Emerging Signals

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					Emerging Signals
A Catalytic Gaze into the Semiotic Crystal Ball

‘In an age marked by an ever-increasing and ever-accelerating proliferation of signs, of all types, the immediate environment becomes itself increasingly dominated by signs, rather than natural objects or events. The realm of signs becomes not simply a ‘second nature’ but a primary reality’ – Peter Wollen

This is part of a series of short articles in which Flamingo International’s semiotic team examines the impact of signs and mythologies on contemporary brands. These dispatches from the frontline are aimed to stimulate thought rather than to offer final definition, for in the end semiotics is not a scientific formula extracting ‘truth’, but an analytical methodology in pursuit of meaning.

It was French critic Roland Barthes who first introduced the semiotic think-piece into common intellectual currency - famously describing Citroen cars as the cathedrals of the post-war period - in his effort to reveal the ‘hidden’ meanings behind everyday consumer icons. These articles are a reflection of Flamingo’s aim to enhance the understanding of the landscape of signs that we, and our clients’ brands, inhabit.

Hythe House 3rd Floor, 200 Shepherd's Bush Road, London W6 7NL Phone +44 (0) 207 348 4950 Fax +44 (0) 207 348 4951 www.flamingo-international.com email info@flamingo-international.com

The Uncertain Identity of the Pyjama

Being in the office is not as important as it once was.

According to the

Professional Contractors Group, the current estimate of the number of freelancers in the UK is around 1 million, and set to keep growing. A new trend in ‘nightwear’ reveals a seismic shift from corporate rigidity to self-empowered flexibility.

Designers like Marc Jacobs and Viktor & Rolf are integrating nightwear into mainstream fashions. This would initially appear to signal relaxed comfort as The dressing gown after all is an item the key state of mind and behaviour. and looseness).

designed for both function (warmth when rising from bed) and comfort (softness

The dressing gown is a liminal item: it is neither fully ‘worn’ as clothing, nor is it in any conceivable way bed linen. It is employed for functional warmth and yet it is an intimate item coding the vulnerable individual who is not yet washed or cleaned, who has not quite left sleep behind (she might still be wearing pyjamas or underwear), nor who is ready for the rigours of the day. in traffic-lights, they signal the person in preparation.
Emergent Fashion Trends: A Semiotic Analysis 2

Like the amber light In this state, the

individual is relaxed, he/she clings to the pleasure and comfort of sleep while the demands of daily life are deferred for a few moments while lingering over a cup of tea and a cursory glance at the morning paper. Neither asleep, nor yet fully awake, the dressing gown enables the wearer to remain in a transitional zone.

The growth of international travel, the emergence of 24hr call centres, and the fact that the sun never sets on the internet, signals the collapse of divisions between day and night, and therefore between working times and sleeping times, between time spent at ‘home’ and time spent in the ‘world’. Definitions of these spaces are now entirely up for debate: is one at ‘home’ or ‘in the world’ when surfing the net on your living room sofa?

Reflecting the incremental growth in home working, MINTEL, the market research company, pointed out in a recent report that current rapid growth in the home office furniture market is occurring when the overall furniture market has grown less strongly.

So, as the trend to work from home grows, dressing for work becomes entirely arbitrary. If we can work from home, what need is there is to get dressed? We can spend our days in our nightwear, our dressing gown wrapped around us all the time. We can simultaneously scratch our arses and client interface. Is this emergent trend an explanation for Star Trek’s much maligned ‘pyjama’ costume/uniform? In 24th century inter-stellar travel, night and day no longer exist, the view from your window is always of a sea of stars, work and play are no longer divided. Your every waking hour is a video game/tv series, and sleep might be a chance to surf the internet and download information.

In an age of the internet and nano-technology,

is it possible to foresee a time

when a human will simply dispense with the need to sleep altogether, and downtime will be a more accurate description? Even if this is a fantasy that lies somewhere in an unknowable future, the nature of the way people work and
Emergent Fashion Trends: A Semiotic Analysis 3

play - and even whether these are governed by day/night divisions - is entirely up for question.

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, there is a larger workforce of occasional home workers who are actually fully employed, but choose to work from the comfort of their own sofas rather than the office. office-home drama. Yet, we should The remember that we have not yet fully reached the final act of the work-play, We are caught in the maelstrom of re-definition. emergent role of nightwear clearly signifies in-between-ness, since it is an article of clothing specifically designed for the most ‘liminal’ time of the day.

With this emergent trend, the fashion industry is recognising those socio-cultural changes and communicating to the consumer that there will be another way of dressing in a future that has another way of working, playing and living. Nightwear clothing codes a society in transition. It may be a painful transition, but at least you can be comfortable and cosy while you’re undergoing it.

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