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Advertisement for Versace jeans couture on the back of a number 24 London Transport bus, March 1999. flourishes on the international popularity of the American way of dressing -jeans, trainers, leisure jackets, and T-shirts and for both sexes. Diffused all around the world through US music videos, movies and MTV, target consumers cover an increasingly global market of under thirty year olds. Tommy Hilfiger's company makes a particularly interesting case study. His success up to 1999...

Technological and Technical Innovation

I have acknowledged the role of textile developments in launching new fashions. Fabric research is of fundamental importance to MaxMara. Innovative textiles, offering for instance enhanced comfort, practicality, fluidity, lightness, stability, or which allow new techniques of construction, for example the new generation of 'double face' fabric, or can engender new modes of dressing, for example the recent 'urban sportswear' phenomenon based on luxurious interpretations of high-performance...

Data Processing

This kind of work is concerned less with broad intuition and more with minutely detailed knowledge. We are in a position to check daily precisely how the market is reacting to our products with reference to style, size and colour. This can be done thanks to a data-processing system we developed independently, to our specific requirements many years ago. Our sales information is supplemented by interviews with the managers of our stores, who can give us reasons for the success or failure of a...

Design

The market research, retail, information, fabric and technical research, the social tensions, ambivalences and ambiguities, the projections of future life, all that I have mentioned in this essay are transformed first into a drawing, then a form. This is the core of our work, and it has for me a magic and mysterious appeal. The sketches, patterns, phototypes, the styling and accessories are all equally important steps which require great investment. It is in the transition from bidimensional to...

Market Research

Despite the importance of market information, I happily confess that our group has no dedicated research department, and rarely uses the services of research consultants. We have discovered that the most effective strategy is to conduct this kind of research through those members of the group who are operative (namely the design, sales and marketing areas). We base our work on a very simple method observation. Those who are involved with the development and marketing of the product know it well...

Couture Reaction

What we are looking at here in the 'value' of designer logos is designer goods as magical symbols of the glamour world of international fame, beauty, success and style. The world of couture and top pr t- -porter offers the public a tantalizingly beyond-reach image of the fabulous and the elegant - a magical aspiration. Grant McCracken in his book Culture and Consumption calls it a process of displaced meaning - namely that top designer objects act as a bridge to the ideal luxury world.32 The...

Couture Victory

And it seems that the famous salons may have successfully already seen off any serious commercial threat from the Hilfiger factor. To much surprise, by February of the year 2000, Hilfiger shares were slipping badly. 'So what has gone wrong , asked John Harris in the Independent on 8 February. 'The company is in deep trouble - the share price . . . has fallen by two thirds in the last six months, wiping 1.5 bn off its market value.' Part of the problem had been caused by the new, supposedly...

Product

My career bears witness to the mass-market fashion explosion of the last thirty or so years. The recent downturn in business reflects the resulting worldwide over-capacity, which I believe will be a significant factor in the industry's future. This is especially true in the area we describe as 'core casual', that is to say, the pivotal items which define generic leisure weekend wear. In the late 1980s the American retailer Gap built a huge business on the demand, amongst all age groups and...

Production Opportunities

Although most of our products are manufactured in Italy, we are conscious that in the future there will be a proliferation of opportunities for high-quality production in other parts of the world. Information on new manufacturing and finishing techniques and special processes is part of the research described above, and can stimulate new products, but we must be circumspect regarding, for example potential bottlenecks and other damaging production problems. When we embark on new projects in...

Age Profile

With the 'cultural flip' of the 1960s, instead of values passing from age to youth, they began to flow the other way. Although we thought at the time that you were either young and part of it or old and out of it, it seems that our generation has yet to reach its sell-by date. The post-war 'baby boomers' are now beginning to grow old, and are confounding marketeers in the process. Unlike their parents, whose lives were shaped by depression and war, this generation has in truth never had it bad....

