Enterprise orientations: a framework for making sense of fashion sector start‐up

Colleen Mills (Department of Management, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Publication date: 10 May 2011



This paper aims to present an original conceptual model that captures the orientations of new business founders in the fashion design sector as they navigate the tension between creative endeavour and business practice.


The start‐up experiences of 38 fashion designers from the four main fashion centres in New Zealand were examined using an interpretive narrative approach. The designers' enterprise development narratives were analysed using in‐depth literary and conceptual analyses to reveal the nature and context of their start‐up behaviour and the conceptual frameworks they employed to make sense of their start‐up behaviour.


The designers were, to varying degrees, preoccupied with a perceived tension between creative processes and business practices. This tension was typically experienced as a disjunction between self‐identity and the identities supported by the business models designers worked within. Successfully navigating this tension could require significant conceptual shifts or fundamental adjustments in business approaches which challenged designers' original rationales for start‐up. The analysis of designers' responses to the creativity‐business tension and how they made sense of this produced a conceptual framework, a space delineated by three basic enterprise orientations: creative enterprise orientation (CEO), creative business orientation (CBO), and fashion industry orientation (FIO).

Research limitations/implications

This conceptual framework has major implications for policy makers and providers of design education and business support as it offers a means of differentiating between the lived‐in experiences of designers. In so doing it could be used as a tool for tailoring support more appropriately to designers' needs. The narrative approach produced rich, contextualised insights and a template for the further studies that will be required to establish the wider applicability of the framework.


The original conceptual framework presented here provides much needed insight into creative business start‐ups that will allow better targeting of education, support and policy development. The approach used to create this framework is an innovative example of how narrative and sensemaking approaches can be combined to provide rich insights into enterprise creation from the entrepreneur's perspective.



Mills, C. (2011), "Enterprise orientations: a framework for making sense of fashion sector start‐up", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 245-271. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552551111130709

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