Call for papers: Fashion & environmental communication: discourses, representations and "eco-responsible" figurations
edited by Andrea Catellani (Université catholique de Louvain), Pergia Gkouskou (Université Clermont Auvergne) and Eleni Mouratidou (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord).
This issue is at the crossroads of different research paradigms: the critical approach of market mediations (Marti, 2019) and in particular those of the fashion sector (Mouratidou, 2020), research in environmental communication (Pezzullo, Cox, 2018; Catellani et al., 2019) and the discursive analysis of corporate social responsibility (Tench et al., 2014; Ihlen, Heath, 2018; Catellani, 2018; Catellani, Errecart 2021). The aim of this issue is to produce a current inventory of environmental communication as undertaken by a sector that is particularly contested in terms of commitment and sustainability, that of fashion (Weller, Stower, 2014), and to report on the way in which the sector's demand for ecological transition is also put into discourse and mediated by citizen and associative collectives.
Presentation of the theme
A functional practice, a form of appearance, distinction and identity, a craft or industrial production, fashion is approached by the human and social sciences as "a social fact [...] that deeply engages individuals and social groups and accounts for the human in its totality" (Godart, 2016: 9). A particularly aestheticizing and spectacularizing sector, fashion is a space that testifies as much to "organizational, social, cultural" (Lipovetsky, 1987: 125) as to communicational and media transformations. It is the latter that are related to the central problem of the link between fashion and environmental communication, a link that it would not be risky to describe as hybrid or opaque.
Faced with an increased social demand for sustainable development and environmental ethics, which comes from citizen groups such as Fashion Revolution and Remake our World, NGOs (Greenpeance's Fashion Pact) and reports on the environmental behavior of the sector (Ellen Mcarthur Foundation report, 2017), the fashion industry, its groups, brands and actors have never produced so much talk about environmental responsibility. Yet, a number of research studies point out that fashion's ecological transition is particularly difficult to achieve, due to the complexity of accessing and processing raw materials, as well as the processes of valorizing its tangible and intangible heritage (Mora, Rocamora, Volonte, 2014).
Whether it is a question of Social and Environmental Responsibility reports, charters and programs of ecological transition, advertising and event strategies, collaborative platforms, or activist campaigns from associative structures, the fashion sector does not cease to produce or to be the object of discourses and "figurations" (Jeanneret, 2014) designating the communicational paradigm of sustainability and ecological transition. The aim is to understand and account for the way in which the environmental paradigm – discursive, written and visual, audiovisual, event-based, media-based – is constructed through the communicative strategies of the sector in question and through collective citizen and associative actions that rely on challenging and critical mediatization processes. To what extent do the figurations constructed by fashion actors respond to an injunction to environmental responsibility (Mouratidou, 2020)? To what extent is this injunction based on the economic essence of the sector and the way it influences consumption practices, on the programmed obsolescence of fashion goods, all segments included (Carloti, Minivielle, 2007)?
As Roland Barthes reminds us, “industrial society, which is calculating, is condemned to form consumers who do not calculate; if producers and buyers of clothing had an identical consciousness, clothing would only be bought (and produced) at the very slow pace of its wear and tear; Fashion, like all fashions, rests on the disparity of the two consciousnesses: one must be foreign to the other” (1967, 2002: 899). How is this disparity evoked by Barthes taken up by citizen movements that, through socio-numerical networks, make visible the flaws of the sector and put pressure on its groups and brands? To what extent is the discourse of sustainable fashion a (pre)textual communication (Mouratidou, 2020), allowing the sector to reinforce its competitive positioning (Catellani, Errecart, 2017) and to incorporate “by the same operation, a part of the values in the name of which it was criticized” (Boltanski, Chiapello, 1999: 73)? Doesn't the proliferation of messages, of sustainable collections, of actions and events said to be “committed” actualize the same consumerist euphoria as that generally developed by advertising (Guibert, Libaert, 2020: 17), resting, in this case, in a claim to green ethics? What are the communicative norms mobilized in the environmental communication of fashion and to what extent do they recall, by opposition, a non-environmental communication and consequently a non-responsible fashion?
The expected contributions could be part of the following non-exhaustive themes, treated either independently, or in a complementary or transversal way:
1. From responsible fashion to the responsibility of fashion: discursive, iconic, and event-based paradigms
The aim is to examine the lexical-semantic and discursive field that determines the figurations deployed in heterogeneous texts and media (CSR reports, press releases, advertising speeches, socio-numerical strategies) and that testifies to the trivialization of terms, syntagms and formulas stemming from the paradigm of responsibility: transparent fashion, engaged sweater, t-shirt of solidarity, ethical dress, eco-responsible brand, activist collection, activist designer, so many occurrences that testify to processes of rewriting and diverting formulas that potentially deprive themselves of their social referent (Krieg-Planque, 2009). It is also a question of studying the place of this lexical paradigm in its "social discursivity, its mobilization in organizational devices and its epistemic claim" (Jeanneret, 2010: 60), as well as its possible anthropomorphic imaginary projected. Similarly, the iconic paradigm associated with fashion's environmental commitment needs to be circumscribed. To what extent is this paradigm the result of a quotation and a revival of the aesthetics of fashion images in general? How is the environmental emergency visually translated in the communicative strategies of the actors of the sector and how does it oppose the discourses and images produced by the collectives and associations in their activist and critical strategies addressed to the industry in question?
