Miles argues that �Consumer goods and services potentially play an important role in who we are and
how we construct our social lives� (Miles 1998: 3) and that we relate to other people through goods and
services we consume. Is consumerism a valid way of forming group identities and relationships?
Discuss with reference to fashion, giving specific examples.
Points to note and include:
- Historically, people dress to reflect social status. Talk about the renaissance period or 18th century
Marie Antoinette. (Example 1 – Minor point 1. Write about this as background).
- Football fans wearing jerseys to show support to their favourite clubs. (Example 2 – Minor point 2. Write
about this as brief background)
- Subcultures. Mention bricolage. Talk about historic examples such as Skinheads/Teddy Boys. And
then modern examples such as Transgender. (Example 3 – Major point 1. Deserves 1 to 2 paragraphs
dedicated to it. Major elaboration.)
- In today’s celebrity obsessed culture, purchasing of celebrity designer brands such as Victoria
Beckham, or The Row (designed by the Olsen twins), to feel a more personal connection and relationship
to the stars. (Example 4 – Major point 2. Deserves 1 to 2 paragraphs dedicated to it. Major elaboration.)
Is consumerism a valid way of forming group identities and relationships
Consumerism or rather the way people or consumer consumes their products and services
changes over time. People as well have different choices and preferences of the products they
consume. Some of these preferences aim at identifying with some figures in the society such as
celebrities and famous individuals. Certain category of products is designed to suit people of
certain social status or from a certain geographical location. Miles asserted that ‘Consumer goods
and services potentially play an important role in who we are and how we construct our social
lives’ (1998: 3). This therefore means that the products and services that people consume shape
the way they perceive the society. Fashion is one of the areas that have shaped the way people
consume their products. From time in memorial various fashions designs have emerged.
Consumers have adopted these designs on various instances to be part of the bandwagon of the
wave of transformation. This discussion, therefore, provides an argument whether in deed
consumerism is a valid way of forming group identities and relationships focusing on fashion
industry. The paper provides various examples on how fashion has contributed in the formation
of these group identities and relationships.
Historically, people dress to reflect their social status. Those in the leadership positions
dress in manners that befit their status in the society. Society as well expected that these persons
dressed decently by virtue of the position they hold. Those that deviated from these expectations
were viewed in a different way as rather contravening the values and norms of the society. In
some instances, it attracted a public outcry (Illouz 2009). For instance, in the renaissance period
and period around 18 th century dressing code was very critical for those people that had some
influence in the society. The members of the public expected the leaders to dress in a certain
manner. One of the famous fashionist in the 18 th century was Marie Antoinette a wife to a French
King. Her dressing attracted the attention of the members of the public. She wore gowns and hats
designed by Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin. In most of her letters, she says that she used fashion to
give her credit and appearance. She wanted to earn reputation and credibility from the members
of the society. As a woman, she expressed her power through her dress code. Therefore, because
of her status in society. She had an opportunity to influence other women in the government.
Unlike other previous queens, she paid more attention to fashion by moving away from the usual
fashion of the traditional court dress codes. Therefore, through this, she lead fashion industry by
creating new styles and dominated the fashion industry to gain attention and to earn some
prestige in the eyes of the other court members.
This is therefore a typical example of how fashion helped to create identity and as well
establish relationships. She adapted to this style of dressing with an intention of appearing
different. She wanted to break away from a bandwagon in the dressing codes of the court queens.
This therefore enabled her to earn credit and form an identity. Fashion as well helps in creating
of relationships in the society. This fashion created a brand that people or other women adopted
to match the status of the Marie. Most of people that adopted this dressing fashion included those
of her social status in various positions in the government. The fashion was expensive and
beyond reach of many women of low social status.
Another example on how consumerism is a valid way of forming group identities and
relationship in experienced amongst football fans wearing jerseys of their teams to show their
support of favourite clubs. This has been a trend from historical periods. Football fans wear
jerseys of their teams during matches as well as in off the stadium as a way of identifying with
the teams they support (Matthews 2013). It s not difficult to tell the team the fans support but to
just look at the jerseys they wear. Football teams especially those that are at the top of the
leagues mint a lot of money by selling these jerseys to fans. For instance, most of the famous
teams with professional players such as Manchester and Arsenal have a wider fan base that will
always dress in the team’s jersey during their match to support them. “Neuroeconomics and
behavioural economics have shown that shopping produces emotional reactions, rather than
rational decisions and that human are liable to manipulation” (Shermer 2008). This statement
hold truth in circumstances where the consumers of fashions are obsessed with the celebrity
euphoria making them not to consider the fashion itself (Van tuinen 2011). The emotions
associated with certain celebrities may therefore lead to consumers making unprecedented
decisions pertaining to their consumption behaviors, a scenario evidenced among football fans
Consumerism is also used to form relationships and to exemplify identities among
subcultures. People will dress in a certain style that demonstrates the values and beliefs they
hold. Subcultures contributed to the emergence of new designed that were developed from
combination of styles meant for other purposes to suit their styles. This is a concept popularly
known as bricolge styles. The major aim of this style is to create new products by erasing the
original straight meaning. Examples of such fashions is the consumerism is a valid way of
forming group identities and relationships focusing on fashion industry joining candy wrappers
to produce a purse. These kinds of fashions modify the existing styles to make them suitable for
the purpose of the specific category of group. Example of the groups that used bricolage fashion
were the Teddy boys and skinheads (Teddy Boys 2014). Teddy boys were a group of young
teenagers in 1940s and 1950s that were a member of cult wore fashion were inspired by
Edwardian era (1901-1910) (Teddy Boys 2014). They had money and therefore they had power
to purchase or consume the cloths or fashions styles they wished. They adjusted the dressings
codes the former trousers and shirts had drapes and drainpipe (Teddy Boys 2014). This was
customized as drapes had collars, cuff and pocket trimmings. The trousers were customized and
became narrow, they wore crepe soled shoes and beetle crushers. The hairstyles were greased
into a quiff and it was shaped into a DA, also called ducks arse. This style was the first to be
self-created in history.
