Culture, structure, and the market interface: Exploring the networks of stylistic elements and houses in fashion


Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, Media and the Arts

juin 2018, vol. 68, pp.72-88

Départements : Management et Ressources Humaines

Mots clés : Culture, Fashion, Markets, Social networks, Structure, Styles

This paper explores how culture and social structure are intertwined in markets. Starting with the notion that markets are composed of both producers and cultural elements, a two-mode and dynamic social network approach is used to define social structure as a set of relations among producers through cultural elements, and culture as a set of relations among cultural elements through producers. The example of global high-end fashion in London, Milan, New York, and Paris between 2008 and 2013 is used. Data were gathered from a prestigious and influential design forecasting bureau which synthesized data about the stylistic elements selected twice-a-year by fashion houses for their collections. While at a granular level of analysis (looking at specific seasons), both stylistic elements and houses are less clustered than expected, they form in the long run a highly clustered structure, both culturally and socially. Intermediate-level analysis reveals that while elements are still less clustered than would be expected by chance, houses appear to some extent to be randomly clustered. This sheds light on a long-standing conundrum in fashion: why does it appear to be completely random, and yet highly legible?