British designer fashion in the late 1990s
At the end of the Second Millennium, the creative talent of British fashion designer 'stars' was considered so outstanding that they were frequently poached by leading European fashion houses; Dior, Givenchy, and Chloe, bastions of the French couture establishment were all headed by British designers. However, according to Kurt Salmon Associates (1991), there existed a paradox in that the British fashion designer sector was a 'cottage industry' characterised by poor commercial performance. Preliminary investigation revealed very little theory or scholarly research about the sector or its designer 'stars', and whilst there were some commercial consultancy reports, these appeared to be methodologically flawed. A need was therefore identified to explore contemporary practice in designer fashion houses, visit major promotional events such as fashion shows and exhibitions, and explore the designer's perspective. The methodological approach developed in this thesis has subsequently been endorsed by the Getty Conservation Institute of California (1999), which recommended the simultaneous analysis of 'creative' and cultural industries in terms of both their artistic and market dimensions, to explore positive associations between the two. This study applied a multi-stranded research strategy, which subscribed to phenomenological assumptions and adopted a range of research techniques from the traditions of anthropological fieldwork. These included an exploratory survey, participant observation, observation, in-depth elite interviews, and document analysis. It also draws upon developments in interpretative anthropology and includes experiments with the construction and presentation of text. These include the juxtaposition of commercial and art history discourses, numeric data with narrative, and popular with scholarly texts. This is sought to invite the reader to enter into a negotiation of new meaning, incorporating previously disparate discourses about designer fashion phenomena. The conclusions of this research were that the term 'cottage industry' was not an appropriate descriptor for the British fashion designer sector in the late 1990s .The industry had attained a positive international profile and London Fashion Week was a major international media event. However, the sector could be better supported as a national asset, in particular by establishing a permanent national exhibition in London to promote British fashion in a sustained and coherent manner.
- PhD