With increasing number of changes in the society, the consumption behaviors have as well
continued to evolve and change. The society has continued to change and people as well have
continued to agitate for their rights (Michael 2008). Transgender category of people/subculture
has as well contributed in the revolution of fashion and dressing codes. Designers are coming up
with clothes that suit transgender. They achieve this by incorporating various materials and
designers. These clothes are as well identified by the transgender subcultures. The increased
agitation of this category of people in the society has necessitated these amendments in the
In the contemporary world today, fashion has become very important and designers are
doing the best they can to come up with designs that meets the expectations of the people. Most
of the designs that celebrities wear attract a huge followers who want to be associated with such
individuals in society (Morris 2005). This has as well contributed to the increase in competition
in the fashions trends. New fashions or styles of dressing are cropping up every day as celebrities
competes for the best designs. Followers of those that like these celebrities are also not being left
behind in these quests. They are doing their best to ensure that they keep to the standards of the
celebrities. The culture today people are obsessed, and often will purchase celebrity designers
brands of such propel like Victoria Beckham to feel personal connection and relationship to these
stars. Evolutionary theories contend that, “Consumers are subject to a host of cognitive biases
which…appear to render them vulnerable to manipulation’ ((Van tuinen 2011). This biasness
makes the consumers to associate or purchase certain kinds of products and not the others. They
can easily be manipulated to associate with certain kinds of fashion.
A star and a celebrity such as Victoria Becham has a fashion label that has grown and
which has attracted many people or consumers. The star is famous and consumers want to create
a connection and touch with what she wears and what she does. For instance, the fans of this
celebrity will always want other people to identify by their like of the style, the kind of cloths
and other fashion products they have (Michael 2008). The recent fashion label has launched
deals with various dresses, and other luxury products such as handbags. These diffusion ranges
of products offered through her outlines are highly consumed by the consumers. Victoria is as
well one of the most talked designers in the social media such as twitter especially during New
York Fashion fashion week. This signifies her place in the fashion industry. The consumer base
of her fashion trends is growing every other day as people see her as a model and a success story.
The human mind is wired to associate with what others feel is right. The bandwagon effect is
experienced among many fashion lovers. They will go for anything that is associated with
celebrities and which they perceive is new and stylish. Addictive critique contends that, “Noting
the importance of fashion to the phenomenon of consumerism connects with the third of the
more common criticisms of consumer behavior, which is that it is an addiction” (Campell 2010).
Fashion is addictive and people or consumers may find themselves purchasing new products
because fashion continues to change. This therefore explains why many consumers that engages
in purchasing behaviors on every fashion that comes out.
Fashion designers as well must consider various aspects when designing these fashions to
their customers. This means that some of the consumers will go for specific attributes in a
fashion and therefore being able to concentrates on such areas will increase their consumption.
One is to consider how the product or service image is to be represented. The designers should
ensure that they factor in the cultural aspects of the people or target consumers. Therefore,
focusing on local theories and beliefs will help the fashion to sell more quickly. Behaviors of the
consumers are built on constructed through the social groups in respect to various aspects of
fashion and preferences and life and transformation of these into norms and beliefs. Therefore,
products can become marketable image through the way people identify with their own image,
representation and symbols. Most of the jersey won by fans is designed to match the interests
and preferences of the fans. The fans have their favourite players and that is why most of them
are printed with the names of the players on them. This therefore, gives the consumers a freedom
to buy the jersey with the player they like. This personalization of fashion makes the fans
identify at a much closer distance with their favourite team players not just the team they
Consumerism behaviors highly depend on the media depiction and portrayal of the
products and services. Media has become an essential channel to influence the behaviors of
people towards fashion (Morris 2005). Media such as television and nowadays-social media play
keyhole in influencing adoption of certain fashions. Media and movies contribute greatly to
reshaping, re-patterning lives, meanings, and needs of the consumers. It therefore contributes to
the formation of group identities and relationships by helping to distribute information to the
consumers. Most consumers’ view or access information through media and it as well shapes the
way they consume fashion. The media platform is therefore very crucial in helping showcase
latest fashion trends in the society (Morris 2005). Celebrities as well attain their celebrity
through frequent media appearances that makes them reach a wider market. Media agenda
setting theory helps to understand the importance of media in its role in influencing the decision
making process of the consumers. People act and react to information they view or see through
these media platforms. Social media such as facebook have become popular media for people to
showcase their fashions. These media are popular in all parts of the world and it has become
easier for fashion to be showcased and to spread across the globe. Many of the celebrities across
the world for instance, have managed to influence consumers fashion trends courtesy of media.
