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The language of luxury fashion advertising: technology of the self and spectacle

Kirsten Kohrs (Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), King's College London, London, UK) (Faculty of Business, University of Greenwich, London, UK)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 10 September 2020

Issue publication date: 9 April 2021




Ubiquitous Internet access and social media make visual consumption possibly the most vital characteristic of the experience economy. A cumulative, integrative framework for the analysis of visual artefacts has thus been called for as existing analytical tools and theoretical frameworks (such as semiotics, discourse analysis, content analysis, iconography, rhetoric and so on) each provide in isolation only a restricted perspective. To advance best practice towards shaping brand perception and consumer engagement, this paper provides a crucial analytical tool to uncover the unique and specific characteristics of identitary luxury fashion brand discourse by introducing and applying such an integrative framework.


A rigorous grounded theory approach was applied to a corpus of primary data, print advertising in Vogue (UK and US) and Vanity Fair (UK). Outcomes were distilled to first principles of meaning-making and aggregated in a framework which also integrates long-existing classics from diverse fields of knowledge to present a broad cumulative perspective for the analysis of visual discursive practice. This paper demonstrates the methodological rigour and validity of the framework, that is, its practical adequacy and explanatory power in uncovering the identitary brand discourse of luxury fashion.


An application of the integrative framework breaks new ground in uncovering the discreet identitary characteristics of the discursive practice of the luxury brands under investigation, Chanel and Gucci, which can be encapsulated as gendered technology of the confident self (Foucault) and spectacle (Debord), respectively.

Research limitations/implications

To advance theory that illuminates understanding and shaping of brand perception and consumer engagement with luxury fashion brands, the proposed framework is the first to integrate insight from a rigorous analysis of primary data with long-existing classics from salient fields of knowledge. It, thus, provides a broader, more inclusive perspective that elucidates the multifaceted layers of meaning of luxury fashion discourse in a new and comprehensive way which existing approaches with focus on an isolated dimension such as semiotics or nonverbal behaviour and so on would not have been able to reveal.

Practical implications

The inclusive, practicable theoretical framework provides a parsimonious and practical tool that can be applied by non-experts across disciplines to unlock meaning in fashion discourse as a route to shaping brand image and engaging consumers.


The paper provides a new perspective on the communication practice of luxury fashion advertising as the new integrative framework illuminates layers of meaning crucial to understanding the intricacies of identitary brand discourse and to shaping brand perception and engaging consumers.



Kohrs, K. (2021), "The language of luxury fashion advertising: technology of the self and spectacle", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 257-273.



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