Stereotypes Behind The Scenes Of The Fashion Industry

November 14th, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized

by Amanda Watson

French poet and novelist, Jean Cocteau said “Fashion produces beautiful things that always become ugly with time.” The entertainment and fashion industry could be seen as glamorous with many perks, luxuries, and of course, talented and artistic projects. However, there is a dark side or ugliness that may come along with working in this industry. The entertainment business, especially the fashion industry has always had a negative connotation and stereotype attached to it of it being extremely superficial with frivolous expenses and spending. People from the outside looking in may look at employees in this business as materialistic or people who have no sense of “reality” or care for topics that should “truly” matter, such as politics or world hunger.

These continued stereotypes and generalizations are shaped by the media and television, but there may be some truth to it. Working in the fashion industry, I could see how people can make these assumptions and generalizations about the fashion industry. Many people in this business could seem mean, materialistic, vain, superficial, and even seem to care about a pimple on a face more than who is going to be our next President. A blogger for expressed these views in the article entitled “Confessions of a Fashionista: The Ugly Betty Stereotypes are no Fantasy- Real Life Fashion Folk are just as Vile.” The author states that fashion documentaries and movies, such as The September Issue, The Devil Wears Prada, and Ugly Betty, focus on the elusive fashionista which the author says is not too far from the real fashion world. It is filled with ruthless ambition of those in power with large egos at play. These employees are a part of a small privileged few, so some may take advantage of this and act like spoiled brats.

The fashion industry is a business and it has to make money much like every other business or industry. Shortly after Hurricane Sandy I heard how much thousands of dollars the fashion industry and modeling agencies lost just because most of the fashion industry is located in lower Manhattan where the power was out for more than a week. Money making and profit is a primary concern in the entertainment and fashion industry as much as the creative aspect. In the article, “Making Profitability a Priority in Business,” author, Abby Johnson states that profitability needs to be first priority in a business. The authors of the book, The Profit Zone, says that the first step for any business leader is to ask the crucial questions, “how does profitability happen in my business today and how will it happen in the foreseeable future?”

With all due respect to the fashion industry’s need to make money, I sometimes wonder where humanity and philanthropy comes in. For example, in a modeling agency, I heard a talent agent talking about another agent saying “her problem is that she treats the models like products, I mean technically they are in this business, but you are not suppose to treat them like that.” This shows that not everyone in the industry is mean or vile, but also that this perspective does exist. A model having a common cold or a pimple is really not the end of the world, but some people who work in entertainment make it seem that way sometimes. Do models have to solely be looked upon as products? Hurricane Sandy affected the fashion business, sales, and advertisers. In the blink of an eye, everything you have and all that you have worked for can be destroyed and gone. All you have is yourself, who you are as a person, and how you treat people. For those who do fit the stereotype, I wonder if any humility was gained from this experience.

Philanthropy in the entertainment industry, and more specifically the fashion industry, exists. It is very common for celebrities to support some cause. For example, there are philanthropic activities undertaken by fashion leaders such as Toms shoes which donates shoes to children in various countries. I have heard of modeling agencies cleaning out their closets to donate clothes to the Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts. After surviving the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004 supermodel Petra Nemcova has become dedicated to helping Tsunami and earthquake victims with her organization called the Happy Hearts Fund. Supermodel Tyra Banks has been known for mentoring young girls and up and coming models. She even started a sleep away camp called T-Zone which inspires girls and young women to live their dreams. However, it should not just be the celebrities in this industry giving back (whether they are doing it from their hearts or to portray a certain image). The executives and other lower profile employees in this industry should also give back as well to benefit the community and society as whole (if they aren’t already doing so). Nonetheless, for those who hold stereotypes of those in the fashion industry, you should be aware that the stereotypes of superficiality are not entirely true.