Moreover, there are many event-based communications, often accompanied by scenography and multimodal discourses, whose aim is to promote the environmental commitment of market players. What are the spaces that host these events? To what extent does sustainable fashion represent a “mediagenic” formula (Marion, 1997) that allows for its integration into the sector's global strategies, ranging from the production of ephemeral exhibitions in commercial spaces on environmental commitment (e.g. the Merci boutique in Paris and its exhibition "Recycling, the second life of things", August, 2019), to fashion shows whose décor claims to be an ecological gesture (e.g. the Défilé Haute Couture Dior, May, 2019), up to the online citizen consultation and its illustration in merchant spaces (e.g. the consultation "Acting together for a more responsible fashion", initiated by the sector's brands and the make.org platform and its mediatization by the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann department store, September 2020)?
2. Media coverage and controversies
This second theme questions the processes of media coverage of the fashion industry's sustainable development initiatives, as well as the controversies that arise in the media space due to the sector's unresponsible productive and creative management. For example, for reasons of image and value preservation, the British company Burberry has in the past destroyed its unsold goods by burning them massively to preserve its intangible heritage. Similarly, the Swedish brand H&M has opted for the same procedures for its products qualified as defective. At the same time, according to ADEME (a French governmental agency), in 2015, 70% of synthetic fibers come from oil, while 500,000 tons of microparticles from these fibers are ejected into the oceans. How are criticized practices integrated into media spaces, whose socio-economic model is partly based on the advertisements of controversial brands?
More broadly, how is so-called responsible fashion, its collections, and its communications mediated through the specialized and general press (magazine press, national and local newspapers, specialized blogs)? How do discourses on fashion goods and collections in traditional, analog, or digital media contribute or not to the legitimization and institution of authority (Candel, Gkouskou-Giannakou, 2017) of the sector's market organizations and their communicational processes? To what extent and how does fashion make media debate (Botero, 2021) and which actors mediate the controversies affecting the sector? Similarly, how do NGOs and citizen movements mobilize the media space to reach public opinion and acquire an authority that legitimizes their discourse and criticism of the sector? It would be relevant, for example, to account for the media circulation of discourses and counter-discourses and how communicative processes evolve in their empirical manifestations "when discourses circulate, as is the case with controversies" (Le Marec, Babou, 2015: 114).
3. New business models and eco-responsible claims
Finally, it would be relevant to question, from the point of view of the construction of meaning, the emerging socio-economic models that accompany certain companies in the sector, whose operation is more reminiscent of the “designer-customer model” (Barrère, Santagata, 2005: 86; Gkouskou, 2021), according to which sales are not made from a pre-existing stock, according to massive and standardized processes (Mora, Rocamora, Volonté, 2014), but rather through individual pre-orders. What place does sustainable development occupy in the discourse and image of these models and how is it captured? Collaborative platforms for second-hand sales or rentals (Vinted, Vestiaire Collective), are based on the so-called collaborative paradigm (Bouquillion et al., 2013) as are crowdfunding campaigns allowing the production of fashion goods according to online and upstream financial contributions. Both – second-hand sales platforms and collaborative funding – promote an eco-responsible model of production and consumption, often articulated around the concepts of slow fashion (Fletcher, 2010), upcycling or recycling. How do digital platforms update the image of a committed and responsible fashion and to what extent do they rely on narratives of better consumption and collective responsibility while renewing, possibly, the practices and strategies of mass consumption?
Similarly, to what extent is the vintage segment reinvested (Maingueneau, 1991), updating both the values of the past and those of ecology? Fashion brands are integrating the sale of vintage collections into their models (isabelmarant-vintage.com; lemontsaintmichel.fr) or are emerging thanks to concepts of valorizing the past in the present (Re/Done). To what extent are these new trends part of a sustainable vision and how is it perceived in relation to the programmed obsolescence (Libaert, 2015) of goods in the sector, all segments included? The strategies of qualification and publicization of these trends deserve to be questioned insofar as they develop discursive forms of conciliation and compromise (Catellani, Errecart 2018) between profitability and sustainability, between market logics and ecological (Beyaert-Geslin, 2021) and solidarity values. In this respect, the receptions and perceptions of consumers could also be questioned, to enrich the analysis of the construction of meaning around the relationship between fashion and ecology.
