& Tom Fisher
Nottingham Trent University
Personalisation and identity in fashion
The aim of this research is to explore the concept of personalisation, the relationship between the consumers and producers of personalised fashion and its ethical implications.
Although individualisation in fashion consumption is well known, personalisation is less understood. A significant part of the problem lies in the different uses of the term by producers and consumers and their dynamic interaction. Fashion producers are increasingly intent on acquiring personal data and new uses of big data that contribute to the ability to micro-market and to personalise individual products, services and experiences. However, the rise of co-created designs, looks and communities with consumers challenges their ability to manage the process. The contribution of producers and consumers is less clear as both sides exploit new channels of distribution and communication and create new fashion communities. As identity is fundamentally defined by distinctiveness, more complex forms of personalisation may create more – and alternative – forms of identity.
The paper examines the problem of personalisation from two theoretical perspectives. First, as a social rather than a transactional activity. Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) recognises the fragmentation of markets and the primacy of the consumer as a socially-connected being. It positions personalisation in consumer culture as providing meaningful ways of life and material resources on which consumers depend and their mediation through markets. Second, taking an ethical position on personalisation, the argument focuses on the boundaries of fashion consumption, the problems of ownership and permission to personalise and the ways personalisation can be understood in a value system. The paper concludes with a summary of personalisation defined by consumer and producer interactivity, temporality and ownership to advance the conceptualisation of personalised and personal fashion identities.