Sunday, 21 February 2010


While attending a lecture at my University with presiding speaker Paul Hartnett (who basically entertained and shocked us) I pondered over his 'icy' statement about branding. 'Branding is vulgar.' According to him no amounts of branding can help push or create a name for anyone in the fashion industry. Which makes me wonder whether anyone could really survive without branding. 
In my opinion, everyone is a brand strategist today. A designer/ brand manufactures garments, holds fashion shows and produces ad campaigns. If you don't call that branding, than what is it? No offense to Paul, he might think the industry doesn't need branding but they definitely do. Without a brand strategy, the brand can lose its presence in the market before it even has the chance to say hello to the wardrobe in a consumer's house. 
Why do big brands have to keep revamping and reinventing their brand's image, cause today there are so many options available in the market and loyalty is fading. Consumers can bounce from one alternative to another because there are so many available. In that case, branding is what can keep the product in the consumer's eyes. Then it is up to the product and its manufacturer to deliver quality. I don't believe that solely on branding can make a product sell, as there are a lot of other factors affecting the process. But once the product is ready, branding is a way into the market and into the minds of the consumers. Therefore whichever strategy you pick has to be right on target. The way to a man's heart might be through his stomach, but the way to a shopper's money is through his brain. Branding creates an image in the mind of the consumer to help him/her decide what to choose.
The fashion industry operates on different models to present itself. Luxury brands have different strategies as opposed to more commercial/easily affordable brands. Daniel Chu, Executive Creative Director of marketing agency Momentum quotes in an article by Gill Linton on, (
“In fashion, we create mystique, and that’s the strategy. The mystique of creative collaborations, the mystique of pop-up shops, the mystique of photography – these are the tools to reframe the context of a fashion brand within culture. To make it more complex, fashion is a culture that thrives on itself, at its root, fashion is and always will be about itself. It creates to impress itself. In other product categories, strategy avoids mystique and relies on clarity. Strategy provides a clear consumer message, or emotional benefit, to products and categories which have no emotional or generational resonance.”
Daniel Chu brings forward a very valid argument, but then I wonder till what extent to brands go to make themselves visible in the eyes of a consumer. Some can get extremely controversial as well. Branding is good, but some branding might be scandalous.
How many people including Paul Hartnett believe that it is vulgar and unnecessary? But the point to bring about here is what did he really mean by vulgar branding.
Here are some of the most controversial advertisements that have stirred strong public reactions.

1_sisley The Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History
Sisley has delivered consistently provocative ads for the better part of a decade. Whether it’s white residue in their model’s nose or mouth (see above), you can count on this Benetton Group company to push the envelope.

1_puma The Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History
Puma 2003
Created immense controversy as a photograph gone awry and tried to imply another meaning

1_dolce_gabbana The Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History

Dolce & Gabbana – January 2007
Banned in Italy, this Dolce & Gabbana advertisement has been criticized as a glorification of gang-rape. While one can never be sure of D&G’s true intent, the company’s penchant is for controversy. 
While the industry needs branding, we wonder whether there is at times too much of something. Sex has always sold and will always sell. But sometimes do the techniques cause more of a disaster than a success formula. In that case is Paul right? How much is too much? What are your opinions on that? 
(Images courtesy: Google)


Friday, 12 February 2010


Possessing an enigmatic vision for his future label alongside a fierce passion for fashion, Horace NG discusses his view on branding in the fashion industry. Horaces' designs exude a bubbly confidence of a young and upcoming designer. His creations are exquisite, elegant and chic. He feels inspired to make clothes that please his inner vision of beauty and grace. Despite being just a student right now, his clothes reverberate with the experience of a mature designer. 

In a previous chat with John McFaul about branding, he stated that 'Advertising entails moving away from reality,' Horace differs on that thought. 
Horace NG: 'Fashion is about aesthetics, branding is about pleasing your customer. We advertise keeping our customer in mind. We advertise what our creativity produces. If our creativity is closed in a box, we will only think of being commercial. I am not commercial, just creative. I am hoping that my consumer will understand that. I plan to make things keeping my consumer in mind. I like creating dreams. Prada and John Galliano create dreams. Their vision is real, never shying away from reality.'

Horace doesn't go against the fact that branding is an integral part of the fashion industry, but he seems to have a different take on the concept. His believes the fashion process divides itself in two areas. One is the creative process itself of producing a garment/accessory and the other is the business side of it. The creative and the business aspect both require a team of highly motivated people working together to build a name or a brand. Branding professionals aren't and shouldn't be considered as the whole and soul of a brand. It is the mere thought of creating something new, and then giving it life by infusing elements in it, along with then manufacturing it, the model carrying it off, the stage co-ordinators, models, photographers are all part of creating a brand and pushing it forward. At times we give branding so much importance that we tend to let our own creativity undergo a transformation just to please the consumer. There should be a controlled balance in such situations. Designers convey their vision of something beautiful to the consumer and they promise to give them just that. While designing is the cake, branding is the sweet, sugary icing on top. Branding gives shape to their dreams and makes it more accessible to the consumer. It is a link between the creator and the buyer.

Picking up from the point in the discussion where he believed creativity should not undergo a transformation to make oneself commercial. Branding sometimes forces you to do that. In order to make your creations more sale-able designers tend to create garments that will be more acceptable to the mass audience. Luxury brands should be differentiated from commerical brands as both have their own appeal in the industry. It is about the perception these brands exude. If everything was made available to everyone fashion would lose its charm. Lets take into consideration the example of designer Hussein Chalayan, who is the creative director for Puma. 'The Sportlifestyle company PUMA AG and Chalayan LLP, the owner of the Hussein Chalayan fashion brand, announced that Hussein Chalayan has acquired PUMA’s stake in the Fashion Company Chalayan LLP. As the Creative Director of PUMA and being responsible for overseeing design, creation and development of PUMA’s Sportlifestyle collections, Hussein Chalayan would manage the Hussein Chalayan brand independently from PUMA.' 
According to Horace such collaborations can only bend the designers vision into creating commercial goodies to sell to the mass audience. There should be a balance between how much to sell and how much to create a desire for. "Creation implies self-creation; the making of an aesthetic object implies the generation of the artist."  An artist's visions should stay alive even when branding is important to build up your brand.

