Brief Rhetorical Analysis of a Multimodal Public Artifact

According to PBS, approximately 13 million tons of clothing are thrown away by Americans each year.  This is equivalent to all americans throwing out 85% of the clothing that they own (Frazee, 2016). Although these statistics may be surprising, they are a direct result of individuals’ shopping habits. When Americans see an article of clothing on sale for a good price, they are trained to take advantage of that perceived opportunity by purchasing it. They often do not pause to consider the fact that this article of clothing may be an example of something known as “fast fashion.” Fast fashion refers to clothing that is made as quickly and as cheaply as possible so that retailers can have a constant stream of trendy clothing to sell in their shops (Fast Fashion). In her video, The FAST FASHION Trap and How to Escape, Justine Leconte successfully uses rhetorical devices such as ethos, arrangement, and delivery in order to inform viewers of the negative impact of fast fashion (Leconte, 2016).

Before dissecting the specific rhetorical elements of the video being analyzed, one must first learn a bit more about the artifact itself. The artifact is by a French Woman named Justine Leconte. As previously stated, it is a video which is publically accessible on YouTube. This medium allows for millions of people to see it, and requires that the artifact be primarily made up of images (often moving) and sounds. One can assume that the target audience of this specific video is people who are interested in fashion and beauty because this is what a majority of Leconte’s videos are about. However, it is possible that a secondary audience is people who want to learn more about fast fashion because when you search the term “fast fashion” on Youtube, this is the first video listed.

Screenshot from Justine Leconte's "Fast Fashion Trap and How to Escape"

For most audiences, having a video on YouTube isn’t enough to convince them to buy whatever argument that a YouTuber is selling. It is important for anyone who makes a digital artifact to develop something known as ethos. In “Practicing Rhetoric in Digital Spaces,” ethos is defined as invoking, “a writer’s good reputation, credibility, and authority” (Kutz, 2017 p.226).  Basically, the rhetor has to seem trustworthy. When one goes to Justine Leconte’s video on fast fashion, a minor sense of credibility is established when one sees that the video has over 355,000 views with 19,000 likes and only 233 dislikes. However, more notable ethos is established when in the first few seconds of the video Laconte states that she has her own fashion label. Because the topic that she is discussing is a byproduct of the fashion industry, it makes sense that someone who works in the fashion industry is more qualified to talk about the issue than someone else.

Screenshot from Justine Leconte's "Fast Fashion Trap and How to Escape"

Another way that ethos can be established is by addressing concerns of those who oppose what a rhetor is saying (Kutz, 2017 p.226). In the middle of the video, Leconte does this through a short segment titled, “objections.” Here she is honest with viewers by stating that she has been guilty of fast fashion in the past but isn’t any more, and that her own label is more ethical than fast fashion. This puts viewer’s minds at ease if they are questioning whether the person that they are listening to is a part of the very problem that she is discussing. If she were still guilty of purchasing fast fashion despite all that she teaches viewers, then it is probable that no one would listen to what she has to say because if she buys cheap bad-for-the-world clothing, why shouldn’t they?

In addition to establishing credibility, creators of digital artifacts must consider the arrangement of the artifact itself. By definition, arrangement is the, “art of dividing a discourse into its parts and the inclusion, omission, or ordering of those parts according to the rhetor’s needs and the constraints of the chosen genre” (Arnold, 1996 p.32). Because she chose to inform people about fast fashion through a YouTube video, Leconte could only arrange the way that information is presented in the video itself and in the description of the video. Leconte’s arrangement throughout the video is very logical and easy to follow. She begins by defining fast fashion so that viewers immediately know what the term means and how she is going to use it as the video progresses.  She then discusses further details about fast fashion such as the business model behind it and why it is bad. Next she addresses objections before finishing by telling viewers what they can do to make the problem better. The transition between topics is never jarring, and she is sure to explain each topic thoroughly before moving on, and without jumping between them. Thus, her argument is easy to understand and the purpose for creating the video is not misinterpreted. Her arrangement of the video description is also logical, and the fact that she includes additional sources further develops a concept that was discussed above; ethos.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why the video is so successful is because of the delivery. In my experience, I’ve found that most rhetors who create media about touchy subjects such as fast fashion try to be as dramatic as possible in order to capture the audience’s attention. (Sidenote: if you don’t think that fast fashion is a touchy subject, try discussing it with someone who is guilty of it without them defending themselves and making excuses as to why it’s okay). Leconte’s video is different because she doesn’t use shocking images, video clips, or mood-inducing music in order to convince viewers to pay attention. Instead, the video is just Leconte standing in front of a black background and talking directly into the camera as though her viewers are her friends. The minimalist nature of her delivery is refreshing, as it allows one to understand the information that is being presented without being so overwhelmed by it that taking action seems too difficult or hopeless.

Think about your life for a moment. Are you more likely to take action if a friend discusses an issue with you or if a complete stranger shoves a bunch of photos in your face and yells a dozen reasons why you should care through a bullhorn? Most likely, you chose the first option. This is exactly what Leconte does; she gains viewers’ trust, talks to them like a friend, and presents the information in a calm, cool, and collected manner.

Screenshot from Justine Leconte's "Fast Fashion Trap and How to Escape"

Justine Leconte’s video on fast fashion successfully uses ethos, arrangement, and delivery in order to inform viewers about fast fashion and to provide them with actions that they can take to work towards a solution to the problem. More than this, by seeming trustworthy, arranging the video logically, and choosing a very intimate method of delivery, Leconte teaches other rhetoricians that one does not have to be as flashy as possible in order to get their point across. She proves that sometimes the most successful digital artifacts go back to the basics by using rhetorical elements in their simplest forms but within relatively new digital spaces.

 

Works Cited
Arnold, M. (1996). “Arrangement” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition (p. 32.) Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis

Fast Fashion. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fast-fashion.asp

Frazee, G. (2016, June 7). How to stop 13 million tons of clothing from getting trashed every year. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/how-to-stop-13-million-tons-of-clothing-from-getting-trashed-every-year/.

Kutz, E. (2017). “Practicing Rhetoric in Digital Spaces” In Writing Moves, Composing in a Digital World (p. 226). Southlake, Tx: FountainHead Press

Leconte, J. L Officiel. (2016, August 14). The FAST FASHION trap & how to escape [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ur13KvWoWE

 

Fair Use Statement:

This article and its source materials are for educational purposes, rhetorical criticism, commenting, teaching, scholarship, or research in regard to Section 107: Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use, U.S. Copyright Code. I do not claim the rights to any of the works referenced above, and my intent was to accurately reflect the content of these sources while crafting my own unique analysis for the purposes stated above.

 

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