Conference 2013

2nd International NWFashionConference

Constructing National Identity Through Fashion

London College of Fashion, UK
21-22 November 2013


In today’s rapidly globalizing world, dichotomies like ‘traditional’ versus ‘fashionable,’ ‘tradition’ versus ‘modernity’ and ‘non-West’ versus ‘West’ can no longer be justified and fortunately a new generation of fashion scholars is acknowledging the existence of different (non Euro-American) fashion systems. They realize there is a growing urgency for fashion theory to rectify its ethno- and Eurocentric approach and no longer assume that non-western dress is (automatically) outside the realm of fashion dynamics. Fashion designers from Asia, The Middle East, Latin America and Africa are increasingly influencing global fashion dynamics, but surprisingly still little is known on the effects these developments will have on fashion as we know it today.

Therefore the aims of this annual conference, which is part of a larger international interdisciplinary cross-regional research project set up in 2012, is to establish a broad network of scholars focusing on non-western fashion systems (without explicitly excluding research on western fashion systems), to stimulate international cross-regional comparative research and to mobilise scholars across disciplines to engage in primary and archival fieldwork on (emerging) non-western fashion centres. The project aims to meet a new intellectual and public interest in more local models of fashion production and consumption.

This second edition of the Non-Western Fashion Conference will focus on the construction of national identity in fashion and the roles of so-called ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ in this process. Fashion designers are increasingly branding their national heritage/tradition as a successful marketing tool, while simultaneously reinventing/modernizing it. On the one hand, in a globalizing world, it allows them to differentiate themselves on a highly competitive international fashion market, while on the other hand, on a national level, it seems to make them successful as a result of a general revaluation of national culture as a counter reaction to increasing foreign cultural influences. However, when non-western designers use their cultural heritage as a source of inspiration, it is considered ‘traditional identity’ whereas when western fashion designers brand their cultural heritage, it is considered ‘fashion identity.’

This conference not only wishes to be interdisciplinary but also cross-regional, assembling researchers who are engaged in creative and critical rethinking of (non-western) fashion systems in a wide scope of geographical areas in ways that may include, but certainly are not limited to the ideas above.

Keynote speakers

  • Jennifer Craik (RMIT University, Melbourne)
  • Yuniya Kawamura (Fashion Institute of Technology, New York)
  • Leslie Rabine (University of California)
  • Emma Tarlo (Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • Sarah Cheang (Royal College of Art, London)
  • Reina Lewis (London College of Fashion)