European fashion history remains hegemonic in discourse and in business. It comes packaged with persistent narratives and set areas of debate such as the consumer revolution in the 18th century, the birth of couture in the last third of the 19th century and the importance of subcultural style in the mid – to late 20th century. These conventions continue to inform how the history of fashion is written and taught. Fashion histories beyond Europe, consequently, are often described in comparison to these hegemonic narratives and are defined accordingly.
While Euro – and ethnocentric frameworks of thinking inherited from the Enlightenment have been fruitfully confronted by other disciplines such as anthropology and art history, they have remained stubbornly rooted in fashion studies – a problem that in itself begs for scrutiny. The NWFC was called into existence in 2012, under the passionate leadership of Angela Jansen, to address these issues and contribute to the construction of a new fashion paradigm. The conference addresses the urgent need for alternative terminologies and also alternative ways of theorizing fashion so that the European experience is no longer privileged as the standard model. It also presents a forum for case studies that fall outside the conservative frameworks. NWFC participants deploy holism, and cross-cultural and relativistic frameworks to disrupt the simple, oppositional, essentialist thinking that characterizes conventional fashion studies.
Participation and enthusiasm for the conference have been increasing with each subsequent edition, thus demonstrating the importance of Jansen’s initiative. The NWFC reaches out to researchers who often remain invisible in the academic landscape due to various barriers, including financial, linguistic and Eurocentric. Each conference has been attended by a gratifying range of nationalities that have contributed in diverse ways. This diversity is essential to the success of the NWFC mission.
In 2013, Angela Jansen established a Steering Committee to strengthen the NWFC and broaden its impact. She selected prominent thinkers in the field and aimed for geographic diversity in representation. The Steering Committee is still under construction as it continues to expand and develop clear divisions of tasks and responsibilities.
In 2016, a PhD workshop was added to the programme in order to encourage, support and stimulate a next generation of researchers to end euro – and ethnocentricity in fashion research and to construct alternative theoretical frameworks. Students are given the opportunity to present their research and ask questions to a committee of experts.
PUBLICATIONS TO DATE
Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik (eds). 2016. Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity Through Fashion. London: Bloomsbury.
Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik (eds). 2015. International Journal of Fashion Studies, Volume 2, Nr 1.
Maria Angela Jansen, Chairperson
Sarah Cheang, Treasurer
Royal College of Art
Sandra Niessen, Secretary
University of California, Davis
University of Tokyo
University of Hong Kong
Erica de Greef
University of Johannesburg