Conference 2014

3rd International (Non)Western Fashion Conference
The Global Politics of Fashion

University of Hong Kong
22-23 November 2014

The third edition of the (Non) Western Fashion Conference is focusing on the politics of fashion from a global perspective. Despite so-called fashion globalization, the epicentre of fashion is still very much concentrated in Europe. But what do we really know about the global politics of fashion? How does fashion intersect with global politico-economic processes? What are the global power relations embodied in fashion? How do the meanings of fashionable and traditional dress relate to that hegemony? How should agency and orientalism be understood? What are the mechanisms that ensure that the centre of fashion is retained in Europe? How can alternatives be identified and how are they co-opted? What are the politics of fashion appropriation and exclusion? Is dichotomous thinking about fashion reified in the processes of fashion? Although much is written about the influence of western fashion in the non-West, relatively little research is done on what the appropriation of non-western fashion trends in western fashion really signifies. Also, even though trends have been coming from London, Deli, Milan, Shanghai, New York, Sao Paolo, Casablanca and Dakar it remains predominantly European designers who put them on the global fashion map, while Indian, Chinese, Hispanic Latin American, Moroccan and Sub-Sahara African fashion designers continue to be excluded from European Fashion Weeks.

This edition aims to focus on agency in the context of global fashion politics. Sandra Niessen (2003) argues in Re-Orienting Fashion Theory that ‘Eurocentric hegemonic fashion discourse aims to preserve a boundary between the West/Rest to both protect its position of power and to ensure the maintenance of a conceptual other for self-definitional purposes.’ But she also argues that conceptual traditional dress is just as much a tool for the non-West to differentiate and emphasize local distinctiveness. Traditional dress is rapidly being invented and reinvented to not only create a sense of belonging and stimulate the consumption of a culturally marketed Self, but also to further national interests, stimulate international tourism, influence foreign investments and as a tool for public diplomacy. In the process, self-orientalism is playing an important role whereby, contrary to orientalism, the orientalist gaze is used to turn oneself into the Other to create, maintain and strengthen a distinct cultural identity (Iwabuchi 1994). From this perspective, the Orient is not a defenceless and innocent victim of western orientalism, but actively uses the orientalist gaze to take agency.Therefore the question whether fashion globalization leads to cultural homogenisation deserves a new debate with a focus on the contemporary revival/(re)invention of traditional dress.

Keynote speakers for this editions are:

* Peter McNeil (Professor of Design History at the University of Technology Sydney and Professor of Fashion Studies at Stockholm University)
* Hiroshi Narumi (Associate professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design)
* Toby Slade (Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo)