Culture, identity and discourse


London, 25 September, 2017
by Wen


Culture has had a significant effect on human history, being of great value to national cohesion and a sense of belonging. As times change, culture has gradually been becoming more fragile and has been losing its way easily, even without attentions of people. I wonder why it has been homogenized easily? Because it only exists in the human mind. (O’Neil, 2006) Namely, the senses of belonging of minorities which had been assimilated might not be strong enough to defend their cultural characteristics leading to consequent homogeneity, or even extinction. Furthermore, the world has become a global village via the Internet and social media, frequent sharing of ideas and receiving information has become an indispensable part of our daily lives, which contributes to an ‘innovative’ communication revolution an insidious and ubiquitous epidemic invades humans’ brains to shift their own opinion. For instance, social network builds bridges to worldwide marketers to create brand awareness among clients to achieve product sales without their notice. The phenomenon is called viral marketing. (Nawaz 2015) These damages may be blamed on globalisation. That is to say, in the contemporary world, there is a growing tendency in globalisation to cause human to be unconsciously controlled by capitalist economic policies. However, facilitating through technology and communication advances, globalisation also encourages cultural hybridisation. It means that cross-culture collaboration has a tendency to create and organize an innovative hybrid mixture of western and Asian fashion styles, such as Fendi’s Great Wall of China Fashion Show. (W magazine, 2007) This essay is first going to examine the debate about cultural hybrid, before arguing that the sharing of ideas and culture creates greater homogeneity. Secondly, it will discuss the modern phenomenon as to what the relationship is between social media and aesthetic standard in the fashion industry and the further impacts of cultural homogenization and will finish by demonstrating this through an exploration of the rising homogenization in the fashion industry.

Some of experts in various fields deem that globalization causes hybrids, not homogeneity. As noted, a professor of Social Anthropology, Thomas (2007, p10) has remarked that ‘Globalization does not entail the production of global uniformity or homogeneity. Rather, it can be seen as a way of organizing heterogeneity.’ This can be seen in the way that globalization boosts ‘glocalization’ which is a now- famous concept to emphasize a portmanteau of globalisation and localization, as opposed to the greater homogenization connected with it. (George, 2004) It is an innovative cooperation, deciding how to be presented through diverse art forms of cultural expression by itself, without any cultural displacement of the others. Here are two examples within the fashion industry; one is that each Vogue magazine cover and context fuses with each local cultural identity to produce a high degree of acceptable magazines among local readers. It aims for increasing brand awareness, being more deeply rooted in the local readers’ minds. Another example refers to a collaboration called Masters which is Louis Vuitton co-brand with artist Jeff Koons, remixing iconic artworks such as Mona Lisa with handbags to present new interpretations. (Louis Vuitton, 2017). Superficially, All hybrids and collaborations seem like innovative cooperation, stimulating vision and enhancing creativity. Yet, excessive creative collaborations have been derived from the alarming problem of plagiarism. The reasons may be that as Mark Twain noted (1903),’ Substantially all ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources.’ So that most creators face the issue of having coincidental ideas without their intention, such as Gucci creative director has refuted claims that it is coincidental about their new alien- inspired video series which was accused of plagiarism from the artwork of a Central Saint Martins student, because all people share the same resource. (BOF, 2017). It is evident that hybrids have a tendency toward homogeneity. Moreover, capitalists who intend to cultivate the same aesthetic standard through mass media provide another method that leads to homogeneity.

Although there are examples of hybridization, it is clear that globalization has caused more homogenization. In reality, indigenous belongings have been eroded through globalization and the unwillingness to accept foreign values has lead to homogenization which aims for unifying people’s aesthetic standard through mass media in order to create a main staple commodity to reduce economic risk such as commodity surplus. The process represents cultural imperialism. (White, 2001) Moreover, Globalisation theorist, Michael Schmidt (Steven, 2003, p119) controversially claims, “Globalization subscribes to the ideology of competition and greed… the capitalism is our way of our life.” No matter globalization causes hybrids again and again, capitalism always struggle for everything tending to homogeneity. Nevertheless, its damages are a known commodity, but the phenomenons still continue to occur. Because it is a ‘bestseller’ made through capitalism. It is hard to understand whether this is the way to survive for capitalists or human deeply enjoy engaging in the ’hunting game’ without their knowing. After all, homogenization is the marketing of capitalism

There is evidence to support sharing ideas and culture in the fashion industry to contribute to greater range of similarities and faded diverse culture, dividing into several segments: consensus, capitalist limited option (fast fashion) and westernization.

