Fetish Wear’s Effect on Luxury Fashion Industry

Subject: Design
Pages: 8
Words: 2231
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: Undergraduate



Fashion industry has undergone a significant evolution from the traditional dressing code to the modern-day well-designed attire that many young people have borrowed to the extent of influencing even the older generation. Fetish wear represents a significant cultural change. There has been a slow change in fashion design over the last century, with the custom of privacy being replaced by the culture of exposure (Black, McNeill & Martin 2008). Fetishism has also been considered in many other avenues where some researchers have classified it as a paraphilia where individuals become obsessed with arousal from objects or body parts. In particular, fetish wear has been going in and out of the trend throughout the fashion history (Mugle 1998). What was too promiscuous to be spoken of before has nowadays become almost normal. People are expressing themselves more graphically over the years using books, movies, and garments (Almond 2011).

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Fetishism first appeared in the literature of some of the writings of the 19th century psychologists. At the time, it was considered an abnormal condition of the mind. Currently, women are displaying their body parts as a form of expression. Anita Black, Jon McNeill, and Mitra Martin (2008) state that what was historically considered private is currently being shared with any member of the public. Fetishism has slowly become a major part of the fashion industry. Designers are known world over for their fetish designs. The effects of fetishism on the luxury fashion industry have not been largely studied despite the large influence that may be present. Therefore, this dissertation examines the effects of fetish wear on the luxury fashion industry. It examines some of the design works by famous designers. It also leads to the design of a collection that reflects the research acquired from the investigation.

Statement of the Problem

This dissertation investigates a special aspect of fashion design, fetish wear, and its relationship with the luxury fashion industry. There is an increasing change in a culture that has seen the traditional privacy being replaced by a desire to expose body parts. This change has led to the development of fetish wear as an important aspect of design (O’Donnell 1999). Through research into the topic of fetish wear and design, it is possible to create new designs that are conservative but with a fetish touch. The collection will encompass certain aspects of fetish wear, which tend to empower most women, such as hints of flesh, slight transparency, and strong but smooth textures such as leather, silk, chiffon, and satin.


In any literary work, it is important to define some of the major terms and topics that are to be discussed. This section defines fetish wear, the fashion industry, and the luxury part of the fashion business.

Fetish Wear

Fetish wear is a type of style that has become increasingly famous and popular, with O’Donnell (1999) describing it as the exposure of body parts in fashion design. The fetish style combines elegance in most cases with a culture that demands that the clothing be revealing. It is mainly in women wear. The style has largely been accepted in the fashion and design industry. The work of many designers has been classified as fetish.

Fashion industry

The fashion industry is one of the two parts of the textile and apparel industry, with the other part being the industry dealing in basic products (Krunz & Garner 2007). The differentiation between the fashion industry and the basic wear is that there is no seasonal change in basic wear while fashion changes from one season to the next. Fashion can be defined as a style of dressing that is trending in a particular season in the form of dressing or personal decoration (Steele 1996). According to Kawamura (2005), fashion is he prevailing customs or styles with the underlying component of change and novelty. Fashion can also be described as a system that ‘serves as a means by which goods are systematically invested and divested of meaningful properties’ (McCracken 1986, p. 76). The fashion industry is a large industry that has contributed significantly to the global trade of any country. It has been in existence ever since men began to cover themselves.

Luxury fashion industry

The luxury fashion industry is a unique part of the fashion industry. It is important to define it in this thesis. Luxury is often described as a means to provide comfort and pleasure. It is not essential to human living. However, this definition classifies many things in use today as being luxury, including things such as shoes, which are not considered a luxury in many parts of the world, especially the developed world. It is, therefore, important to adopt a definition of luxury in this thesis that fits the topic under discussion. The most appropriate definition for luxury fashion industry in this thesis is any company that sells goods at over 200 percent of the mean cost of a similar item (Ruppert-Stroescu 2009, p. 6).

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The luxury fashion industry is rapidly growing. Consumers have adopted the habit of buying luxury clothing to indicate their class and wealth. The economic challenges that have been experienced in the past have affected the industry. However, it has resurfaced with commodities that are targeted for different groups. The industry has attracted a number of affluent individuals who can be defined as super affluent. Fetish wear has traditionally influenced this industry. Many designers have had their fetish products classified in the luxury segment of the fashion industry.

Historical Context

It is crucial to trace the roots of any practice or culture in an effort to find what might have fuelled the emergence of the lifestyle. Based on the feedback from other people, such information determines whether such a lifestyle can be adopted elsewhere or not. The fashion industry has its roots in Europe, with the development of the aristocratic dresses. Laws were developed indicating that the manner of dressing can be used to reinforce the superiority of an individual in society. This observation dates back to as 1279 in France (Heller 2004). One of the most influential leaders in the fashion industry and politics is the French King Louis the XIV who managed to make his court the fashion centre of Europe (Grumbach, Parmal & Ward 2007). This king led to the development of a fashion industry that was later spread to other parts of Europe and the world (Grumbach, Parmal & Ward 2007).

Fashion journalism was also developed under King Louis’ rule. This led to the development of fashion as a mode of communication and expression (Grumbach, Parmal & Ward 2007). People could use their mode of dressing to express themselves, and hence the development of fashion trends. A split between aristocracy and the common people led to the creation of the fashion industry and the development of nobility in the dressing. The culture of exposure increasingly became a common occurrence, as more people started to increase their wealth and/or develop newer forms of design.

