Fashion Advocacy and Film

Katie Friedlander-Boss

Business Case
Source: Bloomsbury Fashion Business Cases
DOI: 10.5040/9781350990258.0017
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Sam Mabley, founder of ethical fashion brand Found Hea, has become increasingly concerned over the reported negative impact social media is having on our mental health. Sam is considering closing his company’s social media accounts in favor of using fashion film as his main promotional digital strategy as he feels it would be better suited to the “slow fashion” consumer. He hopes to create content that is highly engaging, leading to strong emotional connections with the viewer who will in turn share the content with their friends (e-WOM) turning them into advocates for the brand. Found Hea is a small brand with limited resources; it is aware that it needs to make an impact but is unsure which genre of fashion film will create the highest levels of engagement.

Digital marketing has become an essential aspect of fashion marketing, with social media playing a leading role for many brands and fashion film being utilized as one element of an omnichannel marketing strategy. This case explores the current thinking and strategies related to existing fashion film, allowing students to consider the different fashion film genres in use: editorial, narrative, conceptual, and documentary. With examples from H&M, Lucy and Yak, Gareth Pugh, and ASOS the case gives students the chance to explore the current fashion film landscape and how brands can use fashion film to create the type of emotional reactions in consumers that lead to brand advocacy.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this case, students will be able to:

  • Explain the motives and practice of contemporary social and digital marketing.

  • Describe the role that fashion film plays as part of a wider digital strategy.

  • Examine the variety of fashion film genres utilized by fashion brands as one aspect of a digital marketing strategy.

  • Explain the role social media marketing has in generating brand advocacy in ethical fashion consumers.

  • Evaluate the possibility that social media marketing has an impact on social and personal well-being.

  • Assess the strengths and limitations of different social media platforms.


Originally launched in 2017 as an ethical menswear fashion outlet, in collaboration with e-tailer Brothers We Stand, the business evolved two years later to become Found Hea as a response to customer demand for women’s and lifestyle products that also have ethical origins. Sam Mabley, the founder of the company, started the business by launching a physical store in Bristol and later added an e-tail offering as the concept evolved. All the product is ethically produced and sourced through ethical fashion wholesalers. The products appeal to the ethically minded, consumption conscious, 20–50-year-old market who are aware of the impact their shopping habits have on the wider environment.

Ethical fashion has been increasing in popularity due to the growing awareness of the need for change both within the fashion industry and consumption habits in general. To accompany the rise of independent labels who are “doing things differently,” many big-name fashion brands are getting in on the act, utilizing different strategies. For example, H&M have experimented with a “closed loop” strategy. This increase in popularity is helped, in part, by the proliferation of content accessible on digital platforms. It is now easier than ever to find information about a brand’s ethical ideals and practices if you choose to look for them, but it is more likely that your search habits will drive this content to your screen without you even having to seek it out. Brands use the data collected from YouTube views, likes, and comments to inform their overall marketing strategy, and the more time spent searching cruelty-free beauty tutorials and yoga practices, the more likely it is that content will be recommended that supports a more “mindful” way of living.

Chaffey defines digital marketing as a tool for “Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies and media” (2017). Social media marketing is one element of digital strategy and its objective is to connect people together to socialize, not to sell to. Social media marketing has become an increasingly popular option for fashion brands due to the innovations in smartphone technology, the rise of user generated content, and the continuing evolution of platforms to give great experiences. Brands hope that this socializing and personal communication will lead to people recommending products and brands and sharing content with each other, also known as e-WOM, (electronic word of mouth). Marketers are trying to generate e-WOM through their social media marketing, which is why they constantly work to create engaging, interesting content that people will want to share. However, there is a less positive side to social media; there is a growing body of research that suggests that social media usage can have a negative impact on our emotional, mental, and social well-being (BBC 2018).

Fashion film is a broad overarching genre, with a variety of subgenres that sit underneath it. In his 2018 book entitled Fashion Film: Art and Advertising in the Digital Age, Nick Rees-Roberts states that “fashion film is primarily understood by those within the fashion industry to refer to the production of digital video content and branded entertainment commissioned by designer labels and fashion houses as a promotional tool. It is seen as an integral component of today’s networked culture as a type of ‘spreadable’ media content” (2018: 5). Fashion films are distinguished from advertisements as the main purpose of the films are not about selling product, instead they are exercises in branding (Díaz Soloaga and García Guerrero 2016) used to promote a company’s ethos and values to their audience. Film can evoke a brand’s ethos due to the vividness of the images, sounds, and movement that is missing in traditional still imagery, and this enhanced experience can increase levels of brand advocacy, as brands want you to love and share their content, as the higher levels of engagement with their community leads to a stronger likelihood of you becoming their “brand warrior,” which is one of the objectives of a social media marketing strategy (Dahl 2018).