The main conception of homogenization in the fashion industry is to achieve a consensus which refers to Fashion retailers guiding most people’s aesthetic standard through social media without people’s attention or intention, such as viral marketing. According to market research firm Mintel, they discovered that ‘over 35 percent of millennial women in America say social media is one of the top influencers when making clothing purchases.’(Huffpost, 2017) and ‘now fashion bloggers are right up there with editors in helping to mould what the consumer is going to buy.’ said Alexis Borges, director of Next Model Management (TNYK TIME 2011). This evidence reveals consumers as sheep following the fashion trend blindly which fashion retailers deliberately construct through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter and the further powerful influence from word of mouth of fashion bloggers. (Kozinets, 2006).

For the first example, bloggers updating regularly with fashion trends on social media, advertisements and billboards appearing every corner of the commercial world would develop desire to follow the latest tends in fashion, and consequently arouse the purchaser’s desire. All propaganda has a tendency to control consumers to wear similar styling and the same outfits. In fact, most consumers are like a bewildered chess piece lying on the commercial–chessboard of fashion retailers. Secondly, Hollywood celebrity daily fashion styling has become a worldwide phenomenon, mostly attributed to social media legitimising the celebrity look being an equal fashion trend and purchases in vintage shops being a craze, such as wearing T shirts and jeans, permeating the Los Angeles casual style. (Mohr, 2013) Further imagining, how people define colour connotations? Generally, yellow is symbolized as joy, red means passion and so on. This is colour psychology which is a system for unifying a standard of colour connotations and manipulating the concept of visual culture of consumers, in order to bridge a sense of identity of consumer and connect with them. ‘When evaluating purchasing intent, colour preference affects buying behaviour, where liked colours are more likely to be bought than disliked colours’. (Kauppinen-Raisanen, 2010)

Another conception of the segments is in the limited choices of handicraft and material in fast fashion. Why is issue being revealed? Because fashion brands and retailers are focusing on lighter turnover. According to the director of the fashion studies program, Eugenia (2009, P131) has proved that ‘In order to speed up turnover time control over retail is crucial, including information linkages with point of sales.’ It implies that firms, such as Zara, H&M may intend to manage a lower level of working capital in a relation with marketing. Thus, the globalised produce of low labor-intensive and labor-cost technique might lead the determinant of creators. (Eugenia 2009). That is to say, why fashion retailers itch to control the aesthetic standard of clients and reduce option of clients? Only one purpose is sold out to achieve the highest turnover.

Globalisation is identified as a crucial element leading to westernization which is expansion of western culture infiltrating into other countries. (Anheier and Lsar 2008) In the evolution of westernization, homogenization plays an important role in the history of Asian costume. On the whole, the phenomenon occurring could be analysed from two reasons: one reason is that western costume could be dressed up as a powerful and influential status symbol. (Crane, 2012) The means European and American are stronger than the other countries in polity and social status, since the First World War. As a result, the dominant influence has reacted in the fashion trend, for instance, wearing gentleman suit symbolises that Asian countries identify western culture being more dominant than them, and furthermore, suits have become a business and official attire for all countries until now. Similarly, in terms of women’s aesthetic standards, Asian females prefer western females’ features lead to plastic surgery being popular in Asia, especially in China and Korean, making their noses pointier and eyes bigger. (Rocio, 2014) Another reason is that Western outfits are often thought to be more modern and functional than Eastern attire (Lemire 2008) In most Asian countries, Western outfits are regarded by the local residences as daily style and official situation, such as jeans (Levi Strauss 2007). Furthermore, homogenization of wearing jeans has also been proved in America. In 1985, roughly 90% of American youths wore jeans in their daily lives. (ibid, Lemire 2008).

In conclusion, indeed, taking a magnifying glass to the issue, just observing each separate period in human history, sharing ideas and culture may occur as hybrid in the short term. However, stepping back, the world is on the way to being homogenized through social media which is a fueling helper. Most Asian wearing western style outfit is obvious proof of homogeneity.







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