Storytelling for fashion & clothing brands and how to connect with your audience
Storytelling how-to and examples for your clothing brand 👔
Everyone wears clothes. Well, almost everyone.
But fashion is more than just putting random bits of cloth on and going about your day. The fashion industry is at a fascinating intersection of form and function. We all need clothing, true, but there is also a deeply psychological aspect to the clothes we wear and the ways the fashion industry influences consumers to purchase their brand over, say, a burlap sack.
Today we're going to discuss why storytelling matters in fashion and how to effectively tell a story when marketing your textile wares.
Before we get into the weeds about how to use storytelling in fashion, let's first talk about why we even have to. Interestingly, the fashion industry isn't just shiny baubles and pretty colors. As Miranda Priestly, the Patron Saint of Side Eye, viciously explained to her assistant in the cinematic masterpiece The Devil Wears Prada:
The fashion industry isn't just functioning on vibes and aesthetics. There's a whole undercurrent of economics and planning underpinning the trends. A lot of thought went into the psychology of even the most ludicrous of fashion statements.
The psychology of fashion is true on a micro scale as well. As one author posits:
Fashion provides a visual and readily available vehicle for negotiating self-identity and self-expression whether one is seeking novelty, individualism or belonging through the concepts of in-group and out-group. While fashion appears to some to be superficial, to others fashion has a depth that echoes the depth of human self-awareness.
Certainly, its importance to the individual is reflected in the profitability of the fashion industry. Early commentators on fashion, including economist Thorstein Veblen and social psychologist Georg Simmel, focused on the role of fashion in negotiating class in identity, but, recently, ‘lifestyles’ rather than class have become more influential in identity formation.
Studies have been done on the effects of our clothing choices on our self-perception, mood, and decision-making. It would be unrealistic to attribute our fashion purchases to simple preferences or happenstance. There is a profound psychology behind how we dress and how our clothing both impacts and communicates our sense of identity and connection to others.
All this to say that the concept behind fashion marketing needs to be equally as thoughtful and considered.
Alright, let's get existential. Who are you? What do you value? And how do you communicate this value to the rest of the world?
We can ask these questions as it relates to the clothing we wear. In fact, sometimes we make it literal, adorning our flesh vessels with slogans about our political and social stances.
So, when you're preparing to peddle your polyester wares, think from the perspective of selling a narrative. How will your [dress, skirt, sequin vest] make the person feel? What message will it communicate? And, most importantly, what story does your clothing tell about the prospective wearer?
Scrubs tell a story of a hardworking, efficient healthcare practitioner.
A little black dress tells the story of a sultry, confident woman.
A three-piece suit communicates a tale of success and business acumen.
Simply showing the clothes on a model is perfectly adequate for a lackluster brand. But really utilizing the clothes to sell a lifestyle is an elevated form of marketing. It's a narrative-first approach to make your brand stand out amongst the rest.
To find уоur brаnd story, look back at the hiѕtоrу of your brаnd аnd find thе values that аrе at itѕ соrе. Lооk аt how and whаt уоur brаnd соmmuniсаtеѕ nоw. Whаt iѕ thе lesson thаt it is trying to tеасh its соnѕumеrѕ? Whаt iѕ the meaning thаt lies dеер within? Identify which plot tуре it fаllѕ within to mаkе it ѕtrоngеr. Looking аt the 'рlоt' оf your brand саn also help tо dеfinе whеrе уоur brаnd iѕ ultimately going, аnd whаt obstacles аnd challenges it might nееd tо overcome.
So before you even pull out your camera, consider the following:
- Who is your target audience?
- What kind of story does your brand tell?
- What kind of lifestyle does your brand promote?
- What emotion will your fashion campaign evoke?
- How is your brand different from the myriad fashion brands out there?
Identifying your missions and values as a brand, as well as your target consumer, is the roadmap to finding that engaging story.
The reality is, there are plenty of cheaper, less ethical, fast-fashion brands out there who don't need to rely on a brand story because their brand story is, "we're cheap and sure, borderline disposable and unethical, but… cheap." Having a solid strategy to compete with those basement-level prices will rely on clever marketing and a clear message about the lifestyle your consumer is buying, not just the thing of fabric.
With your business, not with each other. That would be creepy.
We won't just tell you about fashion storytelling, we'll show you! These are some cool brands that aren't just throwing the clothes in a pile and snapping a blah picture. These brands are really evoking a narrative with their style concepts.
What's cooler than not caring? Junk Food Clothing Co. appeals to a younger teens-and-twenty-somethings audience with their graphic tees. They forego the high-polish runway look for a more casual narrative.
But, of course, casual doesn't mean ineffective. Many consumers want that dressed-down, informal look. And think about it: this NBA-style graphic tee would look out-of-place with a chic professional backdrop. Junk Food Clothing Co. highlights their tees in a trendy neon environment that elicits the young party vibe that will speak to their customers.
Pinup Girl Clothing's slogan is "Couture for Every Body," and this ethos is reflected in their diverse and size-inclusive marketing. The story is "retro, but make it modern," which sounds counterintuitive but somehow works for the target demographic. The brand story evokes a bygone era of nostalgia and class.
Rumor has it, men wear clothes too. They are not immune to the enticing allure of fashion storytelling. Whether it's a fitted tux or a pair of hemp socks, men are looking to see their best selves reflected in the clothes they choose to buy. Fashion Beans communicates their cool, casual skater style with some cool, casual skaters.
One thing you'll never see is an REI photoshoot with their models sitting on a chair.
No, if REI is going to do one thing, they're going to put their wares outside. One quick scroll through their social media will motivate even the couchiest of potatoes to strap on a pair of hiking boots and traverse the nearest mountain/hill/large dirt pile (for a photoshoot). Their brand story is, "join us outside because we're doing cool things," and they tell that story with their whole chest.
Storytelling in fashion branding is important. There will always be a cheaper fast-fashion option, so identifying what differentiates your brand and effectively telling that story is the best way to create not just consumers but fans.
For more inspo, see how other fashion brands like Estée Lauder, Timberland, and Reebok share their hottest stories and updates using Prezly.
Or, if you're interested in a great tool that is perfect for your fashionista storytelling magic, why not check out Prezly (for free)?
Published January 2023