Over the past decades, fashion has acquired centrality in social and economic processes for its capacity to penetrate and influence both cultural production and identitarian practices. The proliferation of media objects such as fashion films, makeover TV shows, fashion blogs and vlogs has shown how prolific the encounter between fashion and audiovisual media can be. The aim of this special issue is to explore this intersection and, consequently, the cross fertilization between fashion studies and media studies, with particular regard to audiovisual media, such as cinema, television, advertising and digital video. The essays interrogate how the combination of fashion and the moving-image enables us to reflect upon the ubiquitous presence of fashion in our media-saturated landscape, and at the same time upon the ubiquitous presence of media in socio-cultural practices and industrial processes such as fashion. Questioning the encounter between audiovisual media and fashion brings an elective affinity to light. If fashion is central to cinema and television and gives rise to a wide range of new genres and formats, it also impacts on the forms of representation and expression of identity and the body via personal and social media, according to the prevailing customs and tastes of our place and time. This encounter is a terrain of experimentation with new trends in the media experience – ones that rely on performativity and the enhancement of the viewer/user’s agency. After all, audiovisual media are similarly about constructing a fictional (and entertaining) world and actively and creatively inhabiting it as an essential part of the actual world.
During the last decade, the convergence between advertising and the entertainment industry gave birth to new languages that sought to convey brand values in a more effective way. Alongside traditional advertising formats, such as TV commercials and product placement, a new and more refined form of communication has emerged, which is pointed towards storytelling and entertainment: ‘branded entertainment’. Within this context, the fashion industry is a particularly interesting area of study. Having been historically bound to the audiovisual media, fashion was immediately able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by this new language, on the one hand establishing a significant production of audiovisual content (long-short films) with an identifiable form, aesthetic and language; on the other, producing original entertainment content or integrating its values by expressing them in related TV formats. On the basis of the still few academic studies available so far, the primary aim of this article is to shed light on the use of often imprecise terminology related to branded entertainment, through a systemic approach that defines its operating range and highlights the distinctive elements which differentiate branded entertainment from any other hybrid forms of communication. Secondly, the paper will focus on the bond between the fashion and media industries and the production models adopted to date, by categorizing and analysing a corpus of 40 cases of ‘fashion branded entertainment’, carried out by Italian fashion brands from 2010 to 2016.
In the last few years the spread of audiovisual productions with diverse links to the world of fashion has grown consistently, in particular regarding the dissemination of a phenomenon known as the Fashion Film (FF). From the point of view of the language being used, the FF shows clear elements deriving from pre-existing audiovisual forms, including the short-feature film, commercial, music video and art film. An in-depth analysis of the FF’s audiovisual language allows for a greater understanding of its functions, for or to whom, by which means and in which places it can be consumed, and moreover what are the aesthetic and ethical expressive constraints of such a product. The FF is a branded form, produced and financed by fashion brands and companies that invest in the film as a vehicle for dissemination and promotion. On the one hand the medium therefore serves the fashion world, allowing it to widen and enrich the expression and communication dimensions of their brand; on the other hand it helps audiovisual creators and producers to find financial partners for their artistic projects. The trends emerging in FFs and their explicit reference to precedent audiovisual languages and genres furthermore reveal several general dimensions, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For fashion brands the FF seems to be an effective tool to connect to innovative projects, often not only at formal level but also in terms of ethics and values. The FF has the potential therefore to become a mode of expression that redefines not only the pre-existent categories of audiovisual forms, but also the type of relations that the fashion brands establish with their target audience.
This article examines the project ‘Women’s Tales’, an on-going series of short films that fashion designer Miuccia Prada commissioned from international female directors, among them Lucrecia Martel, Ava DuVernay and Agnès Varda. By situating this endeavour in relation to female agency, authorial expressivity, and consumerism, it is argued that the project conforms to postfeminist media culture for its celebration of feminine bonds, makeover strategies and the use of luxury as a tool for pleasure and empowerment. As a series of fashion films at the interstices of different systems – advertisement and art, film and online media, experimental and mainstream practices – ‘Women’s Tales’ occasionally contains critical potential, but it nevertheless struggles to challenge existing fashion paradigms. This article questions the postfeminist ethos that the project espouses, claiming that through its in-between, interstitial status, ‘Women’s Tales’ destabilise representational conventions without really disrupting the paradigms of fashion.
