Unpicking the fashion city: Theoretical issues and ideal types. An empirical analysis of London.

Casadei, Patrizia (2018) Unpicking the fashion city: Theoretical issues and ideal types. An empirical analysis of London. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Local governments, ‘urban-booster’ commentaries and some academic approaches have increasingly focused on the idea of the ‘fashion city’ as a strategic factor for the economic development, growth and regeneration of major and minor cities across the world. Nowadays, in addition to established fashion’s world cities, there has been a proliferation of new fashion centres that have been termed as ‘second-tier’ cities of fashion. The growing and crucial importance of fashion in urban development strategies, together with the current diversity and variety of fashion centres, has created the need to broaden the knowledge of what constitutes a fashion city. To this day, either in academic or local policy field, little attention has been paid to defining the key elements that form a contemporary fashion centre. In light of these considerations, the aim of the present dissertation is to contribute to furthering the understanding of the actual meaning and significance of this concept and to possibly identifying distinctive models of fashion centres. Furthermore, the research seeks to explore the best suited methodologies to analyse the complexity and heterogeneity of contemporary fashion cities. The research is structured in four chapters, which address three main objectives. The first objective is to systematize the existing body of cross-disciplinary academic literature on the topic into a precise theoretical framework. In this regard, Chapter 1 presents a state of the art of fashion’s relation with cities by adopting a specific ‘creative approach’, which primarily focuses of fashion design as a cultural and creative industry (CCI) and on fashion designers as an example of the wider ‘creative class’. This analysis directs attention to a particular example of fashion centre that has been termed as the ‘creative fashion city’. The second objective is to develop an analytical framework to address the current heterogeneity of contemporary fashion centres. Chapter 2, drawing upon an extensive analysis of fashion’s world cities and ‘second-tier’ cities of fashion, suggests a framework of analysis for thinking about the diverse nature of fashion’s relation with the urban. It identifies multiple models of fashion’s world cities, as well as contrasting patterns in the development of newer fashion centres. Most importantly, through the adoption of Weber’s ideal type approach, it proposes three ideal types of fashion cities (‘manufacturing’, ‘design fashion’ and ‘symbolic’), which function as heuristic device to address the distinctive characteristics of fashion centres and to discuss future development pathways. The final and third objective is to understand how ‘real’ fashion cities can be studied, analysed and plotted on the ideal type model. To meet this objective, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 present two analyses of London from a ‘supply’- and ‘demand-side’ perspective. The first one is based on the execution of 23 semi-structured interviews with key actors from London’s fashion ecosystem, as well as statistics and policy documents, to analyse the ‘material’ elements that underlie the development, transformation and current nature of this fashion centre. The second one explores the meaning embedded in two samples of around 30,000 tweets, which were collected at different times, to highlight the ‘symbolic’ representation of London as a fashion city on the social media platform Twitter. Both the ‘supply’- and ‘demand-side’ analyses draw a picture of London as a fashion centre that tends towards the ideal type of the ‘symbolic fashion city’. The present dissertation has implications either for the academic and local policy field. It contributes to investigating the importance of different kinds of position that fashion plays in urban economies, drawing attention to fashion’s qualities as rather more than a conventional urban CCI. There emerges a growing emphasis on the symbolic economy as a tool for cementing the reputation of contemporary fashion centres, either specialised in manufacturing, fashion design or image-making activities. Furthermore, the ideal type approach complements and extends the now very familiar division between ‘fashion’s world cities’ and ‘second-tier cities’ and shifts away from the simplistic ‘tool-kit’ approach that has sought to promote new fashion centres as developing versions of ‘models’ set by established fashion’s world cities. In this respect, the accentuated ideal type of the ‘symbolic fashion city’ points to the risks of what can described as a ‘hollowing-out’ of the fashion city, which is detached not only from making and designing clothing but also from urban fashion cultures. Thus, what is important is not about fixed strategies for the development of a fashion centre, but the need for ad-hoc fashion policies specifically adapted to different historical and cultural local contexts.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Development Economics and Local Systems - DELoS
PhD Cycle:30
Subjects:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche > SECS-P/06 ECONOMIA APPLICATA
Uncontrolled Keywords:fashion city, ideal types, London, urban symbolism, text mining
Repository Staff approval on:12 Jul 2018 10:06

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