Retail Environments

My story returns yet again to the United States, where in the 1980s and early 1990s, the department stores took quite a knock caused by the impact of home shopping. It would be na ve to conclude, however, that home shopping must inevitably wipe out the stores. The pleasures of going shopping, experiencing the physical environment of the store itself, the element of social interaction, being able to touch merchandise are an important aspect of urban life that will not be eradicated by the...

Apologies

It is fairly safe to assume that a student or practitioner of fashion has selected the area because he or she believes it to be worthwhile and rewarding, if not in every aspect, at least in part. One might challenge the political, ethical or moral structure of the industry, but in continuing his or her study or practice, would presumably have a vision of some alternative model. No one working within the discipline in a practical capacity would expect to have to continually justify being there....

Commercial Competition

By the 1980s Paris was, however, being seriously and successfully rivalled for international designer leadership by New York designers such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, all of whom were also widely selling franchised products. Rivalry steadily grew also from the great Italian fashion companies in Milan of Versace, Armani, Gucci et al and from Issey Miyake and others in Tokyo. Below these in status but not business terms, however, lay another layer of commercial threat to elite...

Promotion

In the field of fashion, promotion means documentation, through the press in general and through the branch of the press that serves it specifically. I recently debated with some American journalists the ideal contents of a fashion publication. Their opinions were, predictably, very different and our discussion returned to the familiar dilemma between dream and reality, between the desire to report extreme and fascinating trends and the need to give useful advice and information to the...

The Fashion Polyglott

Apart from the absence of any significant contribution by the practitioner, the most obvious observation on the body of academic discourses relating to fashion is the bewildering variety of its authors' disciplines. Students of fashion, so frequently labelled as shallow and frivolous, are required to be polyglotts, able to inform their understanding from texts using the language and ideas of anthropology, social, cultural, economic and art history, 13. Riseboro, B., The Story of Western...

How We Shop

We have not stopped spending our money, but it seems we are more reluctant to spend it in public. Whether it is a matter of embarrassment about appearing extravagant, or whether it is a matter of convenience I cannot say, but it is certain that home shopping is transforming the retail landscape. The first indication of this was in the United States, during the 1980s. Industrial analysts suggest that the introduction of zip codes and toll-free telephone numbers, increasing subscription to credit...

The Nineteenth Century City

At the root of glamour, however, is a set of social and cultural changes that took place in the late nineteenth century, in particular in the great modern cities. Broadly speaking, this period may be said to have seen the decline of rigid social hierarchies and the eclipse of aristocratic control of culture, politics and society. Instead, a civilization based on money took shape, in which luxury, visibility and elegance were not reserved for a closed elite, but were open to whoever could pay or...

Note

The author is grateful to the editors of this collection for allowing the republication of this chapter. It originally appeared in Fashion Theory Volume 2 Issue 4 (1998). The response of students and staff from Kingston University to its arguments made an important contribution to its final form. 37. Harvey, John, Men in Black, London Reaktion, 1995. 38. Taylor, Lou, Men in Black, Journal of Design History, Vol. 9.4, 1996.

Advertising

The importance of creating in this field is obvious, but more than anywhere else it must be exercised with a view to consistency since our objective is that the product should be immediately recognizable and associated with an absolute, possibly unique, identity. In my experience, the most successful advertising campaigns are those resulting from a very close collaboration between designers, photographers, and those such as stylists who, from an external perspective can add to this a story, an...

An Episode from the Life of a Designer

The final part of this essay is a short case study which is intended to demonstrate the kind of empirical analyses which might provide some answers to Davis' question What does the shortened hemline or double breasted suit mean to those, who, cautiously, are among the first in their social circle to adopt them How do these meanings, elusive or inchoate as they may be, relate to the meanings that proceeded and will follow them in the fashion cycle. Why do some new meanings (read fashion) 'click'...

