Fashion communication is  a very exciting segment of the fashion industry. It covers such important areas in fashion and luxury business:

  • visual merchandising
  • retail experience
  • exhibitions/display design
  • event management
  • styling
  • photography
  • advertising
  • public relations
  • creative writing
  • promoting
  • journalism
  • catwalk shows
  • trend forecasts

Companies create emotional associations, customer benefits and a lifestyle through communication.

Communication is what transforms the product into a brand.

Fashion communication mainly focuses on the so called Dream factor, as fashion and luxury tends to be involved in an exclusive world for happy few, celebrities, famous personalities. At the same time, though, communication must also share the dream, making the brand an object of desire in the eyes of customers. Communication has to balance the exclusivity of the message with the accessibility of the media.

As Fashion communication is a very sophisticated world, and for sure a very powerful languages, sometimes methods in communication are using the rules of another sophisticated world… A poetry. Surprised? I bet!

Literary theorist and researcher Roman Jakobson defined six functions of communication, according to which an effective act of verbal communication can be described in emotional way in poetry. Jakobson’s theory of communicative functions was first published in “Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics” (in Thomas A. Sebeok, Style In Language, Cambridge Massachusetts, MIT Press, 1960, pp. 350–377).

The six functions of communication

1. The Referential Function 
corresponds to the factor of Context and describes a situation, object or mental state.
2. The Poetic Function 
focuses on “the message for its own sake” (the code itself, and how it is used) and is the operative function as well as slogans.
3. The Emotive (alternatively called “Expressive” or “Affective”) Function 
relates to the Addresser (sender) and is best exemplified by interjections and other sound changes that do not alter the denotative meaning of an utterance but do add information about the Addresser’s (speaker’s) internal state, e.g. “Wow, what a view!”
4. The Conative Function 
engages the Addressee (receiver) directly and is best illustrated by vocatives and imperatives, e.g. “Tom! Come inside and eat!”
5. The Phatic Function 
is language for the sake of interaction and is therefore associated with the Contact/Channel factor.  It provides the keys to open, maintain, verify or close the communication channel: “Hello?”, “Ok?”, “Hummm”, “Bye”…
6. The Metalingual (alternatively called “Metalinguistic” or “Reflexive”) Function 
is the use of language (what Jakobson calls “Code”) to discuss or describe itself.
All of this functions form a Communication scheme


How does it work?

Emotive Function (Sender)

The emotive function dominates in communication when theres a focus on the Adresser/Sender – expresses their feelings about something. For example in blogging, the author writes: “Im so in love with my …

Typical topics: talk about own experience, self-expressions, own emotions, feelings

Regular codes: monologue, self-projection, using POV shots or subjective photos of product, story-telling from one person

Example: bloggers writing


Conative function (Receiver)

Conative function dominates when theres a focus on Adressee/Receiver. It also called persuasive, the main is to achieve an action or a mentality change.  For example, in advertising, they might state: “Touch me!” “Stop!” “Don’t be a copy” “Are you ready to go?” “Look at me” “Feel me”

Typical topics: prayers, orders or advices, seduction

Regular codes: imperative, goes from second person, can include questions

Example: Advertising with celebrity with an order to Adressee


The referential function (Context)

The referential function dominates when theres emphasis on the Context, it describes a situation, object or mental state.

Typical topics: Past, Present, object with denotative historical period.

Regular codes: here, there, now, tomorrow, this, that, own, your; usually Simple Past (by English)

Example: particular editorials in fashion magazines


Poetic function (Message)

Dominates when theres a focus on the message. It focuses attention on the noise of words, the choice of words and sentence structure. Its goal is to communicate its shape, arouse emotions or thoughts through the musicality of words.

Typical topics: quotes from politics, arts, etc.

Regular codes: Addition: repetition, expansion, superabundance. Omission: subtraction, abridgment, lack; Transposition: transferring; Permutation: switching, interchange, substitution, transmutation

Example: Fashion magazines tricky headings


Phatic function (Contact)

The phatic function dominates when theres emphasis on a Contact in order to establish or maintain communication: expresses messages “Are you listening?”, “Do you know what i mean?”

Its about the Cannel, its functionality.

Typical topics: call to action, irony, frequency. Its not important what you say, but the fact that you say something. It has a social function, such as to start a conversation, greet someone, or say goodbye, rather than an informative function.

Regular codes: common phrases about listening, speaking; use of exhortative proxemics

Example: used in a survey, reports, emails, radio, social services, commercials with message “Hello” included, selfies with bloggers, celebrities that describe current brand


Metalinguistic function

Emphasis on the Code: it refers to a code of function and a conditional probability that what is said is not true nor false.

Typical topics: narrative – “once upon a time…”, fairy tales, stories, mysteries.

Regular codes: ambiguity, questions

Example: jewelry brands magical commercials