The Enterprise of Culture: International Structures and Connections in the Fashion Industry since 1945


Project Summary

This project explored the relationships among fashion as a cultural phenomenon and a business enterprise.

Popular venues such as style magazines and cable TV often reduce fashion to individual personalities. Designers from Coco Chanel to Alexander McQueen are seen as visionaries who define changing trends, perhaps even new epochs. In reality, the fashion business is an extraordinarily complex industry that operates across national, cultural, economic and social boundaries.

This project examined the transmission of fashion as a cultural form across national and international boundaries by intermediaries such as educational institutions, media outlets, advertisers, branders, trend forecasters, and retailers. One of the major questions explored in this project was how Europe rose from the ashes of World War II to rebuild and reshape its fashion industry and how that industry has defined European identity in modern times.

The creation of fashion ecosystems as embodied in the branding of fashion cities and a network of fashion weeks and fairs  has contributed to the re-building of nations. European states and city governments increasingly dedicated resources to the fashion business in the post-war era. This made sense economically and culturally because fashion allows nations to ‘invent’ and ‘reinvent’ traditions both as a central part of diaspora economics and as a symbol of the imagined communities of Europe as an assemblage of nations and regions.

The key to unlocking this puzzle lay in the interdisciplinary approach taken in this project. Fashion is often studied in from a purely theoretical perspective, from a costume history viewpoint or from a popular media-driven vantage point. This research project broke new ground, using the fashion business to examine how various types of cultural encounters between core fashion cities like Paris and London and “peripheral” areas like Scotland, or between style labs and high street, stimulated innovation and created a new and competitive industry.

Prof. Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Project Leader

University of Leeds
United Kingdom


Project Partners

Prof. Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Project Leader

University of Leeds
United Kingdom

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Dr Ben Wubs

Erasmus University Rotterdam
Netherlands

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Dr Véronique Pouillard-Maliks

University of Oslo
Norway

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Prof. Alan McKinlay

Newcastle University
United Kingdom

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Dr Shiona Chillas

University of St. Andrews
United Kingdom

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Prof. Robert McIntosh

Heriot-Watt University
United Kingdom

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Associate Partners

Sonnet Stanfill

Victoria and Albert Museum
United Kingdom

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Alexander Husebye

Centre for Business History Stockolm (CBHS)
Sweden

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  • University of Leeds

    University of Leeds

  • Erasmus University Rotterdam

    Erasmus University Rotterdam

  • University of Oslo

    University of Oslo

  • Newcastle University

    Newcastle University

  • University of St. Andrews

    University of St. Andrews

  • Heriot-Watt University

    Heriot-Watt University