On November 8th and 9th, 2019, the European Fashion Heritage Association organised the international conference “Europe and Fashion: Questioning Identities and Cultures” held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Here established fashion scholars and curators discussed their work in connection to the construction and problematization of European fashion identities and cultures. As part of scientific committee, the Director of the Fashion Studies graduate program, Marco Pecorari, co-organised the main themes of the symposium, opening the conference and presenting the issues explored in this two day conference. Speakers asked and discusses several questions: What is European fashion? Is there such a thing such as ‘European fashion’ or is this just another empty label to restructure discourses and practices in the fashion industry?
With the help of Fashion Studies graduate students, the conferences presented a multitude of speakers dealing with issue of transnationalism, cultural appropriation, national identity and globalization in fashion. Keynote speakers included Valerie Steele, Giorgio Riello, Javier Gimeno Martinez, and Miren Arzalluz, representing institutions from New York City, Warwick, Amsterdam, and Paris, respectively.
Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, kicked off day one of the event, discussing her seminal book Paris, A Cultural History, originally published in 1988 but recently re-published in 2017. She explored Paris’ place in the fashion world, as a capital in a sense. Miren Arzalluz, Director of Palais Galliera, presented her paper Many Identities which outlines her career as a curator and director of museums, presenting the difficulties and the negotiations at play when we discuss fashion in relation to individual, collective, imagined, institutional and political identities.
Giorgio Riello, professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, explored the issue of conspicuous consumption, revisiting seminal works of Thorstein Veblen and Walter Benjamin, in the context of globalization and the rise of luxury. Javier Gimeno Martinez, Assistant Professor at the Vrije University Amsterdam, focused on the remodeling of clothing sectors in Europe markets after 1980s economic crises in his talk Redesigning the European Fashion Map.
Other speakers included Giulia Mensitieri, Professor at Parsons Paris where she teaches Fashion Systems and Global Perspectives to first year graduate students in the Fashion Studies program. Parsons Paris MAFS students were eager to hear Professor Mensitieri speak about the precarity of the French fashion industry, as well as hear from Valerie Steele, whose work is seminal in Fashion Studies.
The “Europe and Fashion: Questioning Identities and Cultures” conference at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was a great opportunity for Fashion Studies graduate students from Parsons Paris to listen to and network with established fashion scholars, thanks to the collaboration with the EFHA. While students have the chance to meet and listen to all those international speakers they have been studying during the semester, they also experienced the challenges behind the organization of the conference.
To learn more about the EFHA and their ongoing, past, and future projects, visit the website here.
Written by Rocio Sanchez
Photos by Victoria Nergaard