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The aestheticisation of online consumer identity

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Digital Footprint Workshop, process image by participant Maria Gil Mendoza

“Digital dimensions ask us to continuously deconstruct and reinterpret our digital environment,” said Chinouk Filique de Miranda, in a presentation at the Responsible Fashion Series conference, attended by FashionUnited.

As an independent researcher, Filique de Miranda has dedicated her time to analysing the digitisation of fashion and how consumers connect and communicate within this newly developed technological prism. In a presentation at the conference, she examined this alternative engagement of the digital consumer, deconstructing how an online buyer interacts with fashion.

Brands themselves hold the responsibility of presenting potential consumers with an honest view of what they can offer to benefit their lives in a positive way. This can often lead to messages and branding that influences the online persona of a consumer, a portrayal of themselves they manufacture that doesn’t necessarily represent who they are offline.

Business models thrive on the social dependency of their users

“When we try on an outfit we don’t only assess if it fits our body,” she said, adding that a more important factor could be that the garment complements our personality.

She continued: “We assess if the fit shows how we want to present ourselves to the outside world. So a particular narrative [generated by a brand] gives the consumer tools to measure themselves as part of a specific group.”

In this sense, Filique de Miranda suggests that the online realm exists as a highly aestheticised world, manifested in the form of webshops, advertising and social media, where everything becomes clickable and shoppable. She noted that problems with this system arise due to business models thriving on the social dependency of their users, putting the user in the dubious position of the decision-maker.

Image: Digital Footprint Workshop, process image by participant Chinouk Filique de Miranda

“We use digital tools to assert the way we think and also the way we feel,” said Filique de Miranda, in her presentation. “Fashion becomes a communication force that helps us to reveal less about who we are as individuals and more of who we imagine ourselves to be.”

Filique de Miranda explores the ways brands use this narrative as a tool to communicate their fashion offering to their audience, taking fashion beyond simply a wearable garment to further influence advertisements, billboards, magazines and the internet. It is through these mediums that fashion can offer consumers a second existence that acts as a commodified identity for individual social establishment.

The digital realm only helps with the illusion of appearing

Ultimately, Filique de Miranda looks to disentangle this form of communication by fashion brands, to help inform consumers in practising purposeful and reflective actions when making purchase decisions within the digital age.

“The digital realm only helps with the illusion of appearing,” she added. “Where we can use interrelated images in a dense and fast network that makes us feel like we are participating in society.”

Image: Digital Footprint Workshop, process image by participant Floriane Misslin

Her work encourages fashion consumers to critically assess their digital footprint and focus on the actual messages brands are portraying in their communication. By unpacking this topic, Felique de Miranda hopes to assist in reinterpreting these messages to bring more value to fashion communication, than if it were to merely exist as an aesthetic social construct for the digital user.

As part of her ongoing research, Filique de Miranda introduced the Digital Footprint Workshop to further highlight her message. The workshop asks participants to analyse and visualise their personal digital environment as a way to experiment with the algorithm. The outcome of the programme is to hopefully generate user awareness in regards to online fashion media and provoke ongoing conversation between the participants.

The Responsible Fashion Series, hosted live in Antwerp this week, aims to bring together diverse contributors as a way to offer differing takes on how the fashion system operates. Its international spectrum of participants allows for broader discussions, looking closely at varying cultures and perspectives that could influence a positive change in fashion.

This year’s edition posed the question: ‘Can fashion save the world?’, asking contributors to share their views on what parts of the industry need to adapt in order to get closer to a more diverse, inclusive and circular fashion system.

Consumer behaviour
Digital Fashion
Social Media