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Culture and Organization

For a Special Issue on

Ha(u)te Couture: Fashion, Representation, Culture and Organization

Manuscript deadline
15 April 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Robert S. Earhart, American University of Paris
[email protected]

Jean-Luc Moriceau, Institut Mines-Télécom Business School
[email protected]

Jerzy Kociatkiewicz, Institut Mines-Télécom Business School
[email protected]

Kate-yue Zhang, American University of Paris
[email protected]

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Ha(u)te Couture: Fashion, Representation, Culture and Organization

This special issue addresses the territory of fashion, what is fashionable, and how these various notions and issues around fashion relate to, impact, and create meanings and understandings of organization – consistent with the theme of the 2023 SCOS Paris Conference.

FASHION is contested terrain. What is beautiful or fashionable --- who defines, determines and governs? COUTURE as a dominant representation of fashion used to be directly connected to the state. How many shows per year, persons you have to employ, skills you have to demonstrate; it was all highly regulated for a long time. COUTURE represents ideas of inclusion versus exclusion, in terms of work, economics, status and culture. It is a form of business that flourished as tightly protected and regulated, and now it is a sector that has lost much if its significance in business terms and influence, and it is more an object of prestige for a few of the major fashion houses. It is a massively expensive advertising campaign, yet also represents a crucial crafts sector in France and other European countries. It encompasses tensions between empowerment and exploitation, high and low culture, fast and slow fashion, conspicuous consumption and deconsumption, shared popularity and individual expression, criteria of beauty and use (Korica and Bazin, 2019).

COUTURE has long served as a metaphor for rapid changes, and for superficiality and for the transience of social conventions, but also as an expression of status and formal position (Bauman, 2010), from sumptuary laws to uniforms to the Emperor's new clothes. Gilles Lipovetsky (1983, 1987) has celebrated the democratization of society away from dress control towards individualized identity; Elisabeth Wilson praised the ‘pointlessness of fashion’ (1985, p. 245), adding that it at times can bring forward what has been marginalized with a revolutionary force: ‘Out of the cracks in the pavements of cities grow the weeds that begin to rot the fabric’ (ibid., p. 245). And Rene ten Bos (2000) has tried to convince us to see the virtues that come with the temporariness of the present, arguing that management studies is really all about fashion.

Recently, a clothing brand called its collection Haute COUTURE: triggering awareness of an evolution from HAUTE COUTURE to HATE CULTURE. The claim was ‘the more hate you wear the less you care,’ to reappropriate hateful labels such as ‘faggot,’ ‘nerd’ or ‘wannabe,’ and to de-sensitize yourself to ridicule, repression, exclusion and violence. Wear and proclaim derision and discrimination in order to escape their power. But is escape really possible?

Quilting and patchwork/doll-making have served as a model for a reliance on traditional, folk or minority knowledge (Letiche, 2009; Rippin, 2010). COUTURE could well provide a framework for creative arrangements of thoughts, theories or (top) models, wherein elegance and taste intertwine with epistemological, political and ethical concerns. Serres (1997) proposed the image of Arlequino, whose brilliant coat was made of others’ (sometimes rejected) pieces, as the model of thinker, researcher who is third-instructed, whose learning from the others provides a key for personal thinking and wisdom.

The needle and the thread remind us of the rhizomatic nature of organisation (Deleuze et al., 1987), as well as the social complexity of organizing represented as tapestry in writings of Edgar Morin (2005) and others. They evoke craftsmanship set by Richard Sennett (2008) in opposition to the dark sides of industrialisation. In its guise of fast fashion, COUTURE showcases the exploitation of humans and non-humans, while slow fashion and upcycling movements promise a turn towards ecology and sustainability.  Yet many reactions remain locked within the framework of the same economic system implicated in the exploitation, and HAUTE COUTURE, with its system of stars and its emphasis on big business of luxury helps us see the Janus-faced identities of consumerism.

The fashion industry itself offers fertile terrain as a focal point of social, economic, environmental and aesthetic considerations. Morton (2013) indicates that the design, sourcing, manufacture, sale and distribution of fashion are embodied in much larger forces extending beyond human comprehension and perception.  The production of fashion also offers insights into the freedom of things-in-themselves, Kantian noumena, that challenge (often) groundless dogmas. The metaphors and aesthetics represented through fashion, particularly as embodied in the ideas and perceptions of HAUTE COUTURE, enable third-person objects or noumena into first person encounters and gets us closer to the ‘zero-person’ aspect of things, meaning their reality apart from any observation or introspection (Harman, 2018; Ortega, 1961).

Submission Instructions

According to these broad interpretations of these themes, we are inviting papers which consider (in the context of management and organisational studies):

  • Notions of the ‘fashionable’ organisation
  • Fashion as a form of cultural production
  • Theory, fads and fashion
  • Organization in the fashion industry
  • Inclusion and exclusion in fashions and trends
  • Management fashion and guruism
  • Aesthetics of organization
  • Denialism: the eternal present
  • Any other papers relating broadly to themes of organisation, fashion, and theory

Contributions not addressing these specific themes but relevant to the scope of this call are also welcome.

Deadline for submission of final abstracts for review is 15 January 2024 with final manuscripts due 15 April. Please submit under the special issue title when submitting your paper to ScholarOne.

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