Clothing has a long history of attracting academic interest, drawing upon a wide variety of disciplines including social science, psychology, anthropology, art, history, cultural and communication studies. In so doing, this signposts that clothing functions beyond physiological needs, that is, more than merely protection from the cold, rain and sunshine.
It is well established that clothing serves all of the following: adornment, expression of individuality, construction of identity, a means of communicating social worth, economic status and enactment of cultural meaning.
Although sometimes used interchangeably, it is really fashion not clothing that fulfils the above. Whilst clothing covers the body, fashion satisfies individuals’ needs, for example, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation – the need to fill one’s potential.
Hence, whether someone chooses to adopt, reject or adapt a fashion trend is dependent upon the extent to which the trend satisfies their needs. For example, fulfilling an individual’s need to communicate social worth could be achieved by following current and popular fashion trends, thereby conforming. Alternatively, expression of individuality might be fulfilled by being a fashion innovator, achieved through choosing to wear something different from what is currently in vogue.
Such decisions are not bound by demographics i.e. age does not define whether someone follows trends or not, likewise gender, educational level or income level do not either. Demographics alone does not give a complete picture of an individual and can be misleading when trying to understand consumers of fashion.
Demographics do not take into account psychographic or lifestyle information such as an individual’s activities, interests and opinions. From understanding what people like to do and what they are interested in helps fashion marketers have a more complete picture in knowing and understanding the consumer.
Examples of fashion brands commitment to lifestyle marketing are many. Current examples include athletic apparel brands who tap into the segment of consumers who are interested in health and well-being. Who see being fit as an important element of their identity.
Adopting a community led lifestyle approach, Canadian brand Lululemon offers complementary in-store mindfulness sessions and organise large-scale annual events such as the SweatLife Festival, a one day yoga extravaganza that takes place in London. Through adopting a lifestyle approach to marketing, Lululemon’s offerings go beyond selling clothes, for example they sell yoga mats, water bottles and back packs. In addition, by way of the Sweat Life Festival, Lululemon sells experiences.
A second example of effective lifestyle marketing is the British fashion label Pretty Green, launched in 2009, which targets consumers interests and activities related to music and fashion. The brand name itself is named after a song by the Jam, a British band popular from the 1970s to early 1980s. Having strong links with the mod movement, the brand reflects a nostalgia for British music and subcultures. Since 2012 the brand has offered a dedicated music festival capsule collection. Recently the clothes label launched a new line celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The brand itself was founded by a musician, former Oasis singer, Liam Gallagher. In terms of offering lifestyle experiences, the retail store in Leeds, UK is also used as a music venue for up and coming bands, selling vinyl records and music memorabilia. The brand is successful in tapping into individuals’ wishing to express their identity through British music culture.
Lifestyle marketing is the practice of identifying people who can be grouped with similar interests, activities and opinions. The presentation of a lifestyle via fashion brands is not about helping people to find new things to be interested in but, rather, helps people to satisfy their needs, whether it be the need to belong or associate themselves with health and well-being or a music subculture. Fashion is more than clothing, it functions to fulfil needs.
If you’re interested in learning more, our MSc Fashion & Lifestyle Marketing programme is now open for applications.