Paris and fashion: reflections on the role of the Parisian fashion industry in the cultural economy

Solange Montagné Villette (Department of Geography, University of Paris XIII, Paris, France)
Irene Hardill (Graduate School, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 7 September 2010



Towards the end of the nineteenth century Paris was the global capital of art and fashion. Today it remains a key hub in the global cultural economy. Male and female artists/designers develop new products and production techniques and marketing techniques are used to gain an international reputation. The top designers are embedded in a supportive milieu of cooperative competition, where ideas are exchanged and resources accessed. The purpose of this paper is to draw on archival documents to examine the privileged role cities have played as centres of cultural and economic activity, with specific reference to Paris and haute couture.


The paper employs a case study approach, accessing data from a number of sources including secondary sources and grey literature, the analysis of archival material, and in‐depth interviews with key stakeholders in examining the role of Parisian haute couture.


Parisian haute couture developed using the system pioneered in the nineteenth century by the Englishman Charles Worth. Their ideas inspired fashion trends globally, and this persisted for over a century. The salons tended to be owned at least partially by the artist/designer. The most successful designers based their reputations on a specific and well defined fashion innovation. A further strategy adopted by couturiers was the use of subsidiary lines of products to offset uncertainties in the market for fashionable clothing, the principal one being perfume.


The paper links the work of French and Anglo‐American writers on the cultural economy, and highlights, using case studies, the pivotal role Paris has played in shaping global fashion trends since the nineteenth century.



Montagné Villette, S. and Hardill, I. (2010), "Paris and fashion: reflections on the role of the Parisian fashion industry in the cultural economy", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 30 No. 9/10, pp. 461-471.

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