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Consulting with an Expert: Fashion and FIlm Capstone

Here is a link to the audio recording of my interview: http://vocaroo.com/i/s0rsfAR6lowH

The purpose of my interview and this post is to further delve into my topic at a face to face level, where I was free to ask questions and even offer feedback to my interviewee. This assignment made my topic feel much more material to me, and seeing in real life a place and a person who has made her life’s work the subject of my study was very rewarding to me. Also, my purpose through this assignment was to validate my own findings from someone who has been deemed an expert on this specific topic by the University of Kansas.

I found my source, Dr. Catherine Preston, through the KU Department of Film and Media Studies faculty list. Here is her bio and her contact information: http://www2.ku.edu/~film/people/preston_catherine.shtml I initially chose Film and Media Studies because KU does not have a proper fashion design major, so Film and Media Studies was most relevant to my topic of fashion and film. I did not know Dr. Preston prior to the interview.

A few major points I gained from my interview with Dr. Preston are as follows. Within film, more than just clothing conveys meaning or significance. Other ways to express meaning include movement and gesture, sound, and camera angles. Also, people are drawn to film, even in the era of more advanced media, because film freely accesses and explores the issue of identification. The more people who identify with the film, the more successful it is. Relating to this logic, niche marketed fashion films are not healthy for the film and fashion industries alike because they aren’t identifying with the largest possible population of viewers.

It is my belief that Dr. Preston is a credible source because she has studied and worked professionally across many different mediums. She is formally educated in Visual Communication, with an emphasis upon media studies and visual culture, and has since combined all of this knowledge to teach Film and Media Studies courses. Her career has spanned through many periods of the portrayal of women in film. She is spectacularly knowledgeable in fields concerning advertising, marketing, and images and society. One medium that I would not believe her to be a credible source about is social media, as she has confessed to not being as “up to date” on this medium.

As you can hear on my digital recording, the interview I conducted with Dr. Preston was fairly conversational and included quite a bit of back and forth dialogue. She answered questions in a way that could easily navigate to my next question, and even inadvertently answered a few of my questions before I had the chance to ask them. The story I got from my interviewee was one of a long and successful career spanning many decades and many different fields and areas of study. Dr. Preston is very open minded in reaction to the new media through which fashion is being presented in the digital age. Dr. Preston’s interests mirror my own, so it is my opinion that our rapport reflects that.

 

Survey Study: Mobile Phones as Fashion Accessories?

My goals for this post are to further understand and relay the immense influence fashion has in our contemporary world and to expand upon new mediums in which the influence clearly exist, which can be backed up by survey data. The topic for my posts is the influence fashion has on different media outlets such as film, television or social media. I found a fantastic example of a study that exists within the parameters of my topic. This work focuses on the research question of whether or not people in both the United States and Japan treat their mobile phones as fashion accessories in addition to  communication tools. This study, named Mobile phones as fashion statements: evidence from student surveys in the US and Japan , was executed by James E. Katz and Satomi Sugiyama from Rutgers University in New Jersey. The study was published in 2006 by Sage Publications.

The main results of Katz and Sugiyama’s study can be summarized into a few main points. They concluded that in many cases, cell phones are valued via fashionable perception rather than functionality. Also, the study found that perceptions of mobile phones vary dramatically between people that are users of the devices and people who are non-users. Lastly, it is noted that the data retrieved from the US and the data retrieved from Japan have consistent findings: the symbolic meaning of mobile phones are relatively equal in both areas of the world.

This particular survey was given in two different locations: one in America and one in Japan. The survey given in America consisted of 254 people and was administered during a class at a university, so all the participants were college students. Of the 254 people, 161 were female and 93 were male. 95% of the sample was between the ages of 18 and 21. Of the people surveyed, roughly 53% were Caucasian, 24% were Asian or Pacific Islander, 15% were African American, 5% were Latino and 3% were Middle Eastern. Geographic information was not provided. Educational background was not provided outside of the fact that all participants were college students. The survey given in Japan consisted of 236 people and was administered at a university in Tokyo. Of the 236 people, 79 were female and 156 were male, with one person non-specified. 95% of the sample were between the ages of 18 and 21. Of the 236, 98% of the sample were Japanese. The races of the other 2% were not identified. Geographic and educational information were not provided, discounting the fact that all participants were college students.

This study states in its heading labeled “Results” that the sample group chosen is in no way representative of college aged people in the US, in Japan, or anywhere. It is written that the survey was done not to generalize the population, but rather to describe potential similarities among the small sample that the data set allows. Therefore, this survey is effective in reflecting the behaviors of the group it represents, but not effective in reflecting the behavioral aspects of a population as a whole.

The survey was given on paper using a 5 point scale to indicate agreement with the question provided, 5 being highly agree and 0 being completely disagree. A few questions given in the survey are the timing of the adoption of the participant’s mobile phone (the 5 responses being more than six years ago, four to five years ago, two to three years ago, less than one year ago, no phone) and frequency of changing the mobile phone (the 5 responses being more than three times, twice, once, never, no phone).