According to the Huffington Post, the fashion industry has a luxurious and elite façade as well as concern with philanthropy. With the increase in environmental concerns the world seems to be facing, the fashion industry has moved closer to the more practical side of humanitarian work. There is a beauty about working in the entertainment and fashion industry, especially being behind the scenes putting together creative, artistic projects and being in control of media messages communicated to the public. More of a balance between the beauty of the business and humanity would not hurt. With all its revenue, there could be more programs in this industry to give back in some way, for example, to help those who struggle even to find one meal to eat a day. It is essential that the fashion and entertainment industry takes steps toward the right direction regarding philanthropy not only for the benefits it provides to others but also to counter the stereotypes of their industry.

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    November 26th, 2012 at 13:57

    I have always showed interest in the fashion industry. I even considered going to school for fashion merchandising to deal with the popular trends or what styles not to feature. However, I decided against the world of fashion for the exact reasons mentioned in this post; their stereotypes. The fashion industry is very fast-paced and very competitive. There are always new trends out there or new people coming in with better ideas. However, due to these conditions, people in the fashion world have to take on these negative conations of being materialistic, mean, or superficial. If they do not believe in their styles or stand up for a say in something, they will easily get taken advantage of or even replaced by someone with new or better ideas. Yes, there are some established names in the industry that will always remain popular just because of their previous works but these names did not achieve success overnight. It took a lot of hard work and drive to fight for what they wanted to sell. Even though many of these stereotypes give the fashion industry a negative reputation, it is the only way for anyone to survive the competitiveness of the business.

  2. acalifano1
    November 27th, 2012 at 20:59

    I think it is important that you point out that fashion is a business. This means that they have their own traditions and symbols which are upheld and it isn’t likely that those old values of theirs are going to change. I think it is a good sign that fashion industries want to be more philanthropic; I mean they have so much money they should donate to charities or aid causes they think are noble or worthy of pursuing. Of course, you talk about stereotypes. When I think of stereotypes I think of the stereotypes for women’s body image. Media’s portrayal of the fashion industry contributes heavily to these stereotypes. I imagine most of the women to be stuffy, rich fashionistas and the men are stereotyped as homosexuals. If you look at any show, like Ugly Betty, one of the main male characters that works in the office is obviously gay. Television sends this message to viewers: if a guy works in the fashion industry, he is automatically gay. You also mentioned that the fashion industry is for the elite. I completely agree with this. All of the people who attend fashion shows in New York City or Milan are usually models, actors, musicians or very well off people. I hardly ever hear of an average person enjoying, or attending, a fashion show. I think with all the publicity that fashion receives nowadays it is hard for them to escape some of these stereotypes.

  3. ercrodrig
    November 28th, 2012 at 15:50

    I find this extremely interesting. I never thought of the nature of the fashion industry to be a stereotype but more of a truth; a truth that the industry is probably not ashamed to admit. With money comes power and with power comes the ability to do absolutely anything you want, including dismissing any stereotype said about you because seriously, you can just buy off anything. I’ve walked down streets of New York City that are the location of businesses such as Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren and Coach. I have never felt so small and poor walking around these places and it’s because I know that walking in one of these stores would be useless because I clearly can’t afford anything. I even look like I can’t afford anything. I stop and think why these people feel the need to spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of fabric and if they are completely clue less of the issues of the world. If there is any proof that there is a terrible wealth gap in our country try walking on Bleeker St. in lower Manhattan and there you have it. Even walking down the streets leading the Harbor you see a closed down business next to a luxurious $7000 a night hotel and you stop and think, people are dying. People are dying right now because other people are oblivious to the useless spending they are doing everyday. Including the people in the fashion industry.

