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Fashion Cities and Style Centres: The Emerging Dynamics of Contemporary Fashion Cultures

In considering the concept of the 'Fashion City' it is at once as abstract as it is real. Fashion and the city are intimately connected. While the city acts as a site for the production and display of fashion, fashion enhances the performative vitality and exuberance of the city. Within the structure of the fashion industry a network of cities has developed which act as sites of prestige for displaying status through fashion culture. Paris, London, Milan, New York and Tokyo are the legendary names, or ‘Fashion Capitals’, which are widely recognised as the principal nodes within this structure. Their reputation and character as sites of fashion culture is disseminated and portrayed through the format of Fashion Weeks, trade fairs, shops, magazines, film and the Internet. Yet the structure of this network is beginning to look increasingly archaic. In the developing fashion industry of the Twenty-first Century how is this structure set to change and how will this impact on the nature of fashion culture itself?

Although globalisation has allegedly overwhelmed us all, its effects have enabled previously marginalised communities to assert their independence and influence. New developments in communications and changing expectations for aspirational forms of living are affecting this. Within the fashion system this phenomenon can be observed in the rise to prominence of the ‘Style Centre’, a new model for the Fashion City, and a challenger to the Fashion Capital. Within the Euro-centric fashion system Antwerp in Belgium emerged during the 1980s as, perhaps, the archetypal Style Centre. Yet others, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dakar, Seoul and Sydney, have emerged as sites of local and international significance within the fashion industry. Each of these cities can claim to be in possession of its own individual fashion culture, together with a sphere of influence beyond its immediate locale. Yet, how do these Style Centres offer a new model for the structure and activities of the fashion industry? Is the fashion culture of these Style Centres genuine or is it merely derivative of the Fashion Capitals?

In deciphering the emergence of fashion culture and in determining what ‘makes’ a Fashion City a qualitative approach is taken, focusing on the development and experience of two Style Centres: Antwerp and Copenhagen. Juxtaposing the experiences of these two cities through a case study analysis the theoretical backdrop to this research takes into consideration a variety of perspectives and influences. Ideas encompassing what determines a ‘creative city’ are considered together with contributory factors in the evocation of such cities including vibrancy, authenticity, and glamour. In culmination, this research seeks to develop a platform to stimulate a renewed and necessary questioning of the structure and future development of the fashion industry and its associated culture.