Orderly Fashion: A Sociology of Markets

Orderly Fashion: A Sociology of Markets

Orderly Fashion: A Sociology of Markets

Orderly Fashion: A Sociology of Markets


For any market to work properly, certain key elements are necessary: competition, pricing, rules, clearly defined offers, and easy access to information. Without these components, there would be chaos. Orderly Fashion examines how order is maintained in the different interconnected consumer, producer, and credit markets of the global fashion industry. From retailers in Sweden and the United Kingdom to producers in India and Turkey, Patrik Aspers focuses on branded garment retailers--chains such as Gap, H&M, Old Navy, Topshop, and Zara. Aspers investigates these retailers' interactions and competition in the consumer market for fashion garments, traces connections between producer and consumer markets, and demonstrates why market order is best understood through an analysis of its different forms of social construction.

Emphasizing consumption rather than production, Aspers considers the larger retailers' roles as buyers in the production market of garments, and as potential objects of investment in financial markets. He shows how markets overlap and intertwine and he defines two types of markets--status markets and standard markets. In status markets, market order is related to the identities of the participating actors more than the quality of the goods, whereas in standard markets the opposite holds true.

Looking at how identities, products, and values create the ordered economic markets of the global fashion business, Orderly Fashion has wide implications for all modern markets, regardless of industry.


This book APPROACHES the global fashion industry with a focus on markets. Its perspective is that of economic sociology and it addresses the question of order. The study is substantially based on observations and interviews, though I do not refer to the names of firms or persons. This is done not only to maintain the anonymity of those who have contributed to the research project, but also, and above all, to stress the general and theoretical points and to facilitate application of the approach in other studies. Large bodies of literature, such as those on business economics, business organization, and industrial economics, all of which have made important contributions to our understanding of the real economy, are acknowledged, but not discussed at any length.

Martin Heidegger, in “Schöpferische Landschaft: Warum bleiben wir in der Provinz?”, remarks that philosophizing is like being in a blizzard. He also celebrates Einsamkeit [solitude] as a work strategy. Though I fully agree that scientific work, to be successful, must to some extent be characterized by Einsamkeit, one should not always be alone. Two relational thinkers, Pierre Bourdieu and Harrison White, have inspired the approach I have developed, but the main input comes from the phenomenological tradition.

This book would probably have been written even without the help of most of those I shall thank, but the outcome under such circumstances would have been rather poor. Several people in the field have helped me gather the empirical material that supports the thesis I present here. Their kindness has been of great value to me, and obviously a precondition of the study.

This book is the product of a major project on the global fashion industry that started in 2002. Many people commented on drafts of chapters during 2006 and 2007, at the London College of Fashion, the London School of Economics, the Stockholm School of Business, Växjö University, Stockholm University, and the University of Konstanz. I would especially like to thank Göran Ahrne, Jean Pascal Delouze, Ingrid Giertz Mårtensson, Mark Granovetter, Oskar Engdahl, Herbert Kalthoff, Karin Knorr Cetina, Per Anders Linden, Árni Sverrisson, and Richard Swedberg.

In the early phases, Emil Uddhammar was my colleague in this project. I have had many interesting discussions with Emil, both in Sweden and during field trips to India. The associates at Skeppsbron in Stockholm, who have been present throughout the project, Kay Glans, Erik Wallrup and Peter Elmlund, made this a very special work place.

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