Every single question given on this survey wasn’t provided to the readers of this study, so a completely accurate picture of the range of questions is out of reach. In assessment of the questions that are provided, it is my opinion that the questions asked in the survey were useful and relevant to the study’s ultimate findings. I would have liked the researchers to have shared more of the questions that were asked specifically about the fashion of carrying a cell phone itself instead of only providing questions about basic statistics like years of usage. I don’t think any of the questions provided could have been misconstrued by the participants of this survey and I thought the format was very simple. To better measure this topic, I think that cell phone users of different regions could have been documented, because the growth of cell phone usage didn’t expand at a uniform rate all across the world.

I believe that this study is a credible source of primary information that could easily be taken and extended to more thorough and updated research. Conducted at Rutgers University, this survey is credible because of its large sample size of almost 500 participants from many different countries and cultures around the world. The sample of this study is relevant to its topic because a large majority of the population with consistent heavy mobile phone usage are teenagers or college students. The questions asked on this survey are translatable into graphs, which are shown within the study to support the hypotheses proposed. These graphs make the data tangible to the reader and help to show how all of the responses are formed into evidence and eventually conclusive findings.

 

 

Fashion Ordinances: Monopoly

My goals for the duration of my assignment were to both learn more about my topic of interest and also learn to better decipher things like public records, court records, and federal ordinances and determine the credibility of each individual source that offers the information. My topic is fashion within media and the document that I found is one of the original court cases in a battle between fashion designers and legislation that is still in progress today. It is a case from 1941 called Fashion Originators’ Guild of America v. Federal Trade Commission 312 U.S. 457. This was a great case for me to find because it interests me very much personally and gave me a better understanding for evaluating concepts like monopoly.

I found my ordinance in a rather simple way. Primarily, I tried both usa.gov and data.gov, but after little luck with such broad and government driven databases I thought to simply google my topic along with the words “public record”, “ordinance” or “regulation” to see what type of results I would get and if they would be official enough to use for my journal before I sought out alternate paths for finding the information. Luckily, when I used google to search fashion with laws and ordinances, I found a very interesting debate concerning whether or not fashion designs should be able to hold copyright so that competitors cannot copy them. Here is a link to a results page of one of my initial searches: http://goo.gl/LR7WeV. After reading a few of the blogs and articles that my initial search acquired, I used that information to search for the individual copyright cases. Here is a link to those searches via google: http://goo.gl/YNfQGV. This search led me to find documents concerning the individual court case, which is Fashion Originators’ Guild of America v. FTC – 312 U.S. 457.

From this document I learned that in the earlier days of clothing manufacturing during the 1930’s, an organization existed called the Fashion Originators’ Guild of America. This organization petitioned and boycotted stores that sold copies or “knock-offs” of the clothes that members of their guild had originally designed. This doesn’t seem like a large problem, but the Guild consisted of manufacturers and designers that created around 60% of the clothing designed in America sold for $10.75 and up.

Eventually the Federal Trade Commission called a cease and desist against the Guild, and this court case was a challenge to the FTC’s ruling. The case made it all the way up to the Supreme Court, which is mildly surprising seeming how the case is about something as simple as clothing.

On March 3, 1941 the Supreme Court held the decision to side with the FTC, and the Fashion Originators’ Guild of America was disbanded. The Supreme Court’s decision was based upon the Guild’s violation of prior legislature like the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), which rules “trusts” or anti-competitive monopolies, to be illegal and inconducive to free enterprise.

I originally picked this source as one that is credible because the website it is posted on not only is a “.org” site, but also is a website dedicated solely to resources like public documents and legal ordinances. The website is run by a parent website called public.resource.org which houses many, many free legal and public resources. A way this resource could be more credible is if its citations were accessible to the reader. Many of the citations are citing other often old legal documents that aren’t accessible via the site. This document contributed to my understanding of my topic by showing me that even seventy years ago before fashion commerce was the powerhouse it was today, people were still joining together to try to protect their artistic rights. This court case has opened up my mind to a whole new legal issue of my topic that I wasn’t aware existed, so it definitely has caused me to research further and form new opinions.

 

For-Profit Fashion Sectors: iFabbo

iFabbo is a service provider in the marketing and advertising industry created in 2010 by Sinead Norenius and Tonia Korakis. The company’s mission is to educate consumers and bloggers that use their promotion platform about the newest technologies and products within the fashion and beauty markets. Also, iFabbo is interested in providing bloggers with incentives and credibility that will further their respective careers in publishing.