I guess at the end of every productive conversation you have a thought picked out from it that you want to explore next. Guess luxury and commercial branding are next on my list.


P.S. - A big thank you to Horace NG for his words and time.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Picasso was in a park when a woman approached him and asked him to draw a portrait of her. Picasso agreed and quickly sketches her. After handing the sketch to her, she is pleased with the likeness and asks how much she owed to him. Picasso replies: "$5,000." The woman screamed, "but it took you only five minutes." "No, madam, it took me all my life," replied Picasso.

John MCFaul, founder/director of MCFaul Studio illustrates his love for all things funky through his graphic presentation of the fashion brands he has worked with. It wasn't an easy journey to get to where their studio is today. A talent pool of young designers working towards selling successful branding imagery and design. 'If I wasn't a graphic designer, I would have been a professional cyclist,' he says as he races through his presentation and gives us a brief on his company and how it all began. MCFaul Studio is a design agency that deals with everything from conceptualization, designing, direction, production, post-production to delivery.  'We have worked with many fashion brands but we don't like working with all fashion brands.' Well you don't need to be Einstein to read between the lines once you have had a look at their work. It comes across as a mix of jazz and psychedelic music merged together to create an electricity of ideas infused with radiant colors. Not every brand is that experimental with its image. 

John believes that Branding is a very strong form of communicating what a product is all about. While they brainstorm over what the design strategy of the brand should be the first thing in their mind is what would attract a consumer to this particular product.
For instance, let's take a look at their campaign for Havaianas. Havaianas, or the colorful flip flops that everyone loves to wear had its birth in 1962. It was inspired by the Zori, typical Japanese sandals made of fabric straps and rice straw soles. It is for this reason that the foot-bed of Havaianas have a textured rice pattern, one of its many unmistakable features. It's designs reflect its upbeat mood and its colors exude a vibrant aura. MCFaul Studio represents that fun, crazy, playful vision that it lends to its every campaign, as the brand designs exude that mood.


It's easy to identify with their motto behind their designs; it's hard to ignore what's right in front of your eyes. Their eye catching designs snatch the looker's memory and instantly creates a desire to go into the store and find out what's new on the rack. John believes that branding is a very strong force that pushes a fashion label forward but if the end product doesn't deliver than even the strongest form of branding and design cannot help the brand. But he believes that in advertising we have to move away from reality. Which brings me back to my earlier post on whether branding is the whole and soul of selling a dream to a consumer. A dream that transforms into a transient thrill in a world where even fashionable identities are not permanent.


P.S. Check out their website at
(Images courtesy: McFaul Studio website)


Wednesday, 3 February 2010


'Fashion is a factory that manufactures desire.' Bruno Remaury, Fashion Scholar

How many of us today think of Fashion as having its own identity. An identity that creates a persona for us who are obsessed with the thought of having a tinge of it in our lives to help brighten our day. That is why when we aren't in the most gleeful of moods; we tend to consider either chocolate or Retail Therapy. We as consumers are willingly seduced by the concept of owning the newest designer scarf or bag on the rack. Fashion insiders might laugh at the thought of us going weak in the knees when entering a store, but that is the truth.

Fashion in every way has encapsulated us in a web of impulse desire that forces us to consume or experiment every section of it. But in reality who is behind making these designer labels/brands so irresistible. Is it the name tag, the designs that the designer creates, the desire to be up to date with fashion or is there an unseen force behind the rapturous delight that owning a glamorous item creates. Well yes there are various reasons that can be attributed to us falling in love with just the concept of it all, but one major reason behind it is MARKETING or BRANDING.

These thoughts occurred to me while reading a book called Fashion Brands by Mark Turngate. I would like to add that along with being an enigmatic book it was one of the major reasons that sparked my interest in the subject of this blog. The Marketing professionals can be compared to a genie holding a magic wand in their hands that create an ideal world for us. A world where everything put on a hoarding or on that magazine cover is not just about being commercial, but it is desirable. 

There is one name we cannot forget while talking about Fashion Branding and that is Tom Ford. He as a designer not only understood the concept behind it but also executed the strategies that helped improvise on his brand image. Caroline Roitfeld, the Editor of French Vogue was quoted as saying in the book; ' In the history of Fashion, there's definitely a pre-Tom Ford and a post-Tom Ford period. He was one of the first contemporary designers who really understood the power of marketing. He was not a snob about his work- he wanted to sell.'

Designers are quite aware of the nature of Branding and the magic it waves through the Fashion industry. But we wonder at the thought, that is it really all about the branding. Do fashion brands employ a technique that convinces us to part with our money for a transient thrill. Bruno Remaury quoted: 'Traditional marketing is based on need. You take a product that corresponds to an existing demand and attempt to prove that your product is the best in its category. But Fashion is based on creating a need, when in reality, there is none.'
After reading this I fell into a conflict with my mind and heart. If we think practically would this be the actual truth, that Branding is the magical force, or is it in our heart the desire to want something out of our own cravings. What is the craving created by. I'm yet to decide.
But the question I want to ask is, the wish or desire that Branding create, does it help us in any way or is it just about emptying our pockets into a world where nothing is constant, not even identities.

P.S. = Trying to gather my thoughts for now on this one!