Feeding the imaginary

Emanuela Mora, Agnes Rocamora, Paolo Gaetano Volonte'

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The imaginary that has dominated the fashion system since the mid-twentieth century seems, in recent years, to have been challenged by empirical phenomena. ‘Imaginary’ is a complex notion that can be addressed from many perspectives. Here, we refer to the stock of images, values, practices and rules that dominate the western fashion system and that its participants take for granted in their relationship with fashion. Of course, different participants base their understanding of fashion on different imaginaries, and different imaginaries may be shared by different communities, but a hegemonic imaginary has underpinned the western fashion discourse for some decades now. For example, pertaining to this imaginary is the ideal of the female body’s thinness (Bordo 1993); the positive value attributed to the youthful body; and the aspiration to the beautiful-and-new as a source of distinction (Lipovetsky 1987), as well as the sur-representation of Caucasian ethnic groups in images of fashion (Entwistle and Wissinger 2006). Also pertaining to this imaginary of fashion are usually implicit assumptions about human life. For instance, assumptions about the temporal organization of the day and the week into work time (office), leisure time (in the countryside) and social time (evening), or the belief that the possession of certain consumer goods certifies social status. These are fragments of representations of the world consistent with the project of western modernity to achieve the ideal of a world in which technology and science enable humans to fulfil themselves as independent adults with the capacity to choose. This, in fact, was the promise of the Enlightenment, with industrial capitalism and the bourgeoisie embodying its. values and assuming the task of realizing it. Fashion as an institution of western modernity (Wilson 1985; Lehmann 2000) has contributed significantly to this project – and is an explicit manifestation of it. Recently, however, the western fashion system seems to have been able to include meanings that it had thus far marginalized. A number of factors are altering the ordinary metabolism of this system; new ways to do things and new representations (discourses, visual contents, values) appear that seem to provide the dominant fashion imaginary with new contents and avenues. The need to take stock of these new developments prompted the conference entitled Fashion Tales 2015: Feeding the Imaginary, organized in June 2015 by Centro Modacult of the Catholic University of Milan, in collaboration with this journal. The conference – of which this issue of the International Journal of Fashion Studies collects some contributions – identified three main directions along which innovative experiences occur. Two of them have to do with the impact of new technologies on the structure of the fashion system itself; in particular, the technologies arising from advances in chemical research, and digital technologies. While the former are transforming the fashion industry under the banner of sustainability, the latter are leading to the widespread mediatization of fashion (Rocamora 2016). The third direction concerns nonwestern fashion
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)177-184
Numero di pagine8
RivistaInternational Journal of Fashion Studies
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2016


  • fashion studies
  • imaginary


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