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Fashion industry in London, UK: eroding or consolidating of the cluster?

Authors: Galina Gornostaeva*,
Topics: Economic Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: cluster theory, production networks, fashion industry, London
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The cluster theory suggests the existence of strong connections between elements of production network present in particular place. Research on creative industries clusters does confirm that interpersonal and business connections ‘glue’ participants together and induce ‘industrial atmosphere’ (Marshall, 1890). London along with other ‘fashion capitals’ was always seen as a host of fashion cluster. This paper challenges this view. It considers all London fashion production network elements both ‘above the line’ – fashion designers and marketers – and ‘below the line’ – producers of actual clothing items. Fragmentation and internationalization of individual production networks and individualized nature of fashion projects, digitization of social networks and other factors substantially diminish forces of clustering (Buciuni and Pisano, 2015). Moreover, the hybrid nature of the fashion product, which is both symbolic and material, dictates that production networks include members of different ‘fields’ – designers, marketers, manufactures - separated by substantial cognitive distance and with established ‘self-contained societies’ (Dougherty, 1987). The research investigates two types of interfaces: between designers and marketers (retailers) and between designers and manufacturers. The latter was seriously under researched (Ettlie, 1995; Ettlie and Stoll, 1990; Hales, 1986; Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967; Vandevelde and Van Dierdonck, 2003). A series of in-depth interviews with fashion designers, manufacturers and intermediaries in London revealed that barriers between the fields are fueled by different values, goals and differences in status (McDonough, 1984) that maintains a ‘we versus they’ attitudes. Paper suggests the modifications to the notion of cluster according to the specifics of the industry.

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