Here is a rundown on what’s going to work in the world of fashion communication from this point on! And a little about what’s not working anymore…
Let me start with a confession. For creative people Fashion Advertising is the category they most like to work on, and that’s because the product is the attitude. What this means is that if you are advertising a portable generator or lamp then you have to be very careful that the product can be clearly seen. On the other hand when you are advertising a brand of jeans you can show a topless man or woman lying in the sand and you’re showing the product!
So what’s happening in the world of fashion advertising, and where is it all going?
First off there’s a big blurring as to what is fashion advertising and what is not. Alright, so we know that shoes, scarves, watches, belts and earrings are fashion advertising. But how about mobile phones, laptops, cars and luggage? No, you say?
Well then take a look at mobile phones like Vertu or the Nokia N Series, take a look at the Vaio colour range of laptops, or the Dell Studio range, see the BMW X6, and watch the new ad film for Samsonite Cosmolite – all these products and their communication are as fashionable as it gets. And that’s probably the fi rst future trend – fashion is going to spread its wings and include many new products. There’s a reason for this. As companies achieve technological parity, there’s no functional difference between one product and other, therefore the difference has to be ‘created’ through packaging, branding and communication – in other words you have to ‘fashion’ a difference!
Now let’s take a look at some of the other trends
The supermodel is dead. There was an age when supermodels used to rule the roost. Thus we had the likes of Tyra Banks and Kate Moss abroad, and names like Milind Soman and Malvika Tiwari in India. Somewhere along the way advertisers began to change their thinking. They began to cast film stars and celebrities instead. To begin with this was seen as a dangerous step. And that’s because there was always the risk that the star would overshadow your product.
To give you an example, suppose Chanel was launching a new perfume called ‘Portfolio’ – and they used Angelina Jolie as the model – wouldn’t her character traits come ‘in the way’ of what you thought about the perfume? However, after a while the advertisers probably figured that the exposure was worth the risk. Now you have Eva Mendis, David Beckham, George Clooney, Hritik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and many many others on the fashion bandwagon. (Of course there’s always the risk that that your chosen celebrity misbehaves or falls into bad times…like Tiger Woods)!
Another trend is that success is going younger and younger. Take a look at suiting and shirting advertising ten years back. The character portrayed was normally 45+, sometimes even with a dash of white hair – quite obviously a man who has ‘arrived.’
Now things have drastically changed
When the CEO of a company is being portrayed, he is in his early 30’s. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the explosion of dot com companies as well as new service industries are creating younger CEOs – in their early 40’s instead of their early 50’s. The second, with the spread of the EMI culture, people are buying houses, cars and diamonds in their 20’s. If you are past 30, you are old!
Fashion marketers are also desperately looking to create new trends. Stonewash jeans, Acidwash jeans, Distressed Jeans and lots of other stuff have been done. So what’s the next thing? One attempt was the Levi’s Live Unbuttoned campaign. However this went too far for the moral brigade when Twinkle ‘unzipped’ Akshay Khanna at the Lakme Fashion Week. There was an accusation that this was an obscene act. Thus, even while brands will carefully balance the line between edgy and obscene, they will continue to search for new cults and new trends. While Live Unbuttoned was a combination of product and message, some new trends will come purely from communication and brand image. Two prime examples for this are the branding of FCUK and the whimsical catchy retro advertising of DIESEL in France.
What about shock value in fashion communication? What was shocking yesterday is passé today. Benetton got a lot of attention with its ‘Nun’ and ‘New born baby’ ads, but where does it go next? For a long time there has been no shock and awe from the big brands – unless of course you count nudity – but that is as old as Adam and Eve! In India of course the challenge is much greater. Tuff shoes did a ‘nude’ ad more than a decade back and the court case lasted ten years! Still given all the rules and all the policing, there must be some shock routes that can still be used.
Another upcoming demise will be that of Size 0. There is a hot debate about what should be on the ramps and ads, with more and more designers and photographers preferring ‘fuller’ figures. The evils of Size 0 are now open for all to see with bulimia and anorexia related deaths of young women – one of them was living on lettuce leaves sprinkled with diet pepsi when she died! It won’t be long before some laws are passed, so it’s better that ad agencies and clients take self-policing steps.
At another level the look seems to be going natural. Advertising towards teenagers passed through a weird phase for a while. Every ad felt that they had to be edgy so they did their stuff with piercings, tattoos and wild hair. Now thankfully that has settled down and young people need not be gothic, nasty, punky or loony.
Finally, an important trend that is emerging quickly and strongly is ‘Indian’. For a long time now India has been importing its brand imagery from the west. Thus, most of our advertising scenarios were straight out of New York and London. Now things are changing. India is going international in a big way, from Jai Ho all over the world, to Bhangra in London, to Madonna wearing a bindi, the world is becoming our border. And Indians are becoming prouder of their heritage. This will begin to reflect in fashion advertising. Fashion advertising is going to go fusion in a big way. A whole new language of India Fashion will evolve.
How many of these trends will play out this year and to what extent, is something we’ll have to wait to watch. However, the journey promises to be exciting and more realistic!
Shivjeet Kullar, Creative Mentor, K Factor Advertising, who has over a 100 national and international advertising awards under his belt, gazes into the crystal ball to look at the future of fashion advertising.