Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Power of Fashion Media

Nora J. Daly

Gazette du Bon Ton

Today there are four types of fashion media: the magazine as hegemonic power, media as reporter of street style and cultural trends, the magazine as art object, and media as a tool of individual expression. The magazine as hegemonic power is the historical form of the fashion magazine as dictator of both trends and lifestyle to its readers. This was the role of the fashion magazine for the earlier half of the twentieth century, during which time publishers and editors were at the height of their power within the fashion system. Media as a reporter of street style and cultural trends has both an historical and a contemporary connotation. The earliest fashion magazines reported on trends established by wealthy aristocrats, this remained the magazine’s role for much of the nineteenth century. During this time magazines existed to empower wealthy elites and established dressmakers and fashion authorities.

Today modern media, both magazines and blogs, devoted to tracking street style can be seen as harkening back to this tradition, one difference being this newer form of media as reporter of trends empowers cultural figures (such as models and musicians) and even individuals to some extent. The third form, the magazine as art object, is the newest incarnation of the fashion magazine as it tries to survive in an era where print media has become increasingly obsolete. These “galleries in print” are created for elites, by elites, but as they are inaccessible and unknown to mainstream consumers it is questionable whether they really empower anyone.

Lynn Yaeger, The Satiorialist

Finally, there remains media as an individual expression, best embodied by the personal fashion blog (different from the street style blog in that it focuses on the author’s sartorial expression). This form of media allows the individual consumer, typically at the bottom of the fashion food chain, to obtain power and influence trends. While it is safe to say that the days of the magazine’s hegemony are behind us, in the future it is likely that the types of media discussed will flourish, as will new forms of media that come along to fit the ever expanding definition of fashion.

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