Kays Catalogue: Fashion and Modernism

In all honesty, I struggled to understand this lecture, after having a session with Andrew afterwards I understood it a little better. Dean and Gretta presented a lecture exploring the topic of ‘Kays catalogue, modernism and fashion persuasion’. In this, they focused on the modernist graphic design and advertising through the days catalogue of fashion in the early 20th century.

In selling to the all-important twentieth-century consumer, design strategies utilised rational and emotional approaches, activating a modern consciousness of looking (and awareness of being looked at). Since these promotions also circulated alongside wider cultural discourses, they can be seen as both reflecting as well as constructing ideals about class, style and gender. – Dene

Dene started the lecture focusing on how department stores used catalogues in order to encourage loyal customers and major consumerism. In a world of mass consumption, through modern development, graphic design has changed significantly over the years through literature and other forms of art. The use of advertising in the streets or transport has significantly increased since the 1900s.

Dene used these images as visual evidence of the change in advertising, as the image on the left is from 1936 it shows the increase of billboards particularly in comparison to the image on the right. This illustration shows commercial endorsement using text-based advertising on the wall amongst a few visual advertisements. The comparison is clear, it displayed how the change in advertisement as images and branding becoming the main focus of the advert.

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When looking at Kays catalogue, which reflected a new way of thinking, as during the 20th century was known as ‘the age of narcissism’. Through the 20s to 60s the success of catalogues like Kays was the result of balancing text and images. This new way of advertising explored psychological techniques to emphasise the image of the idea and the text as a connotation of the advertisement. Dene described this as the body becoming a feature within design which in a similar fashion to the environment, needs to be shaped.

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