Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers

Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers

Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers

Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers


Named "Best of the Best from the University Presses" in 2008 by the American Library Association

How has Paris, the world's fashion capital, influenced Milan, New York, and Tokyo? When did the Marlboro Man become a symbol of American masculinity? Why do Americans love to dress down in high-tech Lycra fabrics, while they wax nostalgic for quaint, old-fashioned Victorian cottages?

Fashion icons and failures have long captivated the general public, but few scholars have examined the historical role of business and commerce in creating the international market for style goods. Producing Fashion is a groundbreaking collection of original essays that shows how economic institutions in Europe and North America laid the foundation for the global fashion system and sustained it commercially through the mechanisms of advertising, licensing, marketing, publishing, and retailing.

The collection reveals how public and private institutions—from government censors in imperial Russia to large corporations in the United States—worked to shape fashion, style, and taste with varying degrees of success. Fourteen contributors draw on original research and fresh insight into the producers of fashion—advertising agents, architects, corporate executives, department stores, designers, editors, government officials, hairdressers, haute couturiers, and Web retailers—in their bid for influence, acclaim, and shoppers' dollars.

Producing Fashion looks to the past, revealing the rationale behind style choices, while explaining how the interplay of custom, invented traditions, and sales imperatives continue to drive innovation in the fashion industries.


“WHAT IS FASHION?” In November 1993, marketing consultant Estelle Ellis posed this “deceivingly simple question” in a speech at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Ellis had spent more than five decades in the fashion business, launching her career during the late 1940s and early 1950s at Seventeen and Charm magazines, before establishing Business Image Inc., a creative marketing firm that helped companies to understand how social change affected business trends. Founded in 1958, Business Image Inc. had an impressive roster of clients, such as FIT, Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Condé Nast Publications (including Glamour, House and Garden, and Vogue), Evan-Picone, Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, Kimberly-Clark, and Yves Saint Laurent Fragrances. With more than fifty years of marketing experience, Ellis was well qualified to speak about the nature of fashion and to define it for educators, students, and industry professionals. At FIT, founded as the “MIT for the fashion industries” in 1944, Ellis faced an expert audience, but she spoke her mind, undaunted.

How did Ellis define fashion? Her FIT address is worth examining at length because it provides a fitting launchpad for this book on how fashion is produced through the interactions of commerce, culture, and consumers. Ellis had a broad view of fashion that touched almost everything in the material world. She perceived fashion in anthropological terms, that is, as a cultural force that drew sustenance from social customs, group psychology . . .

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