Consumption : - City University of Hong Kong

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Communications
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Consumption : Fashion and

Beauty Jack YUE Division of Social Studies City University of Hong Kong

The Theme Some (mis-)conceptions What is consumption(-ism) History of consumption Context and system: shopping Fashion/Beauty: the trend Fashion/Beauty: the meanings Appreciation & Critique

Some (Mis-)Conceptions All about money Meaningless hedonists Subsidiary & residual Not-for-the-youth Decadence (materialism) Superficiality (fetishism of commodities)


In 1928, André Siegfried, a Frenchman who had visited the United States four times since the beginning of the century, commented that a "new society" had come into being, in which Americans considered their "standard of living" a "sacred acquisition, which they will defend at any price." In the Atlantic Monthly, the journalist Samuel Straus called this new society "consumptionism" and identified advertising and motion pictures as its distinctive forms of communication. In Muncie, the Lynds found that new leisure activities and a new emphasis on consumption had supplanted politics as the focus of public concern. Elections were no longer "lively centers" of public attention as in the nineteenth century and voter turnout had fallen dramatically. National statistics bore out their point; the turnout of eligible voters, over 80 percent in 1896, had dropped to less than half of those registered by 1924. There were many reasons for this decline, including the consolidation of one-party politics in the South, the enfranchisement of women (who for many years voted in lower numbers than men), and the long period of Republican dominance in national elections. But the consumerist shift from public to private concerns undoubtedly played a part. "The American citizen's first importance to his country," declared a Muncie newspaper, "is no longer that of a citizen but that of a consumer." -- James Foner in The Story of American Freedom, © 1998, pg. 151.

Consumer sales depend on the habits and behaviors of consumers, and those who manipulate consumer markets cannot but address behavior and attitude. That is presumably the object of the multibillion-dollar global advertising industry. Tea drinkers are improbable prospects for Coke sales. Long-lunch traditions obstruct the development of fast-food franchises and successful fast-food franchises inevitably undermine Mediterranean home-at-noon-for-dinner rituals—whether intentionally or not hardly matters. Highly developed public transportation systems lessen the opportunity for automobile sales and depress steel, rubber, and petroleum production. Agricultural lifestyles (rise at daylight, work all day, to bed at dusk) are inhospitable to television watching. People uninterested in sports buy fewer athletic shoes. Health campaigns hurt tobacco sales. The moral logic of austerity contradicts the economic logic of consumption. Can responsible corporate managers then afford to be anything other than immoral advocates of sybaritism? -Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, 1995

Marxist cynicism Advertising tries to stimulate our sensuous desires, converting luxuries into necessities But prosperity without a soul is like a corpse whose heart has stopped beating. There is no life, only consumption.

(but … why don’t we do more saving?)

History of Consumption goods consumed for their exchange values (rituals and social relationship)

goods consumed for their use values (economics, production and capitalism)

goods consumed for their sign values (culture, identity and postmodernity) from production to consumption

Yuppies Yuppie was an acronym for 'Young Upwardly Mobile Professional Person'. The word was coined by the advertising industry to capture the essence of a particular type of work hard, play hard, ambitious minded city career person of either sex. The hectic lifestyle of a yuppie meant that after long hours of work, rare free time was spent in a self indulgent way frittering away the cash earned on anything, from expensive make up and perfume, to a bottle of fine champagne. Conspicuous wastage was part of the attitude. For day Yuppies sported wide shouldered jackets and for weekends they wore a Barbour to effect a country aesthetic or a ballgown to assume the appearance of a more advantaged lifestyle.

Designer labels and branding

gained impetus. Brand names became status symbols for sports gear and sportswear, perfumes, electrical equipment, cars and fashion designer goods such as clothing, bags, luggage, scarves and spectacles. The appearance of affluence was reinforced by access to designer label goods.

Context and System The experience of “shopping” and “shoppers”

: Self-construction through display and acquisition implemented in a variety of relations (with people, material goods and representations)

Shopping malls (e.g. Festival walk, Trendy Zone, etc.) Department stores (e.g. Seibu, Sogo, LaneCrawford, etc.) Shops (e.g. Joyce, D-mop, Agnes’b, etc.) Supermarkets (CitySuper, Park’N, etc.) but … what could be other alternatives?Is HK still a “shopping paradise”?