The company is privately held, so it does not disclose its financial information. However, their LinkedIn page shows that the company is located in San Francisco, California, has between 11 and 50 employees and has a customer base of around 2,500 blogging platforms.

iFabbo generates revenue by obtaining members: both beauty brands wanting promotion and fashion bloggers looking to learn about and blog about the newest innovations and products that their viewers would be interested in. The members pay a fee to use the promotional and product placement services. For the bloggers, this service gives them a credible reputation and allows them to showcase the newest products that are partnered with iFabbo. Beauty and fashion product providers join to broaden their awareness base, to boost company sales. Companies executing similar work include Cocktail and Polhem.

iFabbo cannot be deemed an impartial source of information because the products that they promote have paid for that service. iFabbo would not supply information about products that have not paid to be promoted. The bloggers using iFabbo’s placement services can be deemed more credible because they go through a selection process and are seen as credible by the company to represent their products, The blogs even are rewarded an iFabbo Endorsement Seal.

iFabbo provides information about my topic by holding events, specifically a Social Media Conference, that are designed to explore and provide information about the relationship between fashion and social media as well as the promotional opportunities at hand.

iFabbo’s staff is divided into founders, executives and advisors. Their names, positions and short biographies can be found here: http://www.ifabbo.com/about.html. iFabbo contact information can be viewed in entirety here: http://ifabbo.com/contact.html.

Non-Profit Coordination

The non-profit organization I chose is called Fashion Fights Poverty, an organization created in 2005 that promotes responsible consumerism and rewards designers and companies for using ethical design practices (use of eco-friendly materials, equitable compensation, etc.) in order to further the eradication of poverty. Fashion Fights Poverty’s biggest source of income is fundraising through special events, which brought in $23,089.42 in 2009. Fashion Fights Poverty’s largest expenses are professional fees and payments to independent contractors, which totaled $33,833.42 in 2009. This organization’s leaders do not earn a salary. The board of directors, which includes a treasurer, a Chief Creative Officer, a Vice President of Research & Programs and many more can be viewed here: http://www.fashionfightspoverty.org/about_board.html. FFP is located in Arlington, Virginia. This non-profit would be able to supply information about the availability of ethically produced clothing within the TV and film costuming industries. The organization publishes a “LookBook” comprised of ecologically conscious designers and their fashions, including where to purchase them.  FFP might represent a bias toward movies or TV shows that exhibit corporate social responsibility concerning where the garments seen on its show or film originate and if they are created and sold in an ethical manner. FFP is also big on promoting less popular designers who are passionate about eco-friendly practices, so the organization could possibly produce some future costume designers. With the support of all of these elements, I think that Fashion Fights Poverty is a great resource to use in order to find alternative ecologically conscious designers, as well as to see which ones are furthering the fight against poverty.

Costume Design as a Marketing Tool

  • According to an entry in FashionEncyclopedia, the American silent film era (1920s through 1930s) was the first time in the American fashion world where a different medium trumped the influence of European fashion houses in the creation of American contemporary fashion trends. This influence was the fashions worn by movie stars during films. A person who was particularly responsible for numerous fashion crazes from the ’20s until the ’40s was Gilbert Adrian. A costume designer for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Adrian designed countless American costuming classics, like Dorothy’s gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Kristin Koga for ClothesonFilm notes that many highly acclaimed traditional runway fashion designers, ranging from Coco Chanel to Jean Paul Gaultier, have made forays into the costume design world. Many have proved to be unsuccessful in the crossing of mediums because of artistic differences, but a notable exception is the fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy. Givenchy tailored iconic pieces for Audrey Hepburn in classic films including Sabrina (1954) and Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961).
  • Hollywood Reporter writes that the producers of shows with popular costume designers are happy for the designers’ commercial successes because it brings mention of the show for which they are popular. For example, even when Janie Bryant does an interview about her upcoming personal clothing line or her ambassadorship for Hearts on Fire, it is always made known that her success is in large part contributed to Mad Men. These tie-ins are great examples of earned media for the shows involved. 

Costume Design as an Art Form

    • According to the Examiner, the craft of costume design is rapidly expanding. This is due in part to the commercial era, in which articles of clothing seen on your favorite television character can be bought after referencing the network’s website or through clothing lines exclusively tailored to mimic the TV show’s specific style. This added exposure has caused the role of costume designer to go from a minor backstage character to a main attraction, with exceptional designers like Janie Bryant (of Mad Men fame) launching lines of their own. 
    • According to an article in TV Ate My Wardrobe, TV is a more influential proponent on our wardrobes than film because TV often deals with more realistic settings and characters than films do. Also, it can be said that since TV shows air every week, the viewer can see each individual character go through style progression much more akin to the viewers daily lives and fashion choices, as compared to a film, in which there isn’t time or longevity for this kind of evolution.
    • Marisa Meltzer of the New York Times  explains that public relations and consulting firms, Matchbook Company for example, are taking a newfound interest in representing costume designers for television. The firms’ interest can be attributed to the notion that the designers should be seen as people who are very important to the creative process and the overall production of each show they are involved with and deserve the proper recognition and acclaim.