MISSING LINKS: Creating Value in Fashion

MISSING LINKS: Creating Value in Fashion

Creating Value in Fashion


International Conference in Berlin / University of Arts / 27 October 2017


University of Arts Berlin 

Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space


Building links is at the heart of value creation in fashion. The clothes we wear link us to the identities we seek to assume. They invoke associations with distant places or glamorous life styles. Sometimes such linkages are more than superficial associations created in the service of revenue generation. A traditionally handmade garment of certified origin carries innate material qualities as well as an authentic link to its place of production. Buying a piece of clothing from a crowdfunded social venture establishes a bond of compassion and responsibility between customer and producers. At the same time, the absence of linkages can also contribute to the value of fashion products. Fast and cheap fashion can only function as long as the production conditions, palpable as they are to the workers, are absent from the consumption experience. And even ethically branded fashion products invoke only a small and selective number of meaningful linkages, while much of a garment’s origin is left opaque.

Between haute couture and the mass market, fast fashion and slow fashion, trendy upcycling and the vast second hand market for ‘waste’ garments: Which links are we missing when we discuss the value of fashion? Is the dazzling multitude of value propositions – cheap, natural, fast, eco-fair, traditional, original, handcrafted, slow, upcycled, ethical, vegan, trendy, luxurious, sustainable – just a way of concealing the division of labour, entrenched in fashion value chains, between those who benefit and those who pay the price? Or is a renaissance of craft afoot – a reorientation of design principles in fashion towards durable materials and intrinsic quality? In short: Are there values in fashion value?

Organized jointly by the University of the Arts Berlin (UdK), the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS), Manchester University and Stockholm University, this international conference brings together academics, designers, activists, policy makers, fashion industry representatives and journalists to engage with the question of value and values in fashion. Funded by the Leibniz Association, it concludes the research project ‘Geographies of dissociation: The social construction of value from a spatial perspective’ carried out at the IRS in Erkner, Germany. Key findings of the project, which uses the example of the global fur industry to study the economic geographies of value creation, will be presented. Two keynote lectures will address issues of value creation from the perspectives of fashion design and economic geography. Three panels will take on key themes addressed throughout the conference:

  • The formulation of policies at the intersection of activism, fashion industry and government
  • The role of the media, old and new, in ascribing and appreciating value in the fashion world
  • The value of design and the responsibility of designers who, by making aesthetic choices, effect material consequences across distances in time and space
MISSING LINKS: Creating Value in Fashion