5 thoughts on “Baudrillard, one of the first planners?

  1. It’s interesting to think about this in terms of the industry I’m involved in: fashion. Being a physical embodiment of capitalism and zeitgeist, as well as one of the most personal decisions we make, it’s fantasy all the way through (unless you work in it. A room full of sweaty, hungry models is way unglamorous).

    Fantasy is an essential part of the fashion industry, but since its ‘democratisation’, as a result of the internet, people have begun to complain about its disconnect from reality. I would always say that it was never meant to be reality in the first place. The apparent super-glamorous world that is engineered by ‘journalism’ (if you can call it that), brand story and of course advertising was perhaps attainable to a small number of people and for the rest is was something of a dream, or even escapism (or even a force for aspiration). But what’s really happened here is that the consumer group of ‘fashion’ has expanded hugely. Now over-exposed to near-unattainable lifestyles and bodies they are made unhappy – essentially they’re consuming something not made for them, it’s like feeding dog food to a cat.

    And it’s actually where I see that most fashion advertising could do with a bit of planning. More targeted work, or more accessible product (although designer collaborations with lower-end brands are way up these days, like H&M).

    Cool.

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    1. I entirely agree with your analysis of the Fashion industry. I talk briefly about it in Collector Mentality Pt 1, Geeky Brands. Have a gander at the last 4 or 5 paragraphs or so. I think you might find it interesting with respect to your thoughts on the fashion industry.

      Planners are essentially listeners. We could all do with listening to the market more. Everybody needs clothes, so why do we only aspire to make clothes for the super-thin, super-glam or super-rich? I don’t think I have ever met a fashion designer (but too be fair I haven’t met that many) who has said “I just want to make normal/comfortable clothes for M&S” – to do so might (although I am not 100% sure on this) be considered a ‘sell out’ option or even be branded as ‘failure.’ Everyone wants to be an artist, not a greetings card designer. Everyone wants to be a footballer, not a football coach. Everyone wants to be a journalist or writer, not an English teacher. It is great to have aspirations, but do these aspirations fit in with what the world needs? Is the fashion industry broadcasting ‘dreams’ that are out of line to what consumers can actually achieve? For me self-esteem suffers when there is an imbalance of aspiration and what you are able to realistically achieve. Of course, aspiration is the mainstay of capitalist society, its part and parcel of the competition mechanism. Surely a corner may have to be turned at some point?

      And why is it always the same aspirations?

      High Fashion tends not to be ‘planned’ as much, simply because the artists and designers at the top believe that people should be buying into their artistic/fashion vision. They don’t set out to cater for people or a target market. Instead they hope that their fantasy vision is strong enough to generate demand.

      High fashion try to be leaders rather than followers. Everyone wants to be a leader, and so the fashion industry has fractured into smaller and smaller ‘brands’, boutique outlets and the like rather than attempting to add themselves to a brand and work for them. This isn’t really a problem, but it can hike prices up a bit and leave a lot of target audiences un-catered for. Luckily Asos’s ‘Marketplace’ and online retail allows these boutique brands to grab their share of the market, to reach out to people to whom their clothes might appeal and to keep overhead costs down.

      Most aspiring fashion designers would rather make their own clothes and ‘be their own boss’ because essentially it is all about their own creative fulfilment rather than giving a service to the target market. Obviously most of these small businesses work, I am a huge fan of Lazy Oaf for example, and having more brands to choose from allows us to have more clothes to choose how we appear externally to people. There does need to be a more ‘realistic’ option. H&M, Asos, Primark and most highstreet brands do this well. It would be nice if there wasn’t a brain drain to the Burberrys, Paul Smiths and Armanis of this world, and somebody somewhere would say with pride and gusto, “I’m going to knit nostalgic sweaters for an older target market” or “I’m going to do plus size gymwear.”

      Thanks for your interesting thoughts,

      Planosophy

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  2. I liked the collector mentality one a lot, I’ve had some similar thoughts when regarding my own attitude towards buying things and the brands I choose. Also found your point on targeting early-adopters interesting. I would say I’m in a group that you could describe as “poor early adopters”, I notice things early on, but being a young person in London without rich parents that’s all I can do: notice those things.

    And I couldn’t agree more with the listening. Even generally, I mean how often do you meet people who just can’t wait to shove their personality down your throat? Slow down and let me find out, life isn’t always a sales pitch… Anyway back to your point, no one wanting to do mass-market design. In a nutshell, it’s boring and unglamorous, and there are equivalents in all fields when it comes to creation: if you’re an engineer are you going to prefer working on a bridge or on a car park? Of course, you’re entirely correct, I’ve seen the reality of what jobs exist in the industry and there’s a gap between that reality and what people sign up for fashion degrees thinking.

    I’ve met some talented mass-market designers but they’re not a very creatively fulfilled bunch – designing for the mass-market isn’t really design at all. Spending last summer working for the largest retailer in North America, I saw first hand how your great initial idea for next summer (which itself is totally referential of something that came out this summer, because catering to the mass-market you are selling to the late-adopters), gets boiled down by the merchandising team who are eager to cut off 5 cents here and 7 cents there. And yes there is a creative challenge to be found in creating the coolest thing possible for the lowest price possible and in a way you’re having a large impact on the world (I designed some things that they’ve made 50,000 units of, which is fucking nuts), but it doesn’t feel creative. That’s why they pay you so damn much.

    Then how do you prime people for what are perceived to be worse jobs? There’s a lot of snobbery to combat, plus our culture has spent three decades telling everyone they can be what they want to be and take over the world no matter what, even though we do need people to work in factories and low-level design jobs. Not to mention the unfortunate truth that to be a successful fashion designer in the realm of high-fashion your odds are unbelievably slim unless you have rich parents (the days of Alexander McQueen-like rises to fame are over).

    So is the truth too horrible to tell people or do people need to be less sensitive?

    This is where I can easily get off-message again because it’s all too interconnected… but doesn’t this say something’s wrong deeper in our culture? Both in terms of aspiration and also that old chestnut of inequality.

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