Alexander McQueen Critical Thinkings Example
Communication Strategies of a Fashion Designer
Based on the concepts covered in class, we have established that one of the functions of fashion is to communicate a message or vision to its target audience. Communicating this message or vision in fashion, however, necessitates the use of different communicators that serve as channels for the diffusion of this message. Our primary objective is to focus on the communication strategies adopted by a fashion designer. The succeeding discussion focuses on Sarah Burton’s work as the head designer for Alexander McQueen.
Lee Alexander McQueen worked for other labels before the designer was able to establish his own. McQueen’s work for labels such as Givenchy made him a respected designer in the business (“Lee Alexander McQueen”). After McQueen’s passing, McQueen’s head designer Sarah Burton, was named the Creative Director of the entire label (“Sarah Burton”).
As formerly noted, the main goal of the project is to determine the communication strategies adopted by a fashion designer. To explore the strategies employed by the McQueen label as headed by Burton, the discussion will cover the five communicators – the fashion designer, retailers, consumers, critics, celebrities, and culture.
Communicator 1 – Fashion Designer
McQueen’s designs epitomize the notion of fashion as a means of artistic expression. McQueen’s designs are known for their artistic value that stands out compared to the works of other designers. Furthermore, McQueen was known for combining form or structure and art, as well extreme concepts that made his designs both ambiguous but also well put together.
During the beginning of the McQueen label, the fashion designer rose to fame by capitalizing on the ‘shock value’ of his works, particularly during the designer’s runway shows. For a time, the McQueen label thrived due to controversies surrounding the label’s shows (Vincent, 138). Some of the issues raised about McQueen’s runway shows include misogyny, indecency, violence, and mutilation. Despite the controversies, McQueen was apologetic, a trait that made him an admirable designer to most, and which cemented his vision of his brand as unconventional yet artistic (McQueen). McQueen’s label rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 21st Century due to the designer’s unconventional practices. McQueen himself was once called “the hooligan of English fashion” for the foregoing reasons.
Hence, the appeal of the designer’s label is in the way that it allows consumers to differentiate themselves from others, while attaching themselves to the McQueen vision of luxury and fluidity, and tradition and modernity (“Lee Alexander McQueen”). The ‘essence’, so to speak’, of the McQueen label is mainly communicated through the designs seen on the runway or in media, particularly in the sustained presence of the label in events showcasing actors and celebrities – a topic which will be discussed in depth in the latter part of the report.
Communicator 2 – Retailers
McQueen designs are available through various upscale retailers such as Harrods, Neiman Marcus, Selfridges, and Saks Fifth Avenue among others. The aforementioned retailers all cater to the upscale market. Hence, the selection of retailers for the McQueen label contribute to its image as a high fashion, luxurious brand. McQueen designs are also available online through Net-a-Porter. Similarly, Net-a-Porter is an online retailer of luxury brands in the fashion industry. McQueen stores are also located in cities with a high upscale population such as New York, Milan, Los Angeles, Miami, Doha, Dubai, and the Roppongi Hills in Tokyo among others (“Store Location”). Overall, the location of McQueen stores all over the world as well as the selected physical and online retailers establish the label as a luxury brand in high fashion since these retailers are only accessible to the upper class market.
While the McQueen label is a luxury brand, it understands the need to capitalize on the existing market worldwide. Nevertheless, the McQueen label is careful in protecting the brand’s image or reputation. McQueen wants to maintain its image as a luxury, high fashion brand but it also needs to expand to other markets, particularly the upper middle classes. To resolve this dilemma, McQueen launched McQ, a new line that catered to young men and women from the upper middle class.
Communicator 3 – Consumers
McQueen is a high end label, which means that the brand’s target market is the upper class. McQueen creates designs for men and women. As formerly noted, the McQ line under the label targets the youth. Due to the fame of the McQueen brand, many consumers – celebrities or civilians – wear Alexander McQueen creations to various events. Based on the target market of the McQueen label, the brand’s consumers are primarily those from the upper middle and upper classes. Many civilians, particularly young consumers, use McQueen designs as a means to establish their image as “fashionable” and to separate or differentiate themselves from others. The McQueen label essentially communicates uniqueness, which is appealing to fashion enthusiasts, whether popular or not (Okonkwo, 117).