“Media play a more important role in our lives than before television became dominant;
commercial messages are more pervasive and more penetrating. Brands are now marketed as
representations of lifestyles or ‘meaning’” (Klein 2005). This therefore, qualifies the agenda
setting theory and portrays the impact that media can have in determining or influencing the way
people purchase fashion. Media portrayal of certain kind of fashions or dresses triggers
consumers to purchase the same to be part of the brand. They also want to be identified with the
celebrities that champion those brands.
In consumerism, it is also very important for the designers of various fashion trends to
customize or fragment their markets for specific category of consumer. People from a certain
part of the country or those within a certain age bracket or those within a given income range,
social status require consideration when designing a fashion. The preferences of individuals also
vary and this will as well play a critical role in creating identities and relationships. For instance,
designs for people from the entertainment industry may not be similar to those in corporate
sector/industry. There must be a clear understanding and lines in designing fashions.
Customization will therefore ensure that the needs and the wants of that particular group of the
consumer’s targets are met (Caput 1991). For instance, most of the consumers that will go for
the products of celebrities such as Victoria must have high level of income to buy these products
and as well must understand who Victoria is and her values. They as well may be motivated by
her dressing and fashions because they want to be like her.
Fashion is also one way that consumers choose to show solidarity and support to those
celebrities or things they admire and like. In most of the fashion, designs involving celebrities
many people go buying such fashions because they love them and wants to show their support
for them. For example, in football and other popular games, fans will actually show their
support to their clubs and favourite footballers by wearing their jerseys even though they
identify with the teams, they also want to show that they are with the teams through thick and
thin. They give their teams’ moral to keep going and doing what they can to win.
Any fashion designers are also expected to showcase the benefit of their products.
Making a product look attractive and appealing starts by defining the value of the product in the
mind of the customer. The mindset of the customers should be captured in the design of the
products before it is designed (Cheveresan 2013). Having clear mindset and positioning it
becomes easy to design mechanisms that allows production of appropriate products that offers
the values distinct , and desirable as well offers a meaningful representation over the other on
the market (Ding 2014). Fashion designers therefore must understand the thinking or the
mindset of the customers when creating their designs to suit specific tastes of their consumers.
For instance, a fashion designer, that creates or designs clothes and other products for celebrity
for instance, needs to put in mind the target consumers of the celebrity. This will help the
designer to come up with an appropriate design that will as well enable the consumers to
purchase the same because they will have some connections and relationship or attachment to
In fashion industry, consumers as well have the reasons they consume certain kinds of
products and not the others. Some of the consumers will not be moved or motivated to purchase
certain fashion products because they do not mind the trends. While others are very much
attentive to any new fashion trends and will not hesitate to scan a round for any new trends in
fashion (Edvardsson, Enquist & Johnston 2005). The core benefits of the products in fashion are
not more on quality but it is a trend and a lifestyle people embrace. Consumers of fashion, may
not be mindful of the cost of the dress provided that they are part of the group that share the
Extensive research studies have been done in the area of consumerism and consumer
behaviors, the experiences and purchasing patterns. Various questions that pertains to
purchasing is what makes people to purchase the products, the basis on which people make
their purchases- whether they base on the core benefits or on intangible representation (Henry
2005). Gaining an understanding to these allows the producers or fashion designers to have a
clear understanding of the best strategies to position their products. For instance, those that
purchase these fashion products based on core benefits may go for the quality, the design and not
the popularity of the cloths. However, those that are pushed by the euphoria surrounding the
fashions such as the celebrity will make a purchasing decision without having to consider the
core benefits of the products.
Therefore, in the contemporary world today competition has increased and it is s very
important for the fashion designers to embrace strategies that delve on creativity and innovation
to remain relevant and to meet the needs of their customers. The behaviors depicted by people or
consumers should be closely monitored and scrutinized as this will give the designers and upper
hand in their decision (Illouz 2009).
The fashion industry has experienced development over the years. New designs have
changed over the years. For instance, in the 18 th century dressing was more important and was
caused to signify social status. People in leadership positions were expected to wear certain
dressings. Example of people that shaped fashion industry included Marie. Football funs as well
provide a good example of how fashion is used to demonstrate identity and relationships. Most
football fans wear jerseys of their fauvorite team to identify with them and to show their support
and solidarity behind them. The Teddy boys as well have contributed to the fashion trends in
1940s and 1950s. The dressing was distinct and was customized for their identity to that cult. In
contemporary days, fashion has changed. Most of the celebrities have shaped the fashion
industry. Their dressing styles go viral and are replicated across many of their fans who seek for
personal association and for identity. Therefore, it is no doubt that fashion or consumerism helps
in forming group identities and relationships.
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