There’s no denying it. Visuals have always been in fashion’s driver seat. It makes complete sense, right? The drama of a runway show perfectly executed, culture and subcultures manifested through models in perfectly styled outfits, an iconic brick and mortar on London’s bustling Oxford Street. Fashion’s been, and always has been, a feast for the eyes.

But if you consider some of the big challenges both high street and luxury brands face today, you realize that by not factoring voice into the equation, they’re left with gaps that visuals can’t quite fill. Let’s get into it.

Times are changing

The need to stand out has never been more necessary. A shift from physical to online shopping, even in luxury (though most purchases are made in store, lots of pre-purchase research goes into decisions). Inboxes flooded with marketing, social feeds filled with branded content. New competitors popping up by the day. Then, you have consumer mindsets. A shift to secondhand clothing, with the market value predicted to double by 2027. Audiences asking bigger questions of the brands they shop with, always ready to critique influencers for partnerships or jump on the latest faux pas.

The details of an email subject line or social caption may feel small. But combined, they form a compelling story about your brand, your attitude, and the way you see the world. Rather than making these microdecisions around marketing and product descriptions on the fly, having everything organized around a central tone keeps things consistent and efficient. And makes for more interesting, better quality copy that consumers notice.

If we use one brand as an example, the Reformation copywriter has become the subject of many a Tweet and TikTok. Why? What could compel people to share marketing emails they typically ignore? The brand not only has a clear perspective on sustainability, it’s cultivated the perfectly calculated yet chaotic nature of the “chronically online” girl through its writing choices, and it’s paying off. Plus its tagline, “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.”, tells you everything you need to know about its tone.

A point of view

Photography, art direction, and the theater of a retail space do lots to create desire and connect with audiences. But words allow you to add nuance and clarity otherwise missed in a photograph. They leave less to the imagination, helping you share your point of view and connect with people in meaningful ways.

If we look at one of Coach’s latest campaigns, it hinges on this idea that “What we carry makes us stronger”. The art direction is beautiful and celebrities abound. But in that single line, the brand is beginning to resonate with a new generation of shoppers over a shared point of view. The fact that it’s a double entendre around bags is the icing on the cake.

But a distinct perspective isn’t only useful in selling things. It helps with longevity and crisis management, too. Let’s consider Levi’s, a high street brand with a legacy of individuality and authenticity. Wearing a pair of Levi’s feels more meaningful than your average pair of jeans. It’s this distinction that makes it timeless and audience agnostic. It even boosts resale prices. Most importantly, the brand won’t be subject to the rise and fall of trends.

Let’s not forget—when trouble strikes, or audiences begin to ask tough questions, you need a strong brand narrative and point of view to fall back on. If you haven’t done the work to show people what you’re all about, recovery becomes much more difficult and time consuming. Worse, you give others the opportunity to create your narrative for you.

Finding your voice

So, where do you start? There are many ways you can find a voice that serves your brand. Maybe an eccentric founder forms the basis of your style, like Lev Tanju of streetwear brand Palace. (If you haven’t seen its product descriptions, I highly recommend them). Or perhaps it’s closely tied to a place, like Penhaligon’s whimsy and British eccentricity. Maybe you find it in a state of mind, like TELFAR’s playful use of all caps in captions and straightforward tagline: “NOT FOR YOU—FOR EVERYONE”. Maybe it’s the way your brand is worn or used, and the community that it serves.

Rather than resorting to using the language du jour, mimicking Gen Z, or not paying that much attention at all, take the time. Develop a distinct voice that will make your marketing decisions much easier, helping you discern where and how you market, who you partner with, and so on. But more importantly, one that will help you control your own narrative, stand up to performance marketing, and withstand many catwalks to come.

Cover source: Subbotina Anna