings that affect their identity formation in social life (i.e. eco-friendly consumers, vintage collectors or Do-It-Yourself customizers); 3) displays how by challenging categories of ‘luxury’ and ‘waste,’ new schemes of valuation and markets emerge as the ‘old/waste’ becomes the ‘new/luxury.’