This essay investigates the concept of metallurgic fashion by looking at three designers who have all worked with metals and metallurgic principles: Paco Rabanne’s metal dresses in the 1960s, Alexander McQueen’s harnessed models in the 1990s, and the high-tech alchemical designs of Iris van Herpen since 2007. While ‘following the metals’ in their sartorial transformations, I will investigate the specific techno-media context in which the specific metallurgic designs could come about. I will argue that these fashion designers and the specific metallurgic characteristics of their creations should be read in relation to the technological and media developments in, respectively, the Space Age and the optimism of conquering the future, the darker sides of the collective unconscious explored in the Video Age, and the alchemical transmutations of media and materials in the Digital Age. The fashion designers whose work is explored here demonstrate how their creative work is linked to, investigates and comments on their time.
This article focuses on the multi-media artwork The Capsule by the Greek film director Athina Rachel Tsangari, which was commissioned by the non-profit organization DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art in the context of a project that bridges fashion and other art forms. Through an analysis of both the installation piece and the film that comprise the artwork, the article argues that The Capsule introduces a methodological tool for the understanding of artistic practices: a concept named after its own title and adapting Andrew Pickering’s notion of the ‘mangle of practice’ from the context of the production of scientific knowledge to the one defined by two artistic expressions – fashion and cinema – which are often regarded as commodities yet they negotiate in a profound way the processes of subjectification within fixed social norms. The goal of the article is to prove how this particular interaction between fashion and cinema will help us perceive them as primarily performative media, as opposed to representational ones.
In The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016) there are several thought-provoking topics concerning the fashion world that can be related to Walter Benjamin’s analyses in Passages. Winding Refn appears to adopt completely the German thinker’s idea that fashion is close to a parody of death, especially in his representation of the fashion systemthrough a violent, bloodthirsty, cannibalistic dimension. In addition to Refn’s work the idea expressed by Benjamin can also be found in films directed by Antonioni, Almodóvar and Carax. All of these directors relate to Benjamin’s idea that fashion comprehends some perversions. In Blow-Up (1966), Kika (1993) and The Skin I Live In (2011), Holy Motors (2012) there is a common thread that finds its apex in Neon Demon (2016), where Benjamin’s concept lies in its coils and its soul. Furthermore, that impulse to violence, which is latent in Antonioni’s film but increasingly present in the films by Almodóvar and Carax, and especially in The Neon Demon, represents their connection both to Benjamin’s thought and to the ideas expressed by Bataille in Erotism, in The Accursed Share and in The Notion of Expenditure. In these books, the French philosopher shows that the same elements which are present in the five analysed here – that is, violence, sacrifice, beauty profanation, murder and cannibalism – are expressions of the concept of dépense, which also includes fashion, intended as a form of dissipation through excess and splendour.
Walter Benjamin’s argument on the separation of the aura from artwork, due to technological reproducibility, continues to resonate in contemporary visual culture where the ‘image-copy’ has become an accepted means of representation, over the ‘object-real’. In this respect, the aura, which corresponded to material quality of the artwork as an ‘object-thing’, has become less accessible due to the accelerated growth of reproduction through new modalities in the postmodern era. This affected Wim Wenders during the filming of Notebook on Cities and Clothes, a documentary on the conceptual fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto that reveals his craft-oriented, inimitable deconstructive design process, in particular signifying the meaning of identity and the reconsideration of the concept of aura. Reading the film in light of Yamamoto’s open process and his iconoclastic personification – as opposed to the myth of the designer that is prioritized in the hermetic world of fashion – along with Wenders’s challenge to authorship allows us to map out the possible relationships between the aura and identity. Correspondingly, Yamamoto’s auratic resistance to obsessions with image and novelty in the spatio-temporal frame of contemporary fashion are revealed through the film. Enabling a cross-disciplinary reading, the film illustrates interactions between the disciplines of filmmaking and fashion design, i.e. the connections between image production, cutting and processes of assembly. Finally, contrasting the multiplicity of images and products in the age of reproduction, the film specifically focuses on the notion of tactility and materiality in both creative fields.
TV series have a relevant place in today’s media scenario, as a genre that is greatly appreciated by audiences and which has multiple fruition options. TV series have moreover some flexibility, allowing viewers to appropriate them in several ways. Clothes represent just one of these opportunities, involving audiences, stylists and producers all at once. Costumes and fashion generally, constitute a significant component in the production of TV series, that is recognized by many audiences as an autonomous pathway or an essential motif that helps to make the narration consistent, on the one hand, and on the other appears relevant even when detached from the story and progressively branching out on its own. Clothes and accessories become therefore a possible extra-diegetic interpretative key, that can further enhance television series. To study this scenario, the article takes into consideration three series (Downton Abbey, ITV 2010-2015, Pretty Little Liars, ABC Family 2010-, and House of Cards, Netflix, 2013-) as well as selected web and especially Pinterest pages that are linked to the series, where connections to the fashion world are made explicit.
In recent years factual entertainment has gained space on Italian television, especially on ‘native digital’ channels such as Real Time, DMAX, La7d and La5. Ordinary people are the main characters in stories that often adopt the makeover format and deal with everyday life, from the home to cooking, from DIY to personal fitness. In this context, fashion occupies a privileged position. This article aims to analyse current examples of fashion factual entertainment in Italy, elaborating on the discursive practices and the thematization of the fashion object. In particular, it investigates the televisual apparatus and the role played by audiences. In doing so, it explores the discursive practices used to deal with fashion content (e.g. divulgation or imposition of a dress code, testimonies, suggestions and lessons) suggesting that the presence of experts and learners in these programmes seems to represent fashion as a space for the negotiation of experience. Yet, as the analysis will show, the idea of fashion that emerges is that of a set of rules rather than a reappraisal of individual competence, thus leading to a stereotypical canon to which the audience should conform.
In contemporary society, where information and the use of branded fashion content and material has increased enormously, enhanced viewer agency and influence have enabled a variety of forms of operational and participatory connection to media texts. Cosplay is a significant example of this: a widespread phenomenon of costume and role-playing inspired by characters taken from science fiction, manga, and the world of superheroes. Cosplay’s use of superhero equipment highlights the pleasures related to constructing and exhibiting costumes in a culture of individual adaptability, nurtured by fantasies of transformation involving the body. This process is assisted by an increasing ‘democratization’ of fashion, introduced by the globalization of fashion industry and an evolving fashion economy that has flooded the market with reproductions and fakes. The Superman cosplay is an emblematic case study of how ‘the ordinary’ comes into play in the transformative fantasies of costumed conventioneers, a spectacle that meaningfully and increasingly intersects fashion photography. The article draws on the concept of the costume as a brand, analysing its shape, colour, and symbolism to explain the consumers’ need to self-position in the context of the tremendous expansion of fashion’s global middle-market.
Haul videos are a unique vlogging format that is based on showing and reviewing a so called ‘haul’, which consists the outcome of shopping sessions. Haul vloggers are micro- and ordinary celebrities that have a large fan base, especially among female teens. The relevance of haul videos in terms of marketing is quite clear. They are spaces for a kind of product placement and brand endorsement, where the haulers/vloggers provide brands with visibility while presenting information and reviews to their viewers about that product. Such videos are considered very useful for haulers’/vloggers’ followers in defining their consumption strategy. The perspectives of audience and fashion studies of such videos are also significant, although they are less at the forefront of relevant discussions. This study aims to examine the relationship between haulers and their followers by analysing fan comments to the videos. More specifically the article demonstrates how and why vloggers are recognized by fans as ordinary (micro-)celebrities; how vloggers’ performances can be perceived as authentic; and how fans build a sense of (distant) intimacy, in addressing fashion content and brands that are identifiable by members of the same generation.
In the past decade, the fashion show has mutated into a mediatized spectacle, live streamed and circulated across multiple platforms. As Agnès Rocamora has observed, online access to fashion shows reduces the exclusivity of the events; however, ultimately only members of the field of fashion are permitted to see the collection in its original space. This article contends that the fashion show manifests high fashion as an exclusive social realm, while refocusing attention onto the live event to incite consumer desire. The argument draws upon Auslander’s definition of mediatization – as the infiltration of electronic media into live performance – as well as his matrices model of spatial and temporal co-presence, which it interweaves with White’s study of Internet spectatorship in order to evaluate online spectator positionalities. Following a historical overview of fashion shows on film and television, it employs the case studies of Tom Ford’s Spring/Summer 2011 and Autumn/Winter 2016 New York Fashion Week presentation to examine how the online fashion show addresses consumers. In September 2010, Ford showcased his collection to 100 invitees at his atelier; he later released a short film that, this article contends, re-articulates the glamour and intimacy of the live performance. In September 2016, Ford followed other prominent fashion companies by adopting an ‘instant fashion’ model, overlapping the timing of the fashion show with the in-store release of the collection. Ford launched his in-season collections at an elite dinner that was transmitted in both pre-recorded and live-streamed sections. This article concludes however that the fashion show component was nevertheless produced for Ford’s live audience, without due technical consideration of how the clothes translated via spectators’ screen interfaces.
This article takes up the challenge of the European-US Permanent Seminar on the Histories of Film Theories to think of ‘theories’ and ‘histories’ as plural. However, it also argues that this multiplicity needs to embrace “theories of history”. This is because of the very difficulty of thinking more than one historical moment at once at the juncture in which today’s emergent technologies demand new theories. Some theorists of history are introduced with emphasis on the way they use the concept of historical time, elaborated by some, disputed by others. We return to the moment of the 1895 history of the kinetograph, but in order to learn what, I want to know. Conceived as part of a tribute to Francesco Casetti, this article takes Casetti as a model of how media theorists need to get ahead of technological developments, participating in their conceptualization rather than passively waiting to find out ‘what it is that they are’.
This article asks if the concept of subculture can still be used in sociology, by illustrating the potential application of the term to analyses of European autochthonous jihadist terrorism. It provides a history of the concept in reference to explanatory factors of subcultural membership, including socioeconomic condition, cultural identity, housing placement and social control. Issues of postmodernity and the evolution of ICT are also take into consideration. The article first reflects on the origins of the concept of subculture. General definitions of the term emphasize ‘sub’cultures as differentiated from a mainstream group, especially in reference to young people. Several theoretical approaches are taken into consideration: first, an initial current that referred to different theoretical areas, such as the anomie, the anomic strain, and relative deprivation theories; second, a trend that derived from the Chicago School’s ‘social disorganization’ approach; third, the theory of cultural conflict; and finally, subcultural theory as implemented by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) in the UK. While the mid-Sixties approach of the CCCS emphasized subculture and its self-expression in terms of collective, youth-working class resistance, from the Eighties, scholars emphasized youth subcultures as the result of individual choice. In the last twenty years, debates on subcultures have been applied to computer-mediated communication. The article reflects on this digital, ‘post-subcultural’ direction, particularly in relation to jihadist terrorism. Recent scholarship on this phenomenon has read it in relation to group dynamics, social networks, and to indoctrination in prisons, but without sufficient attention given to the explanatory potential of subcultural elements. Given that young, native-born Europeans adhere to terrorist subcultures after having participated in subcultural groups or gangs, the importance of the subcultural perspective is manifest and provides original analysis of an emergent social problem.
La Vestale and Norma, both inspired by the recovery of the classical world in the first decades of the 19th century, belong to a growing cultural phenomenon which extends a neoclassical taste from the Napoleonic age to a properly romantic aesthetics. The image of antiquity recreated on the stage by Spontini draws on the composer’s original political ideal, and, in this way, he assigns his ‘objective’ to the Librettist, even if his reconstruction is ultimately based on historical and archaeological ‘curiosities’. Norma is different in this respect, it being deeply influenced by Felice Romani’s broad classical education, whose culture is fully assimilated by Bellini’s special sensibility. This is clearly illustrated in the roles of the individual ‘parts’ and in the specific choice for catharsis in the final scene of the opera.
This paper represents an extract from a larger project on TV consumption in Italy during the 1950s and ’60s. Although the so-called “economic miracle” usually corresponds to the period between 1958 and 1963, it is more broadly interpreted here in order to attempt a cultural history of early TV audiences. Beginning with the medium’s origins in 1954, this article traces out 1950s TV audiences through the social developments that took place during the period, overturning the traditional, hierarchical perspective of previous Italian television studies. Analysing both quantitative data (the statistics collected by Servizio Opinioni) and qualitative sources (diaries and memories preserved by the Archivio Diaristico Nazionale), the article seeks to capture the voice of the Italian p opular audience, and hence to understand the change that collective identities and societies underwent at the beginning of the “economic miracle”.
The narrative structure of the monomyth (the heroic journey, whose scheme and repertoire has been identified by Joseph Campbell) has provided an influential anthropological model for screenwriting and film analysis. Its hero is a male subject who performs an initial journey that is divided into moments or stages; the female character in this narrative scheme – who also contains a vision of the world – does not undertake the journey because, as Campbell writes, “she is the destination”. Various scholars (Maureen Murdock, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Joan Gould, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Marina Warner and others) have subsequently identified alternative narrative patterns, focusing on a different journey with a related arc of transformation: that of female character. In these cases the referential horizon is always that of mythography, and the theoretical one remains substantially Jungian, however their approach to storytelling significantly changes. The circularity of the monomyth is similarly confirmed, yet its rigid structure evolves into more rarefied and complex areas, since more time to process is required. Although such models are not typically or directly connected to the television, several contemporary series deeply explore this narrative structure. This is demonstrated in this article by analysing examples such as Jessica Jones, Orphan Black, Quantico, Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife.
The aim of this special issue is to explore this intersection and, consequently, the cross fertilization between fashion studies and media studies, with particular regard to audiovisual media, such as cinema, television, advertising and digital video.