9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Case Studies Of Consumption Building II, C5.01

The contemporary estheticization of products through the shop window-dressing. Parfois: A case study analysis

At least from the nineteenth century, shop windows constitute an effective way of trying to seduce consumers. With the modern society as with the industrialisation development, products obtain social significance mainly by their symbolic or exchange value. Karl Marx, in a materialistic perspective, had already underlined this phenomenon. There are also other contemporary authors, like Fritz Haug, Jean Baudrillard and Gilles Lipovetsky, who were concerned with this problematic of consumption. The study of the product's estheticization process is quite important, in order to understand psychological and social mechanisms that make us vulnerable to packaging, advertising and to several strategic manners of engaging our sensitive and emotional motivations. The fact is, that consumer behaviour is often mobilised by fantasies, secret desires and unexpected impulses...
Shop windows have also inspired different domains of interest, from literature, arts and cinema to architecture. The work of Charles Baudelaire (The Painter of the Modern Life), Walter Benjamin (The Passage's Project), but also that one of Dziga Vertov (The Man With the Movie Camera) and Walther Ruttmann (Berlin, The Symphony of a Great City) is quite known in terms of cultural references from the ending of the XIX and from the beginning of the XX centuries.
It is our purpose to study shop windows in a multidisciplinary perspective and to focus on the strategic visual process of articulating the exterior with the interior. How and in what basis the professionals of windows display invite the passers-by to pay attention to the showed products? And even to enter in the shop? From the consumer's point of view, what is the relation between visual consumption and effective one? In what way shop windows-dressing is related to urban architecture and culture?
We intend to answer these and other questions through a case study analysis, based on Parfois in Portugal, as a fashion accessory brand with an especial strategy of visual merchandising. In order to achieve this goal, we developed an empirical investigation centred on observation and interviews, crossing qualitative and quantitative methodologies.