News Release

HSE scholars measure prestige of fashion models

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Beginning models should choose independent magazines in order to be successful in the fashion industry, but they should also keep in mind that the fashion business is becoming increasingly closed off every year. This is one of the conclusions drawn by Margarita Kuleva, Research Fellow at the Centre for Youth Studies, HSE St. Petersburg, and her student, Daria Maglevanaya. They plan to present the results of their study at the 9th International Conference on Social Informatics (SocInfo 2017), which will take place in Oxford in September.

Margarita Kuleva and Daria Maglevanaya studied the evolution of status groups in the fashion industry and published the results of this research in their paper 'The Dynamics of Professional Prestige in Fashion Industries of Europe and the US: Network Approach'. They looked at this from the perspective of collaboration between models and journals. The website served as the source for the study. Their analysis included 13,961 covers of 106 fashion and lifestyle magazines dating from 1975 to January 2017.

In their study, the authors noticed a decreasing level of collaboration between magazines. In comparison with earlier years, fewer and fewer new models appear on the covers of the same magazines. This is likely a sign of a decline in the magazine industry and the growing popularity of new media, such as fashion blogs. This trend is causing the fashion world to become more closed off. Year by year, it is becoming more difficult for beginning models who lack significant amounts of human capital and haven't had time to achieve a certain status in fashion and gain recognition.

Kuleva and Maglevanaya also note the probable diversification of beauty standards in the fashion industry. They conclude this from the fact that magazines are increasingly showcasing models who are older, plus-size and have unusual appearances.

The researchers refer to studies by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist who looks at prestige as symbolic capital as part of capital theory. Bourdieu said that in a creative market, participants who have the most prestige are the most successful.

'We can talk about the Dazed & Confused magazine, which is a trendsetter, and about Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, which offer a wide and simple snapshot of the lifestyle industry', explains Margarita Kuleva. The study says that some models are ready to appear in Dazed & Confused for a small fee, or even for free in a more unconventional magazine. But these very models are more likely to achieve prestige and appear on a Vogue cover than those who work for Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire, earning higher pay and broader recognition, but less cultural capital. 'Surprisingly enough, the models' world turned out to be much like less commercialized areas such as classical music or visual arts', she added.

The scholars also confirmed the theory that the world of arts is like a sand pile: those who climb the sand pile change the shape of the pile, meaning that the indicators of prestige change together with the players who shape the field.

The researchers investigated the Western model market, including most European and American magazines, as well as several from Asia. They are not yet able to say how their conclusions relate to Russia. HSE experts are planning to carry out further research, especially on such parts of the fashion industry as participation in shows and special projects.


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