Sally Bolton

The Converged Fashion Image: From 1990-2014

Central Saint Martins

This thesis asks how digital technology has influenced the practice of creating and distributing fashion images since 1990 to 2015. It seeks to illuminate a history that has thus far been overlooked in academia and aims to unpack the converged nature of the commercial fashion image.

Focusing on the early 21st century, it studies changes of form and context. I look at image making practices and dissemination embedded within the fashion communication industry. The study considers three sites of change: Analogue to digital, still to moving and print to screen.  I investigate the influence of digital media on developing roles and networks of practitioners, the speed of communication within the industry and the immediacy of the fashion image through digital platforms. It also examines the democratisation of the fashion image and of the practitioners themselves.

The research examines a series of case studies. I employ ethnographic research methods carried out within my professional practice as a fashion editor, combined with interviews with practitioners, who worked in the industry over the historical span, that relate to the specific projects under analysis. Through this research, I aim to uncover alternative examples of experimental image making practices that influenced techniques commercially adopted by the industry. I examine the conditions that gave particular practices currency.  The study then draws upon this primary data in the close visual analysis of the case studies to unravel the nature of the image.  

The case studies encompass the image within the magazine website, magazine app and Instagram, as well as traditional media forms such as the printed magazine, books and television. They span a range of projects from editorial for magazines and websites to the advertising campaigns of global fashion brands.

Ultimately, I adopt a Media Archaeological approach, informed by Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo (2009), based on Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). Using these methods I explore a non-linear, converged and heterogeneous history of the fashion image. By exploring the intricate web of emergence and practice within the networked industry, to foreground visual analysis, I offer an alternative perspective of the fashion image to that which already exists.


Caroline Evans

Alistair O'Neill