Cumulus
VALID: Value in Design

CULTURE AND GLOBALIZATION:
A CASE STUDY OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY

ABSTRACT

This paper examines four theoretical models of cultural globalization using the fashion industry as example of the production and dissemination of global culture: the cultural imperialism thesis, the cultural flows or networks model, reception theory, and a model of national, urban, and organizational strategies toward cultural globalization.

Global commodity chains provide a potential channel for a form of cultural imperialism, particularly by means of global advertising images, with powerful racial and sexual overtones, disseminated by major apparel and athletic shoe companies. While in other forms of culture, such as the media, the activities of analogous firms are being partly offset of the emergence of media production on a regional rather than a global basis, regional firms disseminating fashion culture appear to be weak and undeveloped. Companies in developing countries are heavily dependent on companies in advanced countries. Only in the luxury fashion industry is it possible to discern a network of companies, mainly based in advanced countries.

A third model, reception theory, theorizes the effect of global cultures on audiences and particularly on their sense of cultural identity. Images disseminated by clothing and athletic shoe companies have had powerful effects on consumers and have increased sales and profits. They have also elicited a great deal of criticism and resistance. The latter has taken the form of an international social movement protesting the manufacturing policies of many of these companies.

A fourth model examines the strategies available to national and local governments for resisting the effects of global cultures and to organizations for transforming national and local cultures for global dissemination. Here again the advanced countries have more options than the developing countries.

Each of these four models is useful for interpreting specific aspects of cultural globalization. Juxtaposing these models, rather than assessing them separately as is usually done, suggests areas where information is lacking and where additional research is needed.