Which styles are successful and become ‘fashionable’ largely depends on the ‘cultural, artistic, or linguistic community’ (Giovannelli, 2005). This community is the fashion industry itself. The various people who produce, sell, photograph and write about fashion, together, set the styles and trends that others follow. They decide, as a result of ‘negotiations’ between various parties, what should be considered fashionable in the moment.
The evidence for this is found in the many magazine publications and media outlets, particularly social media platforms, that each day tell us what we should regard as being in fashion, for example, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, among many others. They are not just print magazines but social media outlets. These magazines generally show editorials from high designer labels. However, there are now many mainstream and high street brands that promote on social media, and they, too, influence what is fashionable.
Roland Barthes has said that ‘clothes are the material basis of fashion, whereas fashion itself is a cultural system of meanings.’ The contingent and the historical both come to bear on meanings given to clothes in this diverse society. Different looks draw on both the contemporary context as well as history in arriving at meanings.
The character of modern societies is fragmentary; people are no longer subject to a self-evident set of common cultural values that the individual internalises, but rather to external forces that provide associations that modify behaviour.
As society has become more diverse and pluralistic, so fashion has become more varied, showing a never-ending supply of ideas, styles, looks and designs. The growth of the fashion conscious has led to ‘diversity not homogeneity, to enormous stylistic variation rather than uniformity’.