Sam feels that as an ethical fashion brand, Found Hea needs to consider all the ethical implications of its business operations, including the impact that social media consumption may have on the makers and viewers of the content. He is thinking about closing the Found Hea social media accounts and using alternatives such as fashion film as the main social media strategy.

Business Problem

Found Hea and social media marketing

Sam says he is concerned that Found Hea’s continued use of social media platforms may be “encouraging the negative behaviors of social media, which lead to mental health issues, helping to create an unhealthy society” (author interview with Sam Mabley on July 17, 2019).

He also feels that creativity and innovation is more important than constant content,

and often the best content, is not that which is 140 characters long, or a 30 second video. We don’t benefit from the substance of a lengthy article because we’re addicted to quick. Not only does this not benefit us, it makes our appreciation for another’s creativity extremely low. Businesses and individuals spend hours crafting Instagram stories and posts for momentary likes. As a maker, it’s a dissatisfying way of displaying your creation and as a viewer it’s a dissatisfying way of viewing media. (author interview with Sam Mabley on July 17, 2019)

Morally, these are big issues for a brand that is working hard to be ethical on every level. Sam would like to create content for Found Hea that will be “slower and more carefully crafted,” and that viewers would be able to engage with in a more meaningful way, as and when they want (author interview with Sam Mabley on July 17, 2019). As a business owner, he is aware that there is no perfect solution and is considering utilizing fashion film as a strategy to promote the company’s marketing ethos of adding value to the Found Hea community whilst still keeping the brand relevant with regards to digital marketing.

As a small brand with limited resources, Found Hea are aware that they need to make an impact but are unsure which genre of fashion film will create the highest levels of engagement. It is incredibly hard for brands to measure the return on investment (ROI) that their content is having, making it more difficult to know which is the most relevant type of content, or in this instance fashion film, to invest time and money in (Dahl 2018). Lucy and Yak, one of the brands stocked by Found Hea, already have vlog posts on their own YouTube channel, and although the number of subscribers is small, they have managed to gain views in the thousands, which is much higher than the viewing numbers for any of their editorial posts. By owning their own YouTube channel they can post low-budget editorial-style films that visualize their brand’s aesthetic as well as vlog content that allows personal connections to develop.

Looking to the wider industry examples, H&M is a large fast-fashion brand that nonetheless considers itself to be an ethically minded fashion brand. It generates a variety of different genres of fashion films across a variety of platforms in order to speak to its broad target markets. Although their YouTube channel has around 300,000 subscribers, their ERDEM x H&M film (which would fall into the narrative genre) directed by academy award nominated director Baz Luhrmann, had over 8 million views. On the other hand, their H&M-life films, which focus specifically on ethical and sustainable issues (documentary-style films), featuring lesser known models only received views in the tens of thousands.

Fashion film typology

There are a variety of subgenres that fall under the label of fashion film. The most common types are: editorial, narrative, conceptual, and documentary.


Fashion editorial is traditionally found in fashion magazines and is the term used for the articles and the photographic spreads they include within their pages. Advertorial shoots allow the clothes to be the star, this is also the case for editorial style fashion films, very simply seeing fashion photographs as a moving image. Most mass-market brands utilize this strategy as it targets their community directly, is less time-consuming pre-filming, and allows for a higher volume of films to be produced on a continuing basis, reflecting the fast-fashion timeline and potentially placing them in the advertorial category. Zara uses this strategy consistently and used it successfully with its Women’s fall/winter campaign 2018, filmed in a decadent mansion, having over 7 million views on YouTube. This style of film can be incredibly brief, allowing for quick viewing, and are appreciated by consumers as they show the fit and movement of fabrics that would traditionally have only been accessible within the physical shop environment.


It is becoming increasingly common for renowned filmmakers to create narrative shorts for fashion brands. A good example of a fashion film with a narrative is the ERDEM x H&M: The Secret Life of Flowers by Baz Luhrmann, a classic love triangle story where a boy is whisked into a world of extravagance by his friend, to a house where it is always spring. The boy meets a girl and falls in love, initially leaving the friend heartbroken but then accepting and finishing with the group as the best of friends, all within 4 minutes and 5 seconds. The film promotes the ethos of both ERDEM and H&M whilst being presented through the sumptuous lens of Baz Luhrmann’s filmmaking, simultaneously appealing to three different target audiences.


