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Extending our understanding of Fashion

Extending our understanding of Fashion

Fashion is mainly associated with High Fashion and European or American luxury brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or Mickael Kors.

These elite brands have become the norm of fashion; they have the power to decide what is “fashionable,” and they set trends that smaller brands and other fast-fashion companies try to emulate. However, fashion and dress practices are more diverse than that and are not restricted to European and American high fashion. Critical fashion studies attempt to understand why “fashion” has been used to describe elite western fashion, while other cultural forms of fashion have been termed as “costume, ethnic dress or uniform”. Fashion involves a cultural classification, and it has been used as a tool to assess cultural attainment.

Fashion serves as a measure of cultural attainment. Fashion is the setter of trends; in comparison, other clothing is functional and conventional, following long-standing and unreflective practice. High fashion, which might be considered sartorial “fine art. [1].
According to Rovine [2], the distinction between fashion and traditional dress is comparable to the demarcation between “Art” and “Artifact.” Artifacts are non-western works of art before they are recognised by the western art system.
Treating fashion as a marker of civilisation, with all its attendant attributes, is the reason why fashion has been excluded from repertoires of non-western cultures. Other codes of clothing behaviour are relegated to the realm of costume, which, as “pre-civilised” behaviour, is characterised in opposition to fashion as unchanging, fixed by social status, and group oriented. The rigid distinction between traditional and modern has produced a remarkably inflexible and unchanging analysis of fashion. [3].
Critical Fashion Studies teach us that European and American High Fashion is one form of fashion, one cultural and economic arrangement of the fashion system. Even though it dominates the current era, other fashion systems exist. Our understanding of fashion has to be extended and not stay confined to modern and western high fashion. Western fashion’s uniqueness and competitive advantage is the ongoing investment by the members of the elite fashion institutions. Moreover, it is the belief and the idea that *“only the creative brilliance of individuals alone can capture the imagination of a given moment. [3].


  • Do you agree with Rovine’s statement? Why/why not?

Share your thoughts with your peers in the comments below.


  1. Rovine, V. L., 2009. Colonialism’s Clothing: Africa, France, and the Deployment of Fashion.. Design Issues, 25(3), pp. 44-61.
  2. Rovine, V. L., 2015. African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear.. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  3. Craik, J., 1993. The face of Fashion: Cultural studies in Fashion. London: Routeledge .
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Africa to the World: Analysing the Global Appeal for African Luxury Fashion

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