Pleasure and Politics

Another outcome of the argument between structuralists and culturalists was a repositioning of focus in cultural studies and history that has had further ramifications for the study of fashion. Abstract debates about theory and methodology were superseded in the late 1970s by the opening up of new, previously hidden areas of study and fresh perspectives on old political problems. In social history, those receptive to cultural studies concerns oriented around the formation of the History...

The Invisible Designer

I have already alluded to the frustration, from a practitioner's perspective, of reading texts which do not quite go to the heart of the reader's interest, which miss important points through not looking at clothes or considering their commercial context. This section deals more specifically with the paucity of texts, not just by contemporary designers, but even about contemporary designers. By this I do not mean the many glossy eulogies which people use to give their sitting rooms a...

Conclusion

Fashion has become a suitable subject for academic treatment, but, it seems, only when viewed from the safe distance of the sociologically related fields or when dressed in garments borrowed from more exalted intellectual and artistic fields. The voices of practitioners, or indeed the practice of fashion do not figure large in its academy, and consequently a whole world of 53. Davis, F., Fashion, Culture and Identity, Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 131-2. information is hidden...

Fashion and

It is significant that the 1999 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, 'Addressing the Century', took as its theme, not the almost unimaginable cultural and industrial prepotence which fashion has assumed over the last hundred years, but its relationships with art. This is not so surprising, though, when viewed against the recent spate of exhibitions and texts exploring the same theme, and it is easy to understand, when it has so long been denigrated as a frivolous and futile occupation, that...

Fashion and Signification

The deconstruction of image or product as text lies at the heart of any totalizing definition of a cultural studies methodology. In direct opposition to traditional art and design history and literary criticism methods, cultural studies offers a way of studying objects as systems rather than as the simple product of authorship. Borrowed from European structuralism, most specifically the work of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure,11 the theory of language looms as the most essential of cultural...

Creativity and Fashion

It is widely agreed that clothing is a language, but a very ambiguous one. Its vocabulary changes or evolves, and can express different meanings at different times according to the wearer and the observer.6 We might say that clothing is a dynamic language open to endless resetting. Some adhere to the view that fashion follows a 'trickle down process'7 whereby innovative ideas are transmitted from the elite top layers of the social pyramid to the bottom. Others consider it mainly a matter of...

Reka CV Buckley and Stephen Gundle

Few words are as ubiquitous in the contemporary mass media as glamour. 'The new glamour burns bright' headlined Interview in March 1997, while Elle of December 1996 tempted readers with the following cover title 'Glamour The people who live it - the clothes that scream it - the make-up that makes it'. Yet quite what glamour is frequently remains unclear. When fashion and women's magazines from time to time conduct enquiries into the meaning of glamour, they invariably seek opinions from a range...

Ian Griffiths

I have been told that I am a typical product of the British fashion-design education system, and to an extent this is true I graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1985 and the Royal College of Art in 1987, and like many of my contemporaries became a designer working for one of the large Italian manufacturer retailers that flourished during the 1980s, in my case the MaxMara group. But my career took a more unusual turn in 1992 when I became Head of the School of Fashion, and Professor at...

Contemporary Glamour

The term glamour is employed continuously in connection with fashion, showbusiness and entertainment, beauty and beauty marketing and the social worlds that are determined by, or associated with, these industries. It is scarcely possible to open a copy of Marie Claire, Vogue or Hello without finding the word used to underline the allure of an occasion, a dwelling, a product or a person. Even the broadsheets make use of the word's evocative power in presenting leisure, fashion and entertainment...

Glamour and Modernity

In this chapter, we have shown that glamour is integral to capitalist modernity. It emerged at a specific point in history characterized by the shift in terms of the general order of meanings and priorities from a society dominated by the aristocracy to one governed by the bourgeoisie the extension of commodification into ever wider public and private spheres the development of a new urban system of life permeated by consumerism and the importance of fashion the closer proximity of the theatre...