SHOWStudio are at the forefront of conceptual fashion film, with Nick Knight being one of the leaders of this style of filmmaking. Some of his most well-known films are his collaborations with the designer Gareth Pugh, who is known for his extreme aesthetic, playing with fabrics and volume to create sculptural pieces of clothing. In his fashion film Hybridation, Olivier de Sagazan (performance artist and sculptor) erases his face with clay in an exploration of the concept of identity. The film is unsettling and curious, promoting a more cerebral approach to viewing, which is exactly on point for the Gareth Pugh brand.


Documentary fashion films can be split into a variety of subgenres; behind-the-scenes, catwalk shows, and interviews. Behind-the-scenes films are popular as they allow viewers to see inside the exclusive world of fashion and filmmaking, Victoria’s Secret utilize this to strong effect (Victoria’s Secret 2019). They can also be a financially savvy choice, as the event or film being produced has already been commissioned and capturing behind-the-scenes footage is an effective way of monetizing that whilst allowing the viewer in. Catwalk shows are now frequently filmed and aired in real time allowing front row access to everyone. This strategy has been accompanied by experiments with “see now buy now” pieces with limited lines being accessible the minute the show starts via the company’s website, this strategy was successfully implemented by H&M in 2018. Interviews with designers and brand associates is an incredibly popular approach to documentary fashion filmmaking as it allows the viewer direct visual access to that person. Vivienne Westwood has embraced this approach, which in turn allows her to get her message about sustainability to the viewer. The more access and insights viewers have to their favorite brands the more connected they feel, which is why using influencers and vloggers can be so successful as a strategy. When viewers have built up relationships with influencers or vloggers based on trust, having viewed them frequently and sometimes for hours, this in turn can lead to the success of clothing haul films, online tutorials, and opinion posts.

Fashion film and Found Hea

Found Hea hopes to implement a new reconsidered social strategy in line with the growth of his womenswear offer over the next twelve months. Sam feels that dropping its other social media content in favor of fashion film is more in alignment with his social and ethical concerns and his ambitions for the business. Sam is considering which film genre Found Hea, as small, ethical fashion brand, should use to promote its ethos of adding value to its communities’ lives, its mission to promote ethical product and placing people at the heart of what it does, whilst simultaneously considering how to get the highest ROI from its limited budget.

Business Questions

Found Hea is considering dropping social media as a marketing strategy but would consider using fashion film to help increase awareness of the ethical identity that underpins the essence of the brand and the intangible brand values they promote. This decision is due to the moral responsibility it feels it has to support its customers’ mental well-being, and it feels that the bombardment of brands on social media can negatively affect this. However, it is aware that it needs to maintain a presence in order to grow the business and to spread the word about the need for better working conditions, sustainable products, etc. and is hoping that fashion films hosted on a YouTube channel would be a good approach to take to meet the business' objectives and Sam's personal objectives. However, Sam is unsure as to the best approach to take going forwards.

  • To what extent is Sam correct in his feeling that social and digital marketing may have a negative impact on mental well-being for producers and consumers?

  • Why might fashion film be considered as a positive promotional tool for increasing brand awareness for Found Hea?

  • Can fashion film promote sustainable fashion and brand advocacy simultaneously? Why?

  • If so, which fashion film genre is likely to have the greatest impact in relation to creating brand advocacy for sustainable fashion brands?

Teaching Notes and Grading Guide

This case study can be used to discuss the different genres of fashion films and the role they can play as part of a wider digital marketing strategy.

Discussions could be focused around:

  • The difference between digital and social media marketing.

  • Social media marketing and well-being.

  • Fashion film genres and branding, including ROI (tangible or intangible assests).

  • Brand advocacy as an intangible asset and how it can be generated.

  • Setting objectives—how fashion films could be measured (likes, shares, etc).

Activity 1: View the four most common styles of fashion film—editorial, narrative, conceptual, and documentary—in ERDEM x H&M (2017), Olivier de Sagazan (2018) (you may not want to watch all of this one as it can be unsettling), Zara (2016), and ASOS–Little Mix (2015) and discuss with the class who liked which and why. This is an avenue for exploring intangible brand assets allowing them to assign emotions to the brand. Then ask them to create a target customer board for each of the different brands based on the film content—how does this align with the brand’s ethos? This can lead to conversations relating to non-financial ROIs and growing brand awareness that will in turn lead to sales.

