Making of The Look

Un rapide décryptage du process mis en place et des coulisses menant du mannequin au consommateur ou dit autrement la création d’un « look » qui séduira les masses.

Des extraits tirés de l’enquête menée par la sociologue américaine Ashley Mears et reportés dans son livre « Pricing Beauty, the making of a fashion model » . Egalement, le livre remet en cause la notion de beauté comme un acquis et se penche sur la manière dont les considérations ethniques et de genre sont traitées dans la profession et vers quelles inégalités elles débouchent parfois.

The first step to understanding this world involves a little reverse magic to bring invisible actors into light. While models reap plenty of attention as pop culture icons, no model gets far without the campaigning efforts of a booker and a few key clients. Networks of agents, scouts, assistants, editors, stylises, photographers, and designers constitute a production world chat links models to fashion consumers.

Scouts and agents « discover » raw bodily capital and then filter it to clients —photographers, designers, art and casting directors, stylists, and catalog houses. These clients « rent » models for short periods of time, maybe a few hours, days, or weeks, during which time they deploy this capital to appear in media outlets such as catalogs, showrooms, advertisements, magazines, catwalks, showrooms, and  » look books, » which are booklets that feature a designer’s new clothing collection.

In these media outlets, models’ images serve to entice store buyers and, ultimately, to seduce fashion shoppers, the final consumers of the look, into making a purchase, as shown below.


Taken together, these producers constitute a world of backstage production, or an « art world, » as sociologist Howard Becker calls it (1982).
In an art world, the talent is one piece of the art-making process, but talent should not be privileged as the gravitational center. Creative goods such as 1nusic, art, or books do not mysteriously emerge from individual acts of artistic genius. They materialize from institutions, organizations, industrial field structures, and the everyday routines of people at work. A work of art is as much the product of a whole series of intermediaries and their shared norms, roles, meanings, and routines as it is the creation of an individual artist. In other words, mundane processes of production are important in shaping culture.

An art world approach belies common sense; we’re used to thinking that the best people rise to the top of any market, as popular media accounts unanimously celebrate. It is tempting to think that models are lucky winners in some « genetic lottery, » as though their bodies were superior gifts of nature chat automatically receive social recognition, and, indeed, some evolutionary psychologists echo this view.

Such explanations of the deservingly triumphant cannot account for the physical outliers —people such as Kate Moss, who at 5’6, » is short by model standards, or Sophie Dahl, who reached fashion fame at a size 10, rather heavy compared to her catwalk counterparts. Nor does talent account for the hundreds of thousands of similarly built genetic lotto winners who will never receive social recognition— people such as Liz and Sasha and the thirty-eight other models I interviewed for this book. Their stories make sense only in the context of a whole web of producers, the relationships they form, and the conventions they share.

Thinking about looks as part of a world of production rather than as an individual quality called beauty allows us to see how aesthetic judgments materialize from a collaborative process.

The look is the result of people doing things together.

Pricing Beauty, the making of a fashion model, by Ashley Mears, 2011, University of California Press