THE ART OF FASHION STORYTELLING
EVERYONE tells stories. Narratives powerful like ancient Greek myths and the Bible have taught us how to relate to certain values and how the impact of stories shape our lives. When fashion designers and brands use these very same narratives, they become the storyteller, the expert of storytelling and apparel comes alive.
The winning formula for consumer engagement is storytelling. Fashion designers and brands are honing in on the art of creating compelling content and telling immersive stories that instantly hook people in. When done right, it opens up a whole world of creativity.
ASOS as the storyteller -
'Made In Kenya'
A true expert in the field of storytelling is online fashion and beauty shop ASOS. Just recently the fashion brand launched its 'Made In Kenya Spring/Summer 18 collection' for a ninth successive year in partnership with SOKO Kenya, an ethical clothing manufacturer.
But it is behind the floral pieces, asymmetric cuts, and vibrant clashed-up patterns where the true story of this fascinating collection begins. It has built an ethos on its social enterprise in Kenya as well as sustainable development and responsible fashion.
Gaia Waters, Sample Machinist for ASOS, knows just how critical storytelling is for the Asos brand."I believe it is an important part of the ASOS brands, it paves the way of how fashion houses should approach diversity, ethicality and sustainability into our clothes.
“It helps the consumer dress for what they stand for and subtly tells their story through what they choose to wear. It definitely shapes how people view the brand."
ASOS' brand of storytelling is the first steps in forging the connection between the consumer and an individual piece of apparel. “Having a sense of commonality to an aspect of a garment (or product) gives the consumer a sense of connection to it before they even decide if they like the aesthetics.
"I think this is because we acknowledge the similarities to experiences we've had or things we have seen and want to portray this in our clothes, subsequently forming our personal story."
Ultimately, people do not buy into the brand but they buy into the stories behind the brand. In turn, those stories can be used as a brand's strategy to help sell a product.
"The whole ethos of ASOS is to make forward fashion accessible to “20 somethings" to become whoever they want to be through their own chosen style. If the collection/garment has a story such as 'Made In Kenya' does, it only gives an increased opportunity for the consumer to build their own style with a story and help sell the product,” Gaia says.
Fashion designer - Georgia McClennon
Young fashion designer Georgia McClennon believes building a strong theme and narratives is an important part of the process when it comes to designing any collection of clothing.
"Having a strong theme to tell a story is really the drive behind any collection. You become so inspired by so many aspects throughout the whole research process on a chosen theme it really is quite amazing,"
Having dropped her most recent collection, Georgia's art of storytelling is just as exciting as the end product itself.
"Towards the end of summer last year I decided to take a trip to various parts of the world which I have never seen before for me to explore and well as getting myself inspired. I have always been fascinated by nature and how beautiful it really is."
"I decided to visit three different rainforests while on my travels and just could not believe the sights which I was seeing. It was bright and colourful and so much more amazing than I actually could imagine.
"The colour palette for my collection was named 'It's A Jungle Out There'. I wanted to tell and show narratives I encountered in the rainforest through my designs."
Georgia focused on the shape of leaves, flowers and reptile prints to inspire her collection. Of course, she also takes inspiration from designer heavyweights of the fashion industry.
"I love Alexander McQueen. The collections they create, they always have such amazing stories behind them and you can always see that throughout each individual collection. For example, their Autumn/Winter 2018 RTW collection is based on the life cycle of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly which relates to the many stages of femininity.
Storytelling in fashion shows
Fashion shows present an opportunity for brands and designers to use strong storytelling elements and inspire their audiences, reinforcing the themes and stories behind their collections. Across hundreds of decisions, both big and small, each highly detailed element of the show tells the audience something about who they are. Fashion show producers are constantly employing immersive stories into their shows.
Below are four storytelling elements of a fashion show that can help bring the story of a fashion brand to life.
A different place and time: Fashion can create influences, characteristics and illustrate certain values to escape the mundane. The audience was transported to the unforgiving moors of the British Isles during Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2014 collection. McQueen's medieval influences were truly complimented across grassy moors with cold, damp and harsh lighting.
Set the scene: Taking production to the next level, Chanel always puts on the greatest shows. For their Spring-Summer 2015 Ready to Wear show, Models in normally unseen two's and three’s walked down the ‘Boulevard Chanel’ with the Grand Palais building set to the scene of the Parisian Rue.
Be bold and unexpected: A show-stopping element of any fashion show can sometimes be all it takes to lend depth and context to a show. Chanel did just that with a 265-ton glacier from North Sweden. The visual linked the audience to the models dress in head-to-toe fur and the frozen tundras.
A touch of fantasy: Clothes can become the door through for an audience to experience alternate realities. Where there is fantasy there can be fashion. Christian Dior Fall/Winter collection played out against the backdrop of a Renaissance garden underneath a sky which alternated between a spinning astrological wheel and blood-red storm clouds.
Personal Stylist - Lizzie Parsons
Lizzie Parsons in an Image Consultant and Personal Stylist in Berkshire near Maidenhead and Reading. Lizzie helps uncover broadly what type of style and personal values her clients want to come across to others. Lizzie has worked with a whole host of clients which include bank clientel, people from Lego head office, Executives and small businesses, and most recently British Airways.
“We can use clothes and our fashion to communicate specific values and influence people to see us in a first light. We can also use clothes and fashion to represent our mood. We can do that consciously and unconsciously.
“What we wear is constantly communicating things about us. Basically, we can do that by accident or on purpose and we can kind of manipulate it so that what we want to get across, we get across deliberately.”
“When we are looking at clothes and when we are looking at fashion telling a story, we are looking at everything from colour to the fabric, how we style it and that gives lots of information to another person about what we believe in.
“Let us take colour for example. We can use colour to convey trust and confidence in a corporate environment. So, Navy blue is a great colour for trust and confidence. For women, medium blue and medium green are colours that have come up in research and are likeable colours. A woman in mid-green and mid-blue come across more likeable.”
Lizzie is familiar with the ‘Made In Kenya’ 2018 collection produced by Asos as mentioned above. She adds how the tribal and vibrant colours of the aesthetic communicate ASOS’ specific storytelling values.
“When you are looking at the ‘Made In Kenya ‘aesthetic, it is all Kenyan tribal colours and vibrant colours, oranges and blue. It’s very natural fibres as well in the way they have styled the look, it is very very natural.
“They have given it a slight street look because obviously who their audience is. But it is very natural. Natural fibres, cotton t-shirts, linen trousers, and rogue belts. It is all a fitting look, it is selling a message and values.”
Lizzie understands that for the consumer to buy into a brand they must buy the story first. “As the consumer we buy stories. When we get that emotional connection from a product's story we buy it. We want to buy products that speak to us emotionally.”
There are stories everywhere in fashion. From the colours to the very fabrics apparel is made from. Miuccia Prada quotes: “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.”