Brands won’t stop talking to us

Chris at HighsnobietyThu, Feb 4, 7:00 PM
to Paul Munford
What are they even trying to say? JW Anderson/Juergen Teller WHY WON'T BRANDS STOP TALKING TO US? In this newsletter exclusive, Editorial Director Christopher Morency shares some of the thinking
Brands won’t stop talking to us
JW Anderson/Juergen Teller
WHY WON'T BRANDS STOP TALKING TO US?
In this newsletter exclusive, Editorial Director Christopher Morency shares some of the thinking and research behind his upcoming Special Report, “Please Use Your Words,” which speaks to leading brands, poets, and experts on the rise of text in fashion, and the opportunities (and many, many pitfalls) it poses for brands.
Over the weekend, I watched Pierpaolo Piccioli — Valentino’s celebrated creative director — go live on Instagram with Koreen Odiney, the model and photographer behind the wildly popular, feel-good IG page @werenotreallystrangers. During a lengthy chat, the two discussed their brand new collaborative deck of playing cards celebrating “empathy, individuality, and positivity.” Apparently house codes of the brand. The deck itself was a riff on Odiney’s best-selling card game that enables people to talk about difficult subjects through a series of thought-provoking questions and statements. 

On giant billboards, street signs, and hand drawn on walls around the world, statements like “THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME WHEN I DIDN’T FEEL LOVABLE" were displayed, serving as promotional teasers for the partnership. Text on text on text.
Then Tuesday, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White™ launched ‘Imaginary TV’, a content-first approach to showcase the brand’s new fashion show through various “channels” for the public. Front and centre stood a shuffling “Ask Imaginary TV Anything” channel, which with a click of a button left you with more questions than answers. Imaginary TV told me that “Feeling Feels Real”, “To look is a luxury”, and “Similarities imply dissimilarities, join opposites, speak freely.”
 
Are you detecting a theme? Another men’s fashion season has just ended, and in the past month over a dozen brands experimented with different typefaces, font sizes, and words. In a bid to better connect with consumers directly, Prada pushed out text-heavy advertisements urging its audience to participate in a “dialogue,” while JW Anderson and Juergen Teller scribbled ambiguous sentences such as “Gold buckles and stones” and “Peach and cabbage” directly on its new look book.

Sure. Let’s simplify the message by slapping a series of random words on garments.

Boldly printed on sweatshirts, Vetements will try to convince you they’re still provocative by shouting, “I like long walks and sex before marriage.” Meanwhile “More Joy” and “Sex” at Christopher Kane cover night robes, sleeping masks, earrings, duct tape, sweatshirts, face masks, mugs, umbrellas, and door mats. Ah, and vibrators.
Vetements/Gio Staiano
Victor Virgile/Gamma Rapho/Getty Images
Of course, designers have dabbled with the written word on garments and in campaigns for years. But en masse, it tells a more significant story of brands testing out new formats aimed to connect with consumers directly at a time when the middleman (see: wholesale retailers, traditional media, and yes even influencers) is increasingly being cut out.
 
And there’s more to fashion’s adoption of the written and spoken word than meets the eye. It goes as deep as understanding why brands like Louis Vuitton, Dunhill and Stella McCartney have recently enlisted poets like Kai Isaiah Jamal and James Massiah to work with the brand.
 
In short, there are four timely explanations for the shift:

1. THE ANTITHESIS OF THE VISUAL
We process visuals 60,000 faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. In the age of image overload, brands want you to pause, and read.

2. EXPANDING ITS TONE OF VOICE
We know what brands look and feel like. Often also how they smell, and sometimes even how they taste (some have restaurants). But what do brands sound like? What's their tone of voice? Brands like Vetements (ironic), Valentino (compassionate) and Prada (intellectual-ish?) are experimenting with just that.

3. THE RACE TO INTELLECTUALIZE FASHION
Over the years, fashion brands have collaborated with fine artists on products, they’ve enlisted orchestras and created costumes for the ballet and cinema. All with the single aim to build out a brand’s universe by intellectualizing the clothing itself through association with “high culture”. Typography, poetry and literature are next on the industry’s hit list.

4. WHO WE ARE
Most of all, we today expect more from brands beyond being simple sellers of garments. We want them to be the natural extensions of ourselves. What we believe in and how we want to be seen by others. And so, like Jenny Holtzer, Lawrence Weiner, and Barbara Kruger—artists who’ve used text as their main means of artistic expression—fashion brands are seeing the linguistic artform as a central communication tool to speak out on issues in order to repeatedly convince us, the consumer, they’re on our side. Unlike the pioneers of the art form, however, brands are often far behind in getting it right. 

Until next time, 
Christopher Morency
Editorial Director of Highsnobiety
 
SHARE THIS NEWSLETTER
 MORE FROM HIGHSNOBIETY
SPECIAL REPORT: When Fashion Brands Become Media, The Rules Change
SPECIAL REPORT: Brands Aren't Companies, They're Universes
GET MORE INSIGHTS
 MORE FROM THE WEB

Were you forwarded this newsletter?

SUBSCRIBE FOR INSIGHTS
Facebook
Instagram
Snapchat
Twitter
YouTube
Pinterest
You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website: mpm@leanluxe.com. You can unsubscribe from this list or update your subscription preferences.

© 2021 Highsnobiety,
Highsnobiety
Genthiner Str. 32-34
Berlin 10785
Germany

Add us to your address book