Archivi categoria: Fashion Studies



The question is: how Fashion and Graphic Design influence each other and how is this relationship reflected on branding dynamics?

First of all Fashion and Graphic should be considered as both design practices. According to Munari’s theory Design is made by technology and communication, indeed the designer construes the range of symbols of a particular culture: that use of codified symbols is necessary to communicate a message to a huge audience and graphics represent the simplest and fastest way to deliver a clear massage.
Considering that a specific code transmits a specific information, Bruno Munari thinks Graphic Design as the main resource of an intentional communication. Based on this perspective, the information – given through an intentional communication – can be received by the beneficiary understanding all its meaning as much as the transmitting wants to reveal.
At this point this theory starts to became useful even in Fashion communication, because a message is made by two parts: the information itself and the visual stand (Munari 1968). In Fashion the information is represented by clothes and the visual platform is the graphic used for realizing the logo, or the visual approach of an advertising campaign, or also the architecture of a store. Recent studies underline that fashion brands work well when the shape of the label reflects the message (Teunissen 2013).

Thinking about the process behind designer’s work in this way, marketing strategies have become more complex in the last decades. Indeed, the most important tool for fashion marketing is branding, in other words the selling of item through its symbolic image: the brand itself. As Edwards states: “brands and logos triumph over design” (Edwards 1988) and sometimes also Fashion Houses could change themselves by rethinking their logo.

In the previous centuries, Fashion is thought as a mirror for the social identity of people, reflecting the hierarchy of the social classes. Clothes could be considered as signal of power and wealth. Lately, clothes have lost that function and become a tool to express people’s identity. Clothes wear identities (Edwards 1988): Fashion is not a representation of how people want to appear, but who they want to be.
In the contemporary society, dominated by celebrities and brands, this is a basic feature. Nowadays fashion is the fastest way of identity appropriation: by buying a Chanel dress the costumers are buying Chanelness; by buying a parfume sponsored by Charlize Theron the costumers are buying Theroness. Costumers are allowed to desire alternative shapes of subjectivity.
I will try to focus on a specific brand (in this case Dior) to make more clear what I am trying to explain, and also to understand how the visual identity of a brand could be built, so it could be possible to figure out how the relationship between Fashion and Graphic Design have been changing during the time through Branding.

In this context Dior represents a clear example because its founder specifically wanted to dress a particular female image.
Dior’s brand is related with an image of a very feminine woman and a soft femininity. Dior’s image is connected with ideas of elegance and grace, romanticism, opulence and sinuous shapes. On the other hand a woman wearing a Dior dress wants to become a princess; she does not want just to look like one, she wants to be part of the brand-experience. Obviously, it is easier to buy a Dior belt or a perfume, than to buy an expensive and luxurious dress!
It is a repetition of dynamics: we buy a pure symbol to become part of it. Thereby buying Dior, costumers buy a piece of pure femininity.
Christian Dior started his career as a couturier in 1947 when he launched his collection Corolle. The name of his first collection referred to the shape of the garments, which recall flowers and softness. The collection was inspired on one hand by nineteenth- century costumes, and on the other hand by clothes from the Thirties, recalling a period of happiness and well-being. Indeed, the Second World War had its end a couple of years before Dior started his activity. During the war, there were strict restrictions on the purchase of clothes and textiles because of a lack of raw materials, so everything was regulated. Therefore, womenswear was mainly made by poor fabrics and badly designed: women looked like soldiers or boxers, as Christian Dior himself said in those days (Gnoli 2012).
Referring to the elements destroyed by the war Dior built a new image of women, starting to dress not just bodies but also identities, a specific female identity: the same identity that is embodied by the French brand even now.

It is commonly known, the success of the maison has been astonishing. It has been possible also thanks to the work of the French fashion illustrator René Gruau, art director of the advertising campaign for Dior in 1947. His illustrations recall soft features, elegance and sophisticated women on the same line of Dior clothes.
This collaboration made it possible to maximize the impact of New Look and stabilize Dior image, which became the leading image of the postwar woman.

Recently, under the artistic direction of John Galliano (1996-2011) something changed, giving us an interesting case study. Under Galliano’s direction the fashion house produced very glamour and dreamy dresses, taking the image of Dior to the extreme. Clothes became more similar to theatre costume, and the fairy-tale atmosphere aroused by them was overemphasized: Dior collections were still romantic and full of diorness, but sometimes unwearable.
In the late Nineties the economic growth authorise people and costumers to require a high end fashion product, so even the dreamy and unwearable glamour sponsored by Dior was in any case suitable for the market demands. The most important point was to create a specific imaginary, in which luxury haute-couture was the keystone of a huge market made also by accessories, perfumes and basic garments saleable through the image built by the brand.
Nevertheless, after the 2011 massive financial crisis in Europe, the sparkling atmosphere sponsored by Dior became too extravagant and a more wearable womenswear was necessary. Therefore, after Galliano’s collections the maison re-started to produce clothes recalling the idea of a tactful flower-woman, accordingly to the image of Dior in the late Forties.