Time frame: 1 hour.

Activity 2: Generate a list of ethical fashion brands from the class. Ask them to select one from the list and explore their moving-image social media communication methods, making a list of followers and the number of likes for different posts. Pool this information based on platform (Instagram, YouTube, etc.) from the different brands explored by the class. This should allow everyone an overview of where the highest levels of engagement are for the ethical fashion community allowing the class to propose which genre of fashion film Found Hea should be utilizing.

Time frame: 30 minutes.

Activity 3: Choosing a big brand such as ASOS or H&M, explore the different genres of fashion film utilized on their YouTube page. Create a table with category headers (Narrative, Editorial, etc., leaving room for others they discover, such as Animation and Music Video) and ask them to research the highest levels of engagement via likes and comments. Ask them to make a note of the time frame, whether there is a celebrity in the film, and how prominent the clothing is. This should allow them to build up a picture of which genre of fashion film has the highest levels of engagement for big fashion brands.

Time frame: 30 mins.

Activity 4: Create a film proposal for Found Hea. Using the previous knowledge gained, create a concept for a fashion film including platform and genre. The film should aim to evoke an emotional response in the viewer in order to generate e-WOM via shares.

Time frame: 1 hour.

Learning ObjectivesPassMeritDistinction
To understand the role that fashion film plays as part of a wider digital strategyDemonstrates an understanding of how fashion film is used to create engagement on a digital platformDemonstrates an understanding of how fashion film is used to create engagement across a limited number of platformsDemonstrates an understanding of how fashion film is used to create engagement across a variety of different digital platforms
To explore the variety of fashion film genres utilized by fashion brandsPresents up to three different genres that can be found within fashion films utilized by fashion brandsPresents a range of different genres that can be found within fashion films utilized by fashion brandsPresents a broad range of different genres that can be found within fashion films utilized by fashion brands
To explore the role fashion film has in generating brand advocacy in ethical fashion consumersPresents statistical secondary research from a minimal number of ethical fashion brandsPresents secondary research from a broad number of ethical fashion brandsPresents statistical primary and secondary research from a broad number of ethical fashion brands and ethical fashion consumers

References and Further Reading

ASOS-Little Mix. 2015. “Little Mix talk Tinder, boys and being single, ASOS likes.” YouTube, September 25. Accessed May 11, 2020.

Brown Jessica. 2018. “Is Social Media Bad for You? The Evidence and the Unknowns.” BBC Future, January 5. Accessed October 2019.

Find in Library Chaffey Dave and PR Smith. 2017. Digital Marketing Excellence: Planning, Optimizing and Integrating Online Marketing. London: Routledge.

Find in Library Stephen Dahl, 2018. Social Media Marketing. 2nd edn. London: SAGE.

Find in Library Díaz Solaga Paloma and Leticia García Guerrero. 2016. ““Fashion Films as a New Communication Format to Build Fashion Brands”.”Communication & Society 29 (2): 45–61.

Erdem x H&M. 2017. “The Secret Life of Flowers by Baz Lurman.” YouTube, October 25. Accessed.

Olivier de Sagazan. 2018. “Olivier de Sagazan, Gareth Pugh, Nick Knight, Roly Porter, Jounji ku.” YouTube, February 14. Accessed May 11, 2020.

Find in Library Rees-Roberts Nick. 2018. Fashion Film; Art and Advertising in the Digital Age. London: Bloomsbury.

Victoria’s Secret. 2019. “Behind the Campaign: For Love & Lemons for Victoria Secret.” YouTube, September 20. Accessed May 11, 2020.

Zara. 2016. “Zara Woman Campaign, Spring/Summer 2016.” YouTube, February 12. Accessed May 11, 2020.

The author wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion and independent learning. The author does not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a situation. The comments and interpretation presented are not necessarily those of the company or its employees.



When content is styled to look like editorial content but is actually an advertisement paid for by a brand.

Closed loop:

Where new products are made from old ones.

Conceptual fashion films:

Films that do not necessarily follow a narrative; they usually present an idea that is relevant to the brand or the collection they are promoting.


A story that has a beginning, middle and end. The story doesn’t have to be long and involved but should generally follow a traditional path.