Fashion brands most often utilize social media for advertising. Other uses include reporting news, updates, announcements, events, promotions, and customer service.

For example, organizations can use Facebook to promote events and give full news stories. They can use Twitter for shorter updates and announcements. The company decides which sites to use and controls how these sites display their image.

Fashion, in all its myriad expressions, was historically conveyed through unmitigated first hand sight (including glimpses of royalty), touch (peddlers’ samples of fabrics and garments), auditory descriptions (word of mouth), and physical imitations or other representations (drawings).

But today’s world lies far beyond the days of carrying Parisian dolls across the ocean to share the latest looks. Fashion is conveyed primarily through intervening conveyors of meaning; the media.
Loosely defined, media include all methods of information dissemination that are not primary or face to face, and in

Fashion, the most important mass media include print (magazines, newspapers, catalogues); broadcast (electronic instrumentation such as TV, radio, video, film); and the Internet (Web sites, blogs, podcasts, social media, YouTube). With the advent of mobile devices and instantaneous transmission of images, cell phones are a formidable medium, already transforming fashion dissemination, marketing, adoption, and sales.

fashion runway

A thorough examination and exploration of the intimate symbiotic relationship of fashion and media is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the vast power of media exposure. Designers, photographers, trendsetters, and gatekeepers (editors, costume designers for TV/film, celebrities) influence and are influenced by media.

The ultimate decision makers, however, are everyday people, whose relationship to fashion and media is mitigated by indeed, dependent upon; cultural, economic, religious, ethical, political, and social considerations.

Fashion came before media at least, as people understand the term “media” today. So, it is important first to attempt a definition of fashion, a word that never ceases to be redefined by fashion scholars, designers, and the public.

Its meaning goes back to Latin roots: facere — “to make” or “to do.” As language is dynamic and ever changing, the word “fashion” eventually evolved to include such concepts as “shape” and “manner.”

Today, most English speakers generally regard fashion as those styles and articles of dress that are popular within specified time frames, accepted and adopted by the masses as socially desirable articles and expressions of individual taste, as well as accompanying jewellery, shoes, and handbags.

Prior to the technological advances that revolutionized communication, any knowledge of fashion beyond what was merely everyday costume or clothing was historically conveyed through face-to-face encounters, from visual observations of others, whether at church or banquet, theater or market.

Such learning about fashion was communicated experientially, person to person. Rare glimpses of royalty and wealthy individuals constituted visual access to bespoke garments made by highly skilled dressmakers and tailors, providing common society with a window and much gossip regarding heretofore unseen styles, silhouettes, colors, and artisan-created embellishments.

Experiencing new textures, textiles, and threads involved direct touch, by being in the company of persons wearing homespun woollen handiwork, for example, or by engaging with traveling peddlers’ samples of fabrics and garments.

Fashion was also discovered by auditory means, or word of mouth hearing about and then imagining what said garments must look like, as when someone adventurous returned home to report what others wore in far-off lands. Finally, fashion trends were conveyed and viewed via physical imitations or other representations, including illustrations (from hieroglyphics to drawings to fashion plates) and dolls (miniature representations of clothed people).

Fashion remains a firsthand experience, since people travel, go shopping, work in offices, and dine out, all of which provide exposure to fashion expressions the old-fashioned way. But society is far removed from the days when Parisian dolls were carried across oceans to illustrate the latest styles.

Fashion is conveyed through an ever expanding set of intermediaries, or media. The Zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, is accessible across continents in seconds. Nonetheless, a large global digital divide— “the gap between the world’s most networked economies and the rest of the world,” according to the World Economic Forum—still exists.

Understanding this is critical to comprehending fashion media operations worldwide. Many countries lag far behind.

What Is “Media”?

The word “media” is the plural form of “medium,” from the Latin, meaning “middle” or “middle layer.” Thus, a medium is much like a middleman, a conduit that serves to “lead” or “bring together.”

Fashion Photographers at a fashion show
Fashion Photographers at a fashion show

In fashion, each medium functions to hold and deliver information: visual, textual, cultural.“Media” is loosely used to cover all methods of information dissemination that are not firsthand, same-space primary, or face to face.
(A retail store, then, is not considered to be a medium, but ranks as a primary experience for shoppers.) “Mass media” refers to multiple dissemination of messages with multiple recipients, aimed at the larger population or targeted demographic segments.

In fashion, the most important mass media today include print media—magazines, newspapers, billboards, posters, catalogues; broadcast—such as TV, radio, video, film/movies; online (computer electronics) media—Web sites, blogs, podcasts, social media, YouTube, and more; mobile devices—cell phones/smartphones, high-tech wristwatches/smartphones, and other wireless devices (mobile computers/tablets) known for their high-speed transmission of images, words, and information.

Of all the media venues available today, computers and mobile devices have secured the most far-ranging, visible presence: they play formidable roles in the fashion industry and in fashion perception, transforming dissemination, marketing, adoption, and sales on an easy-to-access daily basis.

Next we look at different media; print, TV and online and its effect on fashion today.

References and Further Reading
-Fashion scholar Marilyn DeLong lends deeper analysis in her 2005 article on fashion theories
-Amed, Imran. “The Antwerp Academy: The Enduring Legacy of the Antwerp Six.” The Business of Fashion, 23 June 2009. http://www.businessoffashion.com.
-Arnold, Rebecca. “Heroin Chic.” In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.
Baran, Stanley, and Dennis Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012.