The centre of the periphery in fashion studies: First questions

by Luz Neira García


Most studies of fashion in the West emerge from theories that have taken shape and have been formulated in a European and North American context, because these theories have been given an impetus in geographic places where fashion has been endowed with political, economic and social significance – the so-called ‘central’ places. This means that not only fashion but also the grounds for studying it have always been (and continue to be) extensively reproduced in the regions that are regarded as peripheral to the field, such as Brazil. As Arjun Appadurai (1986) argues, although the meaning of peripheral refers to something that is geographically remote and, in particular, everything that is seen as morally and culturally different, it also has a hierarchical sense in fashion. This is because it is embedded in the principle of subordination to a model that is regarded of central importance. Over the course of time, these concepts have become key features for interpreting fashion within or emerging from Brazil so far as studies in the field tend to polarize the ways it can be understood: either they lay stress on its exoticism and independence, or they recognize that fashion involves imitation and subordination – or arguments that make it difficult to adopt any alternative position to support these studies. Setting out from these underlying assumptions, this article supports the idea of undertaking studies of fashion (i.e. historical, sociological, design-based, etc.) which employ methods that include peripheral configurations that can provide a more balanced approach to this field. Globalization requires a new way of reflecting on this question.

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