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Barthes, R., « Le système de la Mode », Œuvres complètes, Paris, Seuil, 1967, 2002.
Beyaert-Geslin, A., « Des valeurs ‘prêtes à réaliser’ : l’exemple de l’application Vinted », Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication [En ligne], 23 | 2021, URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rfsic/11939 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/rfsic.11939
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Botero, N., «Pollution atmosphérique à la une : visibilité médiatique d’un problème environnemental», Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication [En ligne], 21 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2021, consulté le 26 juillet 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rfsic/10230 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/rfsic.10230.
Bouquillion, P., Miège, B., Moeglin, P., L’industrialisation des biens symboliques. Les industries créatives en regard des industries culturelles, Grenoble, PUG, 2013.
Candel, E., Gkouskou-Giannakou, P., « S’instituer par l’écriture en ligne », Communication & langages, n° 192, juin 2017, p. 19-26.
Carlotti, C., M., Gildas, « Quelle est la spécificité de la mode en tant que modèle économique original ?», Mode de Recherche, n° 8, juin 2007, p. 15-23.
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Catellani, A., Errecart, A., « L’hybridation discursive dans la communication sur la responsabilité sociétale des entreprises : Le cas des banques ‘engagées’ », Recherches en Communication, vol. 47, 2018, pp. 23-43.
Catellani, A., Errecart, A., « Les « banques éthiques » au prisme des discours sur soi : une identité discursive et narrative hybride », Communication & langages, n° 207, 2021, p. 129-147.
Fletcher, K., ”Slow fashion: An Invitation for System Changes”, Fashion Practice, vol. 2, 2010, issue, 2, pp. 259-265.
Gkouskou, P., « Identités territoriales esthétisées et traditionalisme ‘modernisé’ dans l’espace océanien : le cas de la mode ‘calédonienne’ », in, Escande-Gauquié, Jeanne-Perrier (dir.), Médiations de la mode, Paris, Harmattan, 2021, pp. 59-76.
Godart, F., Sociologie de la mode, Paris, La Découverte, 2016.
Guibert, G., Libaert, T., Publicité et transition écologique, rapport commandité par le Ministère de la Transition Écologique et Solidaire, juin 2020.
Ihlen, Ø., Heath, R. L. (Ed.), Handbook of organizational rhetoric and communication, Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2018.
Jeanneret, Y., « L’optique du sustainable : territoires médiatisés et savoirs visibles », Questions de communication, 17/2010, p. 59-80.
Jeanneret, Y., Critique de la trivialité. Les médiations dans la communication, enjeu de pouvoir, Paris, Non Standard, 2014.
Krieg-Planque, A., La notion de ‘formule’ en analyse de discours. Cadre théorique et méthodologique, Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté, Besançon, 2009.
Le Marec, J., Babou, I., « La dimension communicationnelle des controverses », Hermès, La Revue, 2015/3, n° 73, p. 111-121.
Libaert, T., « Consommation et controverse : le cas de l’obsolescence programmée », Hermès, La Revue, 2015/3, n° 73, p. 151-158.
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Mora, E., Rocamora, A., Volonté, P., "On the issue of sustainability in fashion studies”, International Journal of Fashion Studies, vol. 1, n° 2, 2014, p. 139-147.
Mouratidou, E., Politiques de re-présentation de l’industrie de la mode. Discours, dispositif, pouvoir, Londres, ISTE, 2020.
Pezzullo, P., Cox, R., Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, Sage, 2018.
Tench, R., Sun., W., et Jones, B., eds. "Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice",Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Vol. 6, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014.
Weller, I., & Stower, L. "Fashion and ecology: The flaws in the pattern/Mode und okologie: Schnittmuster mit webfehlern". GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 23(4), 327, 2014.
This call is open to communicative, discursive, semiotic, multimodal analysis, media and socio-economic approaches that propose empirical analyses or discuss the results of surveys. It is addressed to researchers interested in the discourses and communication strategies proposed by the fashion and luxury industry as well as to those who address in their research the issues of CSR, sustainable development and the ecological imperative. Proposals must respect the schedule and procedures described below.
Deadline for article proposals: April 20th, 2022.
Authors are invited to submit the complete version of their article (maximum 40,000 characters) on the journal's website, before the deadline of the call.
Articles will be checked by the author to ensure anonymity (see "author identification in the manuscript" section of the journal's instructions to authors). The directors of the issue will evaluate the adequacy of the proposal with the theme of the call and, if accepted, will submit it to the "double-blind" evaluation by the journal's reading committee. The answer will be given at the latest two months after the submission.
Articles submitted and accepted for publication in this dossier will be published on the site as they are finalized, without waiting for the whole dossier to be ready for publication.