Communicator 4 – Critics
Many critics have praised Burton’s work as the successor of the McQueen label. In 2014, during the Paris Fashion Week, the McQueen label introduced its Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer collections for men and women. Burton was inspired by Japanese history, which is why McQueen’s collection illustrated hues and details attributed to the Samurai armor, the kimono, and common clothing worn by geishas. Critics praised Burton’s work for her attention to detail, artistic layering of the pieces, and the affinity of the collection to the McQueen brand and what the label stands for (“What we can Learn from PFW and all FW SS 2015”). For McQueen’s most recent collection put together by Burton, many regarded it as ingenious due to Burton’s unique take on the theme while remaining true to the ‘spirit’ or ‘essence’ of the McQueen label (Cartner-Morley; Harris).
McQueen’s collaborations with other designers and labels contributed to the brand’s success. Some of McQueen’s notable collaboration that generated buzz for the designer and the brand include that with Puma in 2005, MAC in 2007, and Target in 2008 among others.
Another factor that contributes to the brand’s success is the critics’ praise of McQueen designs publicized in fashion authorities such as Vogue magazine, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, among others. Moreover, these magazines feature celebrities wearing McQueen designs, which is a means of promoting the brand to a wide readership.
Communicator 5 – Celebrities
McQueen designs prior and after Burton’s takeover of the label are staple in the red carpet and the world of celebrities in general. During events featuring famous celebrities, McQueen has long been one of the designers providing celebrities with attire, a strategy that further advertises and publicizes the brand. The arrangement works such that the media covers celebrity events and in their coverage, they include advertisement of fashion labels. When the media interviews celebrities on the red carpet, they ask them about their clothing. Celebrities then mention the brand. Many celebrities wear McQueen designs. Famous celebrities who often wear McQueen designs include famous British model Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, actresses Cate Blanchett and Sarah Jessica Parker, and even the first lady of the US, Michelle Obama.
Overall, the involvement of the McQueen label in highly publicized events contributes to the brand’s advertising and promotions strategy. Burton for McQueen, for instance, designed Kate Middleton wedding dress in 2011. Aside from this, McQueen designs also make appearances in film. One of the more recent collaborations of the McQueen label in the film industry is in the film Hunger Games by Lionsgate. The Hunger Games series was a blockbuster hit as it continues to earn millions due to its large following. In the film, one of the protagonists constantly wear McQueen creations (Barron). In this scenario, the brand capitalizes on the wide viewership of the film to promote the brand.
Alexander McQueen Trading Limited. “Lee Alexander McQueen”. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://www.alexandermcqueen.com/experience/en/alexandermcqueen/biography/#id_article=137>.
Alexander McQueen Trading Limited. “Sarah Burton”. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://www.alexandermcqueen.com/experience/en/alexandermcqueen/biography/sarah-burton/>.
Barron, Nick. “The Hunger Games gets an Alexander McQueen Makeover”. Telegraph. 6 Mar 2013. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG9912203/The-Hunger-Games-gets-an-Alexander-McQueen-makeover.html>.
Cartner-Morley, Jess. “Alexander McQueen: Into the Light”. The Guardian, 10 Feb 2015. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/feb/10/alexander-mcqueen-into-the-light>.
Harris, Sarah. “Spring/Summer 2015 | Ready to Wear: Alexander McQueen”. Vogue. 30 Sep 2014. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/spring-summer-2015/ready-to-wear/alexander-mcqueen>.
McQueen, Alexander. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.
Okonkwo, Uche. Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
“Store Location”. Alexander McQueen Trading Limited. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://www.alexandermcqueen.com/experience/en/alexandermcqueen/store/>.
Vincent, Laurence. Brand Real: How Smart Companies Live their Brand Promise and Inspire Fierce Customer Loyalty. AMACOM, 2012.
“What we can Learn from PFW and all FW SS 2015”. Fashionbi. 13 Oct 2014. Web. 24 Feb 2015. <http://fashionbi.com/insights/marketing-analysis/what-we-can-learn-from-pfw-and-all-fw-ss-2015>.
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