This paper examines the consumers’ engagement with fashion, jewellery, and textiles as a routine aspect of their day-to-day lives. Fashion can be defined as a popular practice or style related to clothing, accessories, footwear, body piercing, accessories and even furniture. It is a habitual and distinctive trend in the style of people’s dressing. The fashion industry is one that will never lack consumers as people want to associate with new things and be seen to be fashionable (Brevik-Zender, 2011; 14). There aspects of fashion that are feminine and those that are masculine. Accordingly, fashion draws customers from men and women, boys and girls. The textile and fashion industry revolves around a rapid turn-around time and is very competitive. It is one industry that requires close engagement with the consumers especially where they seek customized fashion products.
Fashion Product’s Images
Adapted from last-call-save-fashion-products, 2014
It is prudent to first look at the consumers of fashion so that their engagement with the producers of fashion and fashion itself can be understood clearly. People from across the globe want to look decent, young and beautiful. There is an obsession with a youthfulness that makes many people turn to fashion almost everywhere in the world. As such, fashion draws consumers from the entire population of all sexes, all ages and races. People of different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds embrace fashion in different ways. Fashion is a concept of all times and an idea of every individual. It is a tool that makes the members of society to feel comfortable and happy at them. It helps people to enhance their skins, hairstyle and lips and to wear clothes that give them self confidence and appreciation of others (Wallace, Dearden, & Fisher, 2007; 59-61).
Theories Related to Consumers’ Engagement with Fashion
The need to understand the consumer’s engagement with fashion has given rise to psychographics, which attempts to understand their attitudes, values and opinions about fashion. The need to understand consumers and how they engage with fashion is quickly becoming a standard tool for marketers in the fashion industry.
Human beings have a motivation to satisfy their self-concept and desire to belong to a certain social group. In their everyday interaction with fashion, they try to satisfy esteem needs, uplift their dignity and obtain the respect and appreciation of others (Batchelor, 2011; 287). People make lifestyle choices that relate to their ambition, materialism and orientation towards status and power. They engage with the fashion that reflects their social status, level of wealth and the need for power and popularity.
These aspects can best be explained by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People’s interactions with fashion depend on their stage in the hierarchy that was put forward by Maslow. The following diagram shows the hierarchy pyramid.
Image adapted from Saul Mcleod, 2014
According to Mcleod theory, the engagement of consumers with fashion is closely linked to where they find themselves in the above pyramid (Bell, 2010; 108). Those who are at the physiological stage are concerned with the basic needs including food, water, and shelter. The consumers at this stage are not very concerned with fashion as it is seen as a luxury. For these people, obtaining the basic needs is fashionable enough and their great desire is not to get the luxuries of life but the most basic needs. The next stage in the hierarchy is that of safety. At this stage, people are concerned with their safety, freedom from fear and stability. Again, individuals at this stage do not make fashion a priority in their daily lives as all they seek is to be secure and free (Tedmond, 2012; 1141).
Consumers who belong to the third category of love and belonging have a lot of engagement with fashion. They are concerned with their families, friends and lovers. At this point, they seek to look beautiful to seek the appreciation of friends, spouses and family members. They are consumers of fashion who seek attention from the people close to them. Usually, clothes are worn in public places; fashion is meant to be displayed to others. It will not be wrong to state that consumers embrace fashion because of others. People do not mind being naked in private places and have not much problem without fashion. It is, therefore, right to mention that everyday engagement with fashion is a product of a desire to receive positive judgment from society (Brevik-Zender, 2011; 23-4).
The third category of people is those concerned with statuses and self-esteem. They seek achievement, mastery, respect, and recognition (Bell, 2010; 109). The engagement of fashion of the people in this class is governed by the desire to be recognized by the rest of society. They spend a lot of money on new clothes, footwear, jewels and textile. They are the major consumers in the textile industry as their dressing code and furniture in the houses must match their status.
The last category is those who are at the level of self-actualization. It is worth noting that even though these people consume fashion, it is not their priority. Their desire is to pursue inner talent, creativity and fulfilment. They may turn to fashion just for fulfilment purposes but they are more concerned with power and the pursuit of talent than fashion (Storey, 2005; 653-5). However, sometimes, in their desire for fulfilment, they have to do with the new fashions to obtain the nod of the rest of the society and become powerful.
Real-Life Instances of Consumer’s Engagement with Fashion
Marketers, retailers and fashion researchers across the globe continue to develop interest in the social values and engagement of the consumers with fashion in their daily lives. The competitiveness of the fashion industry has necessitated the need for retailers and researchers to understand the diverse needs of the consumers so as to provide quality fashion products that meet those needs conveniently and promptly (Tedmond, 2012; 1145-8).
One of the groups of consumers that provide more market to the fashion industry across the globe is college students. They bow to the pressure from peers to make use of certain types of clothes. Their manner of engagement with fashion is determined by their ability to withstand or succumb to the pressure. Many college students belong to the stage where they seek love and admiration by peers (Soni-Sinha, 2011; 121). They are at the point of life where they seek spouses and lovers. Accordingly, they have to appear decent and fashionable to attract the attention of the potential suitors. The students may seek custom made jewels, clothes and textiles to please their peers and suitors. Others do it for the purposes of beauty competition. Natural beauty is quite comforting and appealing, but it is absolutely difficult to win any beauty competition with pure natural beauty (Hemphill & Suk, 2009; 1188-9). One has to combine that beauty with beautiful and fashionable clothes that match it to win such competitions.
In engagement with fashion, consumers look for quality products. This pushes the manufacturers to produce high quality, original and sometimes expensive products. Fashion consumers want to appear original and unique. As a result, they would not love to purchase counterfeit products. Some of them are attention seekers who will have their esteem thoroughly beaten at the sight of wearing fashion products that raise eyebrows from their peers by virtue of their questionable originality (Soni-Sinha, 2011; 116).
Consumers are also concerned with individual styles. Style can be defined as the collision of self and fashion. Fashion consumers seek to cultivate their individual identities and translate the same in fashion. The explosion of the use of social media and the internet has made many consumers to be conscious of style. The proliferation of blogs that deal with personal styles has particularly promoted consumers’ confidence in the development and expression of personal styles (Bell, 2010; 112). In China, for instance, there has been a lot of awareness about individual style, enabling many Chinese fashion consumers to find their lost voices. Fashion stores such as 10 Corso Como and multi-brand boutiques provide expansions in the range of luxury products. Now, more than ever, Chinese consumers can speak through style about things that were formerly seen as taboos.
Many fashion consumers also have education on luxury brands. They are hungry for information that can lead them to the newest brands in towns. The consumers, therefore, make use of the available platforms to obtain the brands that they feel suitable for them. They watch the television adverts and turn to the social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsUp, youtube and facebook to get to interact with the new brands. These consumers are very technologically aware and use it to get the products and services they need. The industry has been redefined by the advancements in information and communication technologies and consumers do not waste any chance to use these technologies to obtain the products (Shanahan, 2004; 28-30). E-commerce has been very crucial in bringing fashion products closer to consumers. They can order for the products and services electronically and have them delivered at their doorstep.
In Harchuck’s (2010; 87) view, most fashion consumers are usually driven by the desire to satisfy their egos and social status. They want to have products that reflect their state of economic prosperity and obtain the respect of others. Fashion can be a great source of power by creating charismatic characters on the faces of its consumers. Some fashion consumers also prefer foreign brands. In many countries across the globe, fashion consumers believe that western brands produce high quality products than their domestic brands. As such, they look for such fashion products that tend to ape those of the western culture.
The fashion industry has become one of the most successful and flooded with consumers almost everywhere in the world. Consumers engage with fashion for socio-cultural, economic and political reasons. The industry receives consumers from various social classes from the poor to the rich. It also knows no age, sex, culture, religion or race. Contemporary society embraces fashion at a rate that has not been known before. Many consumers constantly become technologically conscious and use technology to obtain high quality products. They do not cherish counterfeit products and put a lot of emphasis on originality. The fashion industry is indeed an industry of the past, the present and the future. It will always have customers.
Batchelor, J 2011, Selling Beauty: Cosmetics, Commerce, and French Society, 1750-1830/Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery/The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 44(2), 285-288.
Bell, R 2010, ‘New Exhibition Spaces For Jewellery & Fashion’, Craft Arts International, 78, pp. 108-109.
Brevik-Zender, H 2011, ‘Let Them Wear Manolos: Fashion, Walter Benjamin, and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette’, Camera Obscura, 26, 78, pp. 1-33.
‘Fashioning Luxury for Factory Girls: American Jewelry, 1860-1914’ 2011, Business History Review, 85, 2, pp. 295-317.
Harchuck, KA 2010, ‘Fashion Design Protection: The Eternal Plight of the “Soft Sculpture”‘, Akron Intellectual Property Journal, 4, 1, pp. 73-118.
Hemphill, C, & Suk, J 2009, ‘The Law, Culture, and Economics Of Fashion’, Stanford Law Review, 61, 5, pp. 1147-1199.
Shanahan, L 2004, ‘The ‘Passion’ of the Fashion’, Brandweek, 45, 34, pp. 22-34.
Soni-Sinha, U 2011, ‘Invisible women: a study of jewellery production in West Bengal, India’, Journal of Gender Studies, 20, 2, pp. 105-123.
Storey, T 2005, ‘Fragments from the ‘life histories’ of jewellery belonging to prostitutes in early-modern Rome’, Renaissance Studies, 19, 5, pp. 647-657.
Tedmond, W 2012, ‘To Copy Or not to Copy, that is the Question: The Game Theory Approach to Protecting Fashion Designs’, University Of Pennsylvania Law Review, 160, 4, pp. 1139-1193.
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