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"Things to be seen": Spectacle and the performance of brand in contemporary fashion shows

Findlay, Rosie (2017) "Things to be seen": Spectacle and the performance of brand in contemporary fashion shows. About Performance (14-15). pp. 105-119. ISSN 1324-6089

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Findlay, Rosie

In a recent article in Vogue Australia, Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten remarked that he does not advertise, preferring to ‘communicate and immerse people in the brand’ through his fashion shows (Cavanagh 2014). Yet many of his customers will never attend any of these shows, their “immersion” dependent on what is published by those who were there.

Herein lies the contradiction of contemporary fashion shows: they are performances largely intended for an audience who is not present. In creating these one-off, exclusive shows, fashion labels create a visual world around their product, a narrative to beguile potential customers in a context that delays their gratification. This is enacted through media that extends the life of the spectacle, on websites such as Style.com, in major newspapers, and on social media platforms such as Twitter, and perhaps most powerfully, Instagram. Such media represents what was shown and offers a glimpse of the atmosphere of the show, ultimately working to draw us, however briefly, into the world of the brand. Yet they do not convey the sense of what it was like to be there. The theatrical components that work in concert with one another to create an ephemeral story around a collection, if mentioned at all by reviewers, serves to support the main act: the collection itself.

Although fashion shows are intrinsic to how contemporary fashion labels display their product to consumers, their occurrence—and function—as spectacular performances have been left largely unexamined by scholars. Drawing on ethnographic work conducted at Australian Fashion Week, this article argues that the power of fashion shows as performance lies in their spectacular nature. MacAloon’s spectacle theory (1984) provides a theoretical framework by which the grandeur, ambiguity, gigantism and visual primacy of fashion shows is unpacked, to demonstrate that fashion shows, like the collections they launch, are ultimately “things to be seen” (MacAloon 1984:243). In so doing, this article will also analyse the relationship between such presentations and the showing label, arguing that one of the central functions of live fashion shows is to circulate a brand’s identity, and one particularly imbued with prestige and desire.

Official Website: http://sydney.edu.au/sup/journals/aboutperformance/
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Performance; spectacle; fashion shows
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: University of Sydney
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Research Groups > Historical and Cultural Studies
Date: 2017
Related Websites: http://search.informit.org/browseJournalTitle;res=IELHSS;issn=1324-6089
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Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2016 15:50
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2020 12:34
Item ID: 9760
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/9760

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