Saturday, July 30, 2011

I love people who love fashion, but why are they so fickle?

        I wish I had met Kennedy Frazer 25 years ago, when I was younger and more flexible. She was the fashion critic of the New Yorker since 1970, and fashion's given her much to criticize. Please remember, criticism is a gift.

       In her piece "The Secret Power of Dress", Ms. Frazer says "we hardly notice the technical details of clothes and have only vague impressions of cut, cloth, and trimmings. Dressing and the choice of clothes is for most women an emotional, illogical business."

       Maybe that's why fashion advertisements are emotional and illogical.

       In a fashion marketing class I taught a while back, I asked the students to please explain a Dior ad I had found. It showed a close-up of a beautiful woman with a shoe on her head. Repeat: shoe on her head. The students couldn't explain it, so I decided to call Dior in New York.

       The advertising manager wasn't in, but the assistant was. I told her I was calling about the woman with a shoe on her head. "I need someone to explain it," I said. "Explain what?"asked the assistant. "Explain why the woman has a shoe on her head," I answered calmly. "Oh, that was the photographer's idea. He said it's never been done before,"she calmly explained.

       I was beginning to lose my calm. "Why is a shoe on a woman's head a good way to sell things that normally go on the feet?" I asked. The assistant had an answer: "It's art. And  Dior is selling art." I had a question: "Are your customers buying art or are they buying shoes?" She said I'd have to ask the advertising manager.  I thanked her for her help.

      Back to Ms. Frazer. She writes about spending a good deal of money on fashionable clothes. "The shopper is often panic stricken as the dress is carried away to be wrapped, but likes to grip the handle of the box on its return. The dress worn three times becomes as friendly as a pair of slippers, or else an embarrassment...If, for many women, the choice of clothes is an anxious, irrational affair, it is made doubly so by our craving to be fashionable."

      Does this sound like art to you? Do we put Dior and other fashion brands on a pedestal? Is there really room for a pedestal in our closets? Well, there's probably a great place for that pedestal in our psyches.

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