Letter from the Editors: The Past and Present of Fashion Cities

Ben Wubs, Mariangela Lavanga, Alice Janssens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the past decade or so, discussion has increasingly addressed the need to rip apart the idea of a single fashion history stemming from Europe and North America which opened up with the outsourcing of the postwar period (Ling, Lorusso, and Segre Reinach 2019). Research has presented an open perspective, engaging with fashion beyond the boundaries of the traditional fashion capitals, considering skills, specialisms and placemaking strategies, fostered in diverse locations across the globe (Breward and Gilbert 2006; Skov 2011; Brydges, Hracs, and Lavanga 2018). Fashion affects elites and non-elites; cities in core and periphery areas alike. Furthermore, the structure of the fashion industry has varied from historical period to historical period and between cities, regions, and nations (Breward and Gilbert 2006; Rantisi 2004). The industry is composed of complex transnational supply chains which encompass textile and clothing manufacturing, the organization of temporary clusters like trade shows and fashion weeks, and (digital) media management (Skov 2006; Rocamora 2017; Wubs and Maillet 2017; Blaszczyk and Wubs 2018; Lavanga 2018; Huang and Janssens 2019). While scholars across the globe have enriched the geography of fashion by studying locations beyond the “big four,” there remains a need for better understanding of fashion centers from global and evolutionary perspectives. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, combining business history, economic history, fashion studies and economic geography, this special issue aims to present a burgeoning perspective. It focuses on the spatial and transnational dimensions of the industry, taking a long-term historical perspective—from Paris in the late nineteenth century to Turin and London in the early-mid twentieth century—while also providing provocations addressing how we could define and study fashion cities. As business historians and economic geographers, we are cautious to predict the future, but clearly, the rise of China as an economic superpower may create a cultural shift that could affect the power structure of the fashion industry. China is no longer the global sweatshop. It has become the largest consumer market of the world with a significant interest in fashion and luxury, complemented by an increasing number of domestic fashion designers and brands (Ling and Segre Reinach 2018). Chinese brands excel in their domestic market but often have not expanded fully in the West, likely as it is not necessary. Shanghai’s recent endeavors to become one of the fashion capitals of the world are closely linked to the global shifts of the industry, and the rise of China’s star. Perhaps the re-bundling of the symbolic and material aspects of fashion, along with the restructuring of unsustainable global production networks would create new chances for old and new fashion capitals alike. This, in turn, begs the question of whether we should still think in terms of fashion capitals and cities. Should we rather explore the interrelation of diverse fashion systems and digital spaces, which may, in turn, change our understanding of not just fashion places, but also of fashion itself?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalFashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2020

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