For centuries individuals or societies have used clothes and other body adornment as a form of nonverbal communication to indicate occupation, rank, gender, sexual availability, locality, class, wealth and group affiliation. Fashion is a form of free speech. It not only embraces clothing, but also accessories, jewellery, hairstyles, beauty and body art. What we wear and how and when we wear it, provides others with a shorthand to subtly read the surface of a social situation

And the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Genesis)

It is true of dress, in even a higher degree than most of items of consumption, that people will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in the comforts of or necessities of life in order to afford what is considered a decent amount of wasteful consumption. (Thorstein Veblen)

Fashion --- including haute couture, all forms of anti-fashion and nonfashion --produce a visual culture --- a visual manifestations of an entire system of value --- in which individuals become more self-conscious of their own appearance and that of others. (Joanne Finkelstein)

Haute Couture (made to measure)

vs Prêt-à-Porter (ready to wear)

Trend of Fashion Pre-WWII --- e.g. Chanel (Americans’ mass production; French as leader in wealthy fashion) 1950s --- e.g. Dior, Balenciaga (suburban life style and accent on family life) 1960s --- e.g. Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin (London as leader in youthful fashion) 1970s --- e.g. YSL, Ralph Lauren, LV (towards anti-fashion, ethnic look, physical fitness) 1980s --- e.g. Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, NIKE, Kenzo (Jap/Italy’s role and towards global business and deconstruction) 1990s --- e.g. Lagerfeld, DKNY, Fendi, Prada, Helmut Lang (age of discount, off-price, outlets; trying grunge/relaxing/etc.) 2000s --- look at your own self !!!

Fashion … made in HK


Beauty = Aesthetics = Color Makeup (skin, face, hair, fragrance, etc.) Accessories (diamond, rings, watch, pen, etc.) Body fitness (spa, sports, muscle, etc.) Lifestyle (bath, nutrition, stress management, etc.)

Elizabeth Taylor who set trends in hair and make up looks.

A western definition of beauty ?

裝扮 美容 豐胸 纖體 健身 排毒 養顏 靜心

From femininity to masculine From accessories to professionalism From cosmetics to fitness-cum-wellness From glamour to natural lifestyle

For men


women [男] 為 悅 己 者 容

Makeup artists Image/hair stylists

Biochem engineers Doctors/ nutritionists/ trainers

Health & Wellness towards inner beauty through physical activities e.g. aerobic, gym fitness, sauna, spa, golf, etc.

… 愛纖體、亦愛身體 …

Back to the nature

Integrating human beings’ culture with the nature

Meanings of Fashion/Beauty

[ Sex ] “It is the the shame of lacking a penis which has drawn women to the use of fabrics, clothing and fashion, originally to conceal this lack, and afterwards as substitutes for it. The fashionable woman, then, approximates the dignity of any normal man by being attired in the best, most envied and respected suit of clothes.” (Joanne Finkelstein) “While women are turning in vast numbers to masculine clothing styles, men are re-appropriating their right to a certain level of fantasy in dress” (G. Lipovetsky)

[ Body ] “The individual and personal act of getting dressed is an act of preparing the body for the social world, making it appropriate, acceptable, indeed respectable to others one may encounter in a social setting.” (London’s Hayward Gallery) “Styles of dress and body adornment attempt to produce a different body, i.e. to reshape it into an aesthetic and social ideal. Fashion has an effect on subjectivity. The increased use of uniforms (for various specific occasions) constitutes a regime of discipline.” (Michel Foucault)

[ Identity and Status ]

[ Autonomy ] “Aren’t we mad to let them move us about, push us around, wrap us up, reproduce us so we are all the same or nearly so … I wonder if it is you or I who dictate fashion.” (Sonia Rykiel)

[ Aesthetics ] “There would on doubt be something slightly paradoxical in opening a fashion museum if fashion were just a seasonal trend … a fashion museum is the history of practices and looks” (Jack Lang, French Minister of Culture) While fashion had invented ‘the woman’ for over a hundred years, a ‘fashion after fashion’ began to deconstruct that self-same woman; while fashion initially hid its art, it now begins to also display its bag of tricks.” (Barbara Vinken)

Consumption is more than ever before an experience which is to be located in the head, a matter of the brain and mind, rather than seen as the process of simply satisfying biological bodily needs (Robert Bocock)

Towards a concept of life food career colors creativity

creativity identity

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