Shifting Paradigm

According to Black, McNeill, and Martin (2008), the culture of exposure has become a significant part of art and communication today. More people are expressing their privacy. People are increasingly becoming aware of how they represent themselves before others together with how other people perceive them (Black, McNeill & Martin, 2008). Human beings are increasingly using fetish wear to break the traditional culture of privacy. With the attenuation that the public is getting, fetish wear is becoming a normal form of dressing. Instead of looking at the fetish designs as offensive, average people are seeing them as being an expression of class and status (Black, McNeill & Martin, 2008).

Fetish wear is just one of the manifestations of the changes in the traditional culture of privacy that is being replaced with openness. Some of the other manifestations representing this change include the advent of online dating, open sexualities, public display of affection, and social sites among others. Fetish designs are currently less controversial in most parts of the world as it was evident a century ago (Black, McNeill & Martin, 2008). There are currently more crazy wear designers in the world than there was half a century ago. This represents the change in paradigm in the fashion industry and social stature of fetish wear. Fetish wear is currently a big part of the design industry. Many people have invested billions of dollars in this class of design. The public has also gradually accepted it as part of the normal wear. Cultures that traditionally disallowed it have exhibited a more moderate approach. The future for this type of wear looks promising. As such, many designers will continue producing fetish designs in the fashion industry.


The current thesis proposes the development of a design that has a fetish component that retains some aspects of conservative privacy. Research into the fetish design and the luxury industry should lead to the creation of new conservative designs that have a fetish touch. The purpose is to create a collection that will encompass certain aspects of fetish wear, which tend to empower most women. These designs will have slight transparency. Instead of plain exposure that other fetish designs have, the suggested designs will only have hints of flesh. The designs will also feature some of fabrics and textures that are essential in the luxury fashion industry, including strong but smooth textures such as leather, satin, chiffon, and silk.

Literature review

Fetish wear has risen from the private life of the fashion industry. It is increasingly becoming part of the mainstream industry. The middle class is one of the groups that have been described as being influenced by the fetish designs (Steele 1996). As an aspect of high street designs, the fetish design has been understudied, with researchers mainly concentrating on other aspects of designs. However, credible works have been put in place detailing the use of fetish designs. These aspects were considered in the creation of this dissertation.

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Research Trends

Research trends are mainly dependent on garment types, the season, fabrics, and the colours to be used. Many garments have been developed for use in the luxury industry. A combination of them with fetish designs by some of the famous designers such as Zana Bayne and Rodarte has led to the production of expensive products (Almond 2011). The colours that are used in the making of fetish luxury designs have also been a major issue. Designers have experimented on the use of a mixture of colours and garments to create a unique class of design. The fabrics that have traditionally been used in fetish designs include silk and satin. Designers have often produced long lasting designs through the mixing of the fabrics.

Conservative/Soft Fetish

The intended designs in this thesis include a combination of the traditional conservative designs with soft fetish to produce new designs. The conservative designs will mainly involve the use of materials such as leather, silk, studs, chiffon, and satin. In the interaction between design and fetishism, some of the important things to achieve include control, restraint, and freedom (Garoffolo 2012). Beauty in restraint can be demonstrated in the use of fetish designs. Photographers such as Koray Parlak illustrated this concept in some of the designs that they featured in their editorial (Garoffolo 2012).

Beauty can be shown in restraint. A conservative approach may be used in designing fetish wear in the luxury industry. The use of vibrant colours in the designing of fetish wear can be demonstrated in the editorials that are frequent in the fashion world (Garoffolo 2012). In this particular article, the authors show the use of decent designs that are luxurious and fetish at the same time (Garoffolo 2012).

Important Influences

The works of designers throughout the world, including those traditionally known to produce non-fetish works, have influenced fetish designs. These designers in the fashion industry have developed fetish designs as central to their work. Some of the most famous designers in this category include Zana Bayne who is known for glamorous designs, Anthony Vaccarello, Rodarte, Thierry Mugler, Guiseppe Zanotti, Roberto Cavalli, and Versace. These designers have been influential in the luxury fashion design. Their works are trending on many fashion outlets at prices for the unique class of people they serve.

Another major influence of fetish designs on the luxury fashion industry is evident in some of the super special individuals and events that are associated with these designs (Almond 2011). Popular sports and music personalities are some of the people in the process of popularising the fetish designs. The media is a significant influence on the popularity of fetish designs in the luxury fashion industry. The met ball in New York is among the stages that demonstrate the influence of fetish wear on luxury fashion industry. The major personalities that have promoted fetishism in luxury designs include the pop singer Beyonce. The other one is Miley Cyrus whose stunts in the music industry have drawn attention to fetishism. Fetish luxury designs have also been popularised by fashion designers in modelling events (Almond 2011), with the example of this case being the Michael Kors Catwalk. Movies such as the soon-to-be-launched ‘50 Shades of Grey’ have also been a significant influence on the fashion industry. This movie in particular is likely to have a fetish quality. The development of these fetish influences on the luxury fashion industry is likely to remain over the next decades.


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Black, A, McNeill, J & Martin, M 2008, Living in and adapting to a culture of exposure: Exploring how visibility affects people’s lives, thoughts and feelings, ESOMAR Qualitative Research, Istanbul.

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