In conclusion I would underline that there is a practical and theoretical gap between the older image of the couturier and the modern fashion designer: Christian Dior as a couturier dressed historical needs; instead Galliano as a creative director dressed saleable images.


Edwards, Tim, Moda. Concetti, Pratiche, Politiche, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Torino, 2012.

Munari, Bruno, Design e comunicazione visiva, Laterza, Bari, 1968

Pecorari, Marco, “Zones-in-Between: the ontology of Fashion Praxis”, in: (ed.) Jan Brand, José Teunissen. Couturegraphique, Breda Moti/Terralannoo, 2013 p. 58-95

Teunissen, José, “From Label to Total Look, the various routes to merkidentity”, in: (ed.) Jan Brand, José Teunissen. Couturegraphique, Breda Moti/Terralannoo, 2013 p. 16-47

Gnoli, Sofia, Moda. Dalla nascita della Haute Couture a oggi, Carocci, Roma, 2012

Amsterdam Fashion Institute

Ormai sono passate quasi quattro settimane dall’open day tenutosi all’Amsterdam Fashion Institute il 10 Novembre. Io e altre centinaia di persone abbiamo atteso di entrare pazientemente, nella lunga fila a serpentina che arrivava fin dall’altro lato della strada. Arrivato il nostro turno ci hanno fornito una brochure con la mappa dell’edificio, sulla quale erano segnati gli orari e le aule nelle quali erano programmate le presentazioni dei corsi e gli incontri con studenti e docenti a cui poter rivolgere le proprie domande e soddisfare ogni curiosità. Un’organizzazione impeccabile.

Si tratta di una delle più prestigiose istituzioni per la formazione e istruzione nel settore della Moda in Europa, al punto da aggiudicarsi il  ventottesimo posto nella Top50, stilata dal sito Fashionista, dei migliori istituti di Fashion Design nel mondo. La sede si trova in un quartiere moderno ed elegante di Amsterdam, in pieno centro e vicino al Museumkwartier.

Durante la giornata di apertura al pubblico è stato possibile girovagare in tutto l’edificio. Abbiamo visitato le aule e soprattutto i laboratori di sartoria, nei quali non solo viene insegnato ad assemblare un’abito, ma anche a realizzare i tessuti e le stampe. Questo è il vero punto di forza dell’istituto: preparare gli studenti nella realizzazione pratica dei prodotti della moda, dalla progettazione al disegno, dai colori ai materiali, fino ai plastici in scala per gli studi di layout e marketing. Un’approccio complesso, globale, che non punta alla sola teoria.

L’istituto prevede tre indirizzi: Fashion & DesignFashion & Branding; Fashion & Managment. Sono tutti corsi quadriennali (ovvero Bachelor Degree) corrispondenti alla nostra Laurea Triennale. Da un lato è curioso che non ci siano corsi di specializzazione, master o short courses, ma in realtà questa potrebbe essere una scelta di metodo interessante. Infatti la durata quadriennale perme di accedere ai più giovani a un insegnamento di altissimo livello, ma consente anche a chi proviene da diversi background di avere una formazione completa e pratica del Design e del Marketing. Oltre alle lezioni e ai laboratori viene inoltre offerta la possibilità di trascorrere un semestre in un altro istituto analogo in Europa, ed è obbligatorio svolgere un tirocinio (facilmente reperibile tramite la scuola stessa) direttamente collegato al mondo del lavoro e all’indirizzo di studio scelto.

Queste sono state le considerazioni e le riflessioni che ho potuto fare quel giorno. Per il resto, spero di tornarci presto.


Mode Still

Dai Film Still di Cindy Sherman non è passato molto tempo, e quando sfogliamo le riviste e guardiamo le fotografie pubblicitarie non possiamo non pensare a quelle immagini.

Attimi congelati nell’istanea? Niente di più falso, o sarebbe meglio dire, finto. Sembrano fotogrammi isolati dallo scorrere di un film, viene da chiedersi se vogliano raccontare una! Non sono istantanee, non sono spontanee: sono set costruiti, perfettamente illuminati, la posa è precisa, niente potrebbe essere diverso da come appare. E’ questa l’unica regola postmoderna: ricostruire una realtà artificiale per mettere sotto i riflettori le nostre identità e le nostre riflessioni.

A questo scopo niente come la fotografia si adatta così bene. La macchina fotografica è la macchina dei sogni, il medium della fantasia. Solo lei riesce a farci credere che qualunque cosa in quanto fotografata esista davvero. E la moda, più di ogni altra cosa, costruisce i nostri sogni, alimenta la nostra immaginazione… ricordiamo Cecil Beaton? Il fotografo dei sogni realizzati.

In questo filone si inserisce l’ultima cover story di Steven Meisel realizzata per Vogue Italia. Tutto sembra casuale, ma niente è lasciato al caso in queste scenografie perfette, fatte di arredamenti un po’ retrò che si accompagnano ad abiti dal sapore antico (notare le scarpe in stile Settecento  con l’enorme fibbia di dimanti!). Donne fantastiche, carismatiche e assorte, in bilico tra passato e presente, animano queste immagini sottratte a un flusso di eventi che possiamo solo ricostruire nella nostra mente.

Ecco le immagini: