#breakingtheinternet – an investigation into celebrity culture and its role in fashion promotion. Written by Amy Jackson, photograph sourced from Yahoo.
As we enter the half-way point within the second decade of the 21st century, it’s common thought to believe that celebrity endorsement is a concept that has coincided with the rise of the internet and social media. However, this is not the case, with the earliest of celebrity endorsements within fashion dating back to the nineteenth century, when the father of modern haute couture, Charles Frederick Worth would use Parisian high society in order to further his brand. The link between celebrities and fashion has long been recognised as an important marketing tool. In today’s society, where the general population are exposed to more advertisements and promotions than ever before, it appears that the most vital marketing strategy a brand can consider is not about the clothing, but who is wearing it.
The use of celebrities in marketing campaigns in the fashion industry has become increasingly more popular than the traditional method of using fashion models. Italian brand, Miu Miu is seen as a prime adopter of a line that favours the use of celebrities, rather than models to promote their product within the industry. Miu Miu is seen as a more affordable option in comparison to it’s sister brand, Prada, and has used a range of marketing techniques in order to position themselves successfully in the market. The Italian line has identified through market research that a younger demographic (16-25 year olds) are influenced more by celebrities than any other age range. Using this information, Miu Miu conducted market segmentation to identify their ideal consumer, that shares the same psychographic and behavioural needs, and geared their marketing campaigns towards them, by showcasing younger, more relatable and recognisable celebrities for that audience – for instance, Elle Fanning being used in the Spring 2014 campaign.
Fashion houses do not rely on just print and digital marketing campaign as a means of promotion. Another way a brand can market themselves is through catwalk shows, and celebrity presence is crucial to this. Traditionally, the sole purpose of a fashion show is to showcase a new collection, however there seems to be an increasing preoccupation with the front row, and who is representing it. Fashion brands use celebrities as a way of generating media attention and buzz, with front row attendees being photographed and gossiped about on media outlets moments after their arrival.
Catwalk shows have thus became an extension to the marketing process, engaging their audience with the use of the celebrity. Celebrities, when agreeing to become involved in a brand’s promotion, will be required to attend any fashion shows as part of representation. Alternatively, celebrities are paid for their attendance of catwalk shows – Rihanna, for instance, is paid $100,000 for every show she attends.
In an interview with The Telegraph (2012), Nicole Farhi weighs in on this issue:
“What do they show you in the papers after a fashion show? Not the clothes, but the celebrities who are being paid to sit at the show.”
Another method of promotion utilised by fashion brands, is gifting. Gifting is a common occurrence for high-end fashion houses, where celebrities will be given free products in hope that gossip publications, social media and paparazzi will post media and articles regarding their attire. An example of this is MailOnline, who frequently post articles around what celebrities are wearing.
The clothing an individual is seen wearing is often used as an indicator of social worth or status . If a celebrity ‘fashion icon’ is photographed wearing a particular brand, those who desire to be considered fashionable may wear the same garment. Marketers within the industry have utilised the craving of self-fulfilment along with the obsessiveness over celebrity status within popular culture to market their products effectively.
“Every 15-year-old girl knows that Kate Moss carries a Balenciaga bag, and they want one, too – but at an affordable level”. – The Guardian (2005)
However, fashion houses do not use only models, actors and musicians in order to advertise their products. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this investigation, the fashion industry has a long relationship with individuals who are in the upper echelons of the ‘class’ system, most notably, those from a ‘royal’ house. A recent example of this is how the industry uses Kate Middleton. Kate Middleton, a new addition to the British royal family, has been the subject of much media attention over the last decade, specifically her style. Fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen who designed her wedding dress, have used her influence to promote their products. Those who care a great deal about how they are perceived in terms of affluence and social status, are likely to mimic the clothing worn by Kate Middleton in order to conjure a sense of a higher social stance, through methods of achieved status.
It is not just high-end fashion houses that have noticed the undeniable success celebrity endorsement brings. High-street stores are beginning to collaborate with celebrities, creating a ‘range’ for the retailer. The trickle-down affect to high-street from premium fashion houses can be applied to the use of celebrities in the promotional campaign and collaborations. The most notable collaboration between a celebrity and a fashion brand is the Hermes collaboration with the actress Jane Birkin on the iconic ‘Birkin bag’ in 1981. Jane Birkin was recognised as a majorly influential fashion icon in the 1960’s. Therefore it could be seen as ironic that one of the most influential celebrity figures of the present day, Kim Kardashian, has been criticised for her customisation of the Birkin bag. The Kardashian family are a group of individuals that are representative of societies current fixation with reality television and celebrities who are ‘constructed‘ by the media, and Kim Kardashian is an example of a celebrity who endorses products to audiences through the use of social media. Since the users of social media are predominantly young, this brings back the idea that modern day fashion and celebrity endorsement is targeted towards a younger audience than it would have been in the past.
Overall, it is undeniable that marketing strategies within the fashion industry have a strong fixation on celebrity culture and how it influences individuals – in particular young people. However, just how crucial is it for a brand to align themselves with a celebrity? And just how important is this in terms of marketing and sales? Throughout this investigation, what can be concluded is that how celebrity endorsement is used is dependent on the age of the consumer. Celebrity collaborations such as the ‘Birkin bag’ are aimed and marketed at an older, more affluent target audience due to the expensive pricing of the product. Additionally, older women will have more expendable income than their youthful counterparts, which aligns with the expensive pricing of the product. Celebrity endorsement through vigorous promotional campaigns can help a brand attract new consumers, especially if that celebrity sways influence with a particular crowd of individuals. For instance, French fashion house Celine, have gained the attention of older women this past year with their 2014 promotional campaign with author Joan Didion being featured. By utilising Ms. Didion, Celine are appealing to a demographic in order to change the brand perception within an older generation. Individuals who are tired of seeing the stereotypical fashion model are turning to brands that recognise diversity. This is clearly outlined in the Guardian (2015):
“…It seems that the industry have finally grasped that women don’t simply give up shopping the moment they turn fifty”.
Whilst this piece has heavily focused on fashion houses and brands that openly embrace celebrity endorsement with the industry, this popular marketing tool hasn’t been welcomed by certain brands and houses. However, these brands who have not bought into the idea in the past, seem to be buying into the movement. Diane Von Furstenberg is a brand who has traditionally gravitated towards an older audience, but has recently enlisted reality television star and model, Kendall Jenner in her runway show. This is the kind of tactic embraced by brands who buy into celebrity endorsement. By hiring Jenner, this not only generates social media buzz, but brings in a younger target audience by association.
For some fashion brands, such as Givenchy, celebrity endorsement of Audrey Hepburn helped the brand to appeal to a wider audience through cinema. In the 1950’s, Audrey Hepburn’s representation of Givenchy helped the brand grow by promoting the designs to cinema -goers, whilst in turn helping Hepburn to become a style icon. This, along with the rest of the points discussed, show the overall power of celebrity endorsement in fashion, and how as technology grows, societies fixation with new forms of media will only continue to increase, and celebrity promotion will remain easier than ever before.