Amy de la Haye

In 'The Cutting Edge 50 Years of British Fashion' exhibition staged at the Victoria amp Albert Museum in 1997, four key themes of post-war national fashion identity were identified Romantic, Tailoring, Country and Bohemian. The latter category embraced the work of designers that drew upon classical and medieval revival styles and ethnographic sources. The striking, mainly exuberant exhibits included ensembles by Thea Porter, Yuki, Zandra Rhodes, Mr Fish, Charles amp Patricia Lester and Georgina...

Antipathy Thinly Veiled and Undisguised Hostility

The reading list for first-year students of fashion design at Kingston University includes The Fashioned Self by the anthropologist and sociologist Joanne Finkelstein. It is my fervent hope that none but those students whose interest in the subject is unshakable should ever chance to get their hands on a copy the book's arguments are presented with a devastatingly seductive logic and an authority that would persuade anyone else to abandon the profession without delay. In the author's words, It...

Nicola White

The Italian fashion industry is currently one of the leading players on the international fashion stage, and ranks parallel with Paris and New York.1 Yet before 1945, there was no industrial production of fashionable womens-wear in Italy, and little innovative made-to-measure haute couture. The well-known Italian fashion style currently seen in the world's glossy fashion magazines rose seemingly from nowhere in the post-war years, and was not widely recognized until the early 1980s. It is...

Rebecca Arnold

Simple, elegant and restrained, American designer Marc Jacobs' work epitomizes the 1990s minimalist aesthetic. His spring 1998 collection comprised a series of easy separates, little soft grey cardigans, flirty pleated skirts, contrasting fuschia macs and sporty clamdiggers. There was a slight hint at 1950s style in the cut, but not so much that the modern feel of the collection became swamped with nostalgia there were enough references to trend-based shapes and colours that the potential...

Brian Godbold

This chapter takes the form, initially, of an autobiography. Its story is not only that of my own life, but that of British fashion since the 1960s I was fortunate to find myself right at the centre of the art school culture of that period, which as I hope to show, sparked off the design-conscious mass-market phenomenon by which I, as the Divisional Director of Design at Marks amp Spencer was ranked as number 8 in The Face magazine's 100 most powerful people in fashion,1 and at number 15 by...

The Development of Franchised Branded Designer Products in the 1950s

The behaviour of much of the Paris couture industry during the Nazi occupation of the city unravelled all this commercial success. The industry was left in a truly dire moral and economic position in the 1944-7 period, only overcome with the help of foreign buyers, the international fashion press and the vitality of the designs of the couturiers themselves with the success 16. Iribe, P., D fense de Luxe, Montrouge Draeger Freres, 1932 no page numbers . 17. 'Bulletin des Soies et de Soieries',...

Modernity into Postmodernity

There are many competing usages of the terms modernity, modernization and modernism, particularly between the social sciences and the humanities traditions. A number of historians, for whom the idea of modernity is bound up with an analysis of industrial capitalist society as a form of rupture from 42. Nava, Mica, 'Modernity's Disavowal Women, the City and the Department Store' in Pasi Falk amp Colin Campbell eds , The Shopping Experience, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi Sage Publications, London,...

Introduction

All 'things' carry within them a weight of cultural complexities, including the products of the couture industry, whose meanings are centred specifically on overt notions of elitism. The cultural power of couture clothing and accessories remains so strong that it now impacts on the style of clothing at more market levels than ever before. All around the world, a shoe is just a shoe, a perfume just a perfume, until magically transformed by a 'designer' logo or house style into a symbol of global...

Christopher Breward

The first serious use to which research in historical dress was applied in British academia during the post-war period lay in the area of art historical studies. The careful dating of surviving clothing and its representation in paintings was seen as a useful tool in processes of authentication and general connois-seurship. The emphasis on the creation of linear chronologies and stylistic progressions that art historical directions dictated at the time has to some extent influenced the nature...

The Crisis of the Early 1930s

After the 1929 Wall Street crash, panic ensued in 1930 following the US imposition of a 90 per cent import tax on Paris haute couture garments under the new Hawley-Smooth bill. Paris lost its entire fleet of US buyers over the 1930-2 period and costs simply had to be cut. Thus in 1931, Chanel designed the first range of couture evening dress in cotton to bring costs down as her company was hit badly when both commercial and private US consumers stayed away. What on earth was to be done It was...

Nicola White and Ian Griffiths

This book derives from a series of lectures organised by Kingston University in collaboration with the Italian manufacturer retailer MaxMara. The lectures, entitled 'Perspectives in Fashion', were launched in 1994 to explore emerging themes in the history and theory of fashion, with the objective of considering them in the context of contemporary industrial practice. Both Kingston and MaxMara shared the view that this would primarily benefit students of fashion design, opening their eyes to the...

The Function of Couture Clothing

As Alexandra Palmer, has so well explained, the basic function of the making of individual couture clothing is, and always was, to provide the etiquette-correct 'social uniform' for its private clients.3 The basic financial problem within couture is the inevitability that it will only ever be bought by the tiniest minority of women and that in times of economic trauma, they too balk at spending cash on luxury clothing. Thus this industrie de luxe can never run securely and smoothly. It never...

Galliano 1990s

Figure 9.1 shows a moment in the Christian Dior Autumn-Winter 1998 9 couture collection designed by John Galliano. Entitled 'A Voyage on the Diorient Express, or the Story of the Princess Pocahontas', it was shown in the Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris, where the models arrived on a steam train while the audience were seated on sand-covered platforms decorated with huge bronze platters of spices to look like an oriental spice market or souk. As the visitors sat surrounded by canopies, potted palms,...

Modernity and The Spectacle of Women

The wholesale rebuilding of Paris in the second half of the century, in the grand scheme concocted between Napoleon III and the Baron Haussmann, transformed it into the city we know today and allowed the development of the 'society of the spectacle' which, I have tried to indicate, still resonates in the imagery of the contemporary fashion show. 26 In the rebuilding of Paris the old, medieval quartiers were broken up and replaced with wide boulevards, open spaces and parks. With...

OwiorroujValerie Steele

As we enter a new millennium, fashion journalist Teri Agins proclaims The End of Fashion. Of course, fashion has not ceased to exist. We are not all identically dressed in a unisex uniform of tee-shirts and chinos. Nor are we likely to be. Many people still care passionately about the way they look. Yet fashion, as we have known it, is definitely disappearing. Certainly, over the past fifty years, fashion has been completely transformed. The empire of fashion has fragmented into hundreds of...

Dialectical images

In the nineteenth century it was through the spectacles and dreamy scenarios staged in the department store that female consumption was nurtured, trained and encouraged, as well as in the great exhibitions which granted a vision of luxury consumption to a mass audience. Many of these visions have striking parallels in the staging of Galliano's shows in the 1990s, which drew on illusion, drama and theatre for their effects. Just as in the nineteenth-century 'reveries were passed off as...

Luigi Maramotti

What is creativity How are ideas generated How do we define a creative person Such questions have probably crossed our minds more than once, but rarely do we realise how much we depend on this very special output of human intelligence. If we look at the products around us, most of which today are manufactured industrially rather than handmade, we can appreciate how their design is related to creative thought and to the necessity for innovation and change. As the Chairman of the MaxMara group,...

The Intellectual Assault Course

In his introduction to The Fashion System Barthes asks 'Can clothing signify without recourse to the speech which describes it, comments upon it, and provides it with a system of signifieds and signifiers abundant enough to 23. Finkelstein, J., 'Chic - a Look That's Hard to See', Fashion Theory, vol. 3 issue 3, Oxford Berg, 1999, pp. 363-85. 24. Palmer, A., 'Book Review After a Fashion', Fashion Theory, vol. 1, issue 1, Oxford Berg, 1997, pp. 111-14. 25. Craik, J., The Face of Fashion Cultural...