The new edition of What’s left of the media by Gianfranco
Bettetini and Armando Fumagalli (Quel che resta dei media;
Franco Angeli, Milan) has recently hit bookstores. It has been over ten
years since the publication of the first edition (in 1998) and the
authors have now issued an updated synthesis of the evolution of the
media panorama, from the reality show boom to the rise of the new form
of digital and interactive entertainment.
A chapter of the book (which can be found in the
section of our web site) is dedicated in particular to the communication in the fashion world, a topic examined
by Paolo Braga and Armando Fumagalli.
Initially, the authors retrace the steps of the evolution of fashion as
a popular commercial phenomenon that exploded in Milan, Italy in the
late Seventies. They analyze the beginnings of this surge and its first
expansion in the United States. The work then explains how fashion
reached the international market in the Nineties, thanks to a strong
cooperation among designers and heavy industrial investments in
advertising campaigns. It covers the various difficulties during the
start of the third millennium, the economic crises, and the competition
of French luxury groups and retail chains such as Zara and H&M.
From the industrial perspective, we witness a total transformation of
the business model, also in light of the new challenges and the
advanced demands of countries such as China and Russia. The media on
the other hand, exalt fashion to a mass phenomenon. In fact, nobody
like designers has achieved such a significant cultural impact in the
recent decades, influencing cinema, theater, architecture, and
literature with their tendencies. Their influence extends to the point
of achieving their own real artistic legitimacy and clutch on opinion
But how is such a phenomenon possible? The authors identify the main
cause to be the widespread use of advertising and publicity leverage,
which has contributed in a decisive way to the explosion of brands. But
advertising, contrary to other fields, is flattened more and more by
images of models in a glamorous sensual atmosphere, and not by real
competitive advantages of products. In this way, fashion greatly loses
its originality and diversity. All brands use the strategy of elevating
the figure of the model to a unique and prominent element of
communication, specifically through a certain slender ideal.
The negative implications of this communication trend, above all on the
social and psychological level, are rather evident, and many studies
confirm the data. The communication of fashion offers a canon of
standards for beauty by which to evaluate oneself and project changes.
It does not aim to offer purely aesthetic ideals, rather it suggests
absolutely achievable short-term goals that are based in a world of
unsatisfied desires, aspirations and frustrations. In other words, it
advertises an unhealthy model of the body that teaches young girls that
this type of body is the ticket to security, success, and even relating
with others. Consequently, a genuine problem of gender identity really
At this point of the chapter, the authors’ criticism is quite tough.
The lack of public reaction in the face of such problems is greatly due
to the absence of critical voices capable of influencing the insiders;
in other words, the substantial silence of journalists and opinion
leaders who theoretically ought to examine the excesses. The authors
propose various ideas to consider, among which they ask if it will ever
be possible for fashion to continue its role in creativity, color,
enhancement in style and fabric, the beauty of the body; rejecting,
however, the exasperation of sensuality and the forms of degradation
which- more or less consciously- give rise to attractions that are
harmful to health and personal identity.