  4. mgersh13
    November 28th, 2012 at 18:38

    Many people have the stereotypical view of the fashion industry, which may at times be exaggerated, but also not unprovoked. A lot of the things that we assume about the fashion industry are actually true. I do agree that the fashion industry sets unrealistic standards for women and men all around the world and that contributes to a lot of the social issues that we face today. For instance, the fashion industry presents the idea that the ideal women must be extremely skinny and look perfect at all times. This is ridiculous because many of the things that the fashion industry shows and represents have no relation to what the actual average woman looks like. The worst part is that people assume if they are not an exact replica of the image that the fashion industry portrays, then there is something wrong with them. This leads to issues such as anorexia and bulimia which in large part could be prevented if the fashion industry did not place such impractical standards for society. On the other hand, however, I do acknowledge that the fashion industry also helps society. Like mentioned in the article many charitable donations are made on behalf of the fashion industry and fashion companies. I just believe since the influence is so great, the fashion industry should take advantage of it and try to have a more positive impact on the world.

  5. ricketr2
    November 28th, 2012 at 23:18

    I found this article about the fashion industry to be extremely interesting. What I found to be the most interesting was realizing that many people outside of the fashion industry have a negative connotation of it. I was also impressed at how easily this stereotype, as well as article, can relate back to one of the theories we discussed in my Introduction to Communication course. The article points out that someone from the outside looking in views this industry as a very glamorous and luxurious yet frivolous and superficial. I related this to the standpoint theory. I was able to relate this theory using real life encounters. Coming from a high school where majority of the students took an interest in fashion, and one was not viewed as being vain or superficial, it was simply part of our culture. My reasoning for having an interest in fashion is never to impress anyone else but simply because I enjoy dressing up. However, coming to college I noticed that not many students shared this same interest and my interest in fashion to some could be perceived as being too vain. I believe the negative stereotype is a product of people with a lesser standpoint and a strong opinion on the subject because it is simply something they are not accustomed to. At the end of the article I really like the idea of giving back. I believe that this would help to reduce the negative stereotype of the industry.

  6. cmastrangelo
    November 29th, 2012 at 09:56

    This article sheds light on the fact that the fashion industry can be looked at as superficial and insignificant to society. People that work in the industry can see where the stereotypes come from– many people are selfish, egotistical, pretentious, judgmental and mean. They put others down and do whatever it takes to get to the top, and along the way get caught up in superficial issues. Although not everyone in fashion is nasty, there are a lot of people like that. They treat models like products and destroy their self esteem if they have any visible flaws. People in the entertainment business sometimes pay attention to philanthropies, and voice out on helping various charities. They may do it for good publicity, but a lot of celebrities still do it. The author believes that more people that work behind the scenes in the industry should donate as well, since it makes so much money. I agree with all of the points that the author is touching upon. Instead of focusing so much on a perfect appearance, the industry should work on being more relatable to its consumers. This would alleviate the pressure that people are constantly feeling to look a certain way, wear particular clothes, or be a specific weight. Because the fashion industry has such an influence on society, it should choose a morally correct way to be portrayed.

  7. Anastacia Kurylo
    December 5th, 2012 at 10:48

    I conducted a study a few years ago and the comments to this blog (and the guest blog itself) remind me of the study. Essentially in the study participants had to differentiate between conversations that had stereotypes in them and ones that didn’t have stereotypes in them. I thought this would be a somewhat easy task. What resulted, however, was that participants identified the conversations with no stereotypes easily and identified the conversations with the stereotypes about groups that are most considered offensive easily as well. But other stereotypes fell under the radar of participants. Stereotypes of nerds and pot smokers for example were not identified by participants as stereotypes. This blog post and the comments remind me of this study because folks seem to be accepting of these stereotypes, even if not entirely convinced by them. Had this article been about stereotypes of sexual orientation, gender, or race instead of stereotypes of the fashion industry I wonder how the content of the article and comments might have been different.

  8. Amanda.W
    December 15th, 2012 at 22:46

    Working in the Fashion Industry, of course, I know how small it is and therefore, extremely competitive. It is okay to fight for what you want and grow thick skin while still having some humility and giving back as well. My point of the article was to share some of the negative stereotypes in the fashion industry and express interest in seeing more philanthropy work done in this industry. Thank you all for the comments! I really appreciate it and it seems that all of you agree.

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