Conference 2016

4th International NWFashionConference

Local Fashion Communities

University of Antwerp
23-26 November 2016


Fashion can be an important engine in the environmentally, culturally and economical sustainable development of communities with the potential to be a crucial element in the cultural ecosystem that nourishes identity formation. As central theme of this academic conference, we would like to explore the contribution of small and medium fashion companies to the sustainable development of their local communities. As in the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity from 2005, we consider cultural diversity, and thus fashion systems, not only as a side effect, but also as an engine in sustainable development. Moreover, we consider fashion as an economic ecosystem in which designers play a crucial role. Nonetheless, designers are all too often only a fragment of an extended value chain, from producer to consumer, that reflects a multi-trillion dollar industry employing an estimated 26 million people globally (Hines & Bruce 2007). This economic ecosystem operates both globally and locally according to its own dominant logics. Nonetheless, in the current western-dominant fashion system, a few powerhouses have managed to install a race to the bottom in which excrescences such as inhumane labor circumstances, mass consumerism and disposable fashion are egregious side-effects.

With this 4th edition of the NWFC, we want to focus on alternatives for this western-dominant framework and bridge the gap between cultural studies and fashion management, and between studies of European and non-European fashion systems. Different themes will be discussed such as ‘how to build a distinct local fashion identity’, ‘how to keep manufacturing and distribution local and/or sustainable’ and ‘how to offer an alternative to the international fashion powerhouses’. How can independent high-end designers compete with international power houses and establish a distinct fashion identity in a commodity market? How can they keep fashion production, skills and knowledge close to home? These are pressing topics, both in Europe and beyond. Translated to a macro fashion community level, these matters add up to the key topic of this fourth edition. How can local fashion communities contribute to sustainable development and the evolution of cultural identities?