The Relationship Between Creative Workers and Localized Professional Institutions
The Case of the Parisian “Haute Couture”. A Longitudinal Study (1973 – 2010)
The globalization of the manufacturing of fashion products, for all product ranges, is now unavoidable. However, most creative activities of the high-end fashion industry remain concentrated in a few capital cities. Besides, the Paris, London or Milan shows remain the ones with the most media coverage. The case of Paris, where the notion of “«haute couture»” has been invented, is therefore an interesting field to study the relationship between creative workers and localized professional institutions.
The framework if this study is neo-institutionalism (Williamson, 1975). The interaction between local regulation and cultural industries which includes fashion has been emphasized (Scott, 1998 and 2000). The importance of connections for creative and cultural industries has been emphasized (Chapain and Communian, 2010).
The presence of reputation leads to the use of a premium by firms, premium which is also a compensation for firms’ investment in reputation (Shapiro, 1983).
A longitudinal study of couturiers and fashion designers operating in Paris between 1973 and 2010 has been conducted.
To conduct this study, which is part of a management PhD study in progress, an induction approach has been used.
Direct access to all the reports of the « Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode » between 1973 and 2010 has been possible. Besides the governing body of the Federation, we met participants of the Federation, including former CEO’s of companies and also young designers who have recently joined the Federation and who joined the «haute couture» professional group.
The work of fashion designers choosing to belong to the French «haute couture» federation relies on the cultural heritage of Parisian «haute couture» dating from Worth (1858), and includes firms or actors still in activity such as Lanvin, Chanel or Dior.
Someone willing to become a “couturier” should have a sponsorship from a current member of the “Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne” to apply to this professional network.
Since 1945, a list of authorized Couture houses is published every year by the French Ministry of Economy. This system still exists, and gives Parisian «haute couture» a unique position in the world.
However, in the 1950s and 1960s came a growing competition from Italy. In the 1970s, the United States of America also developed their own high-end fashion industry. On a national level, the couture industry was also challenged by newcomers.
This situation was addressed in 1973 by the French fashion industry by reshaping its official network in a Federation which will include the new designers who did not want to fit into the constraints of “haute couture”. The federation also opened itself by admitting as guest members Japanese, Italian or Belgian designers. Besides, “haute couture” regulations, which were very strict, have been modified in with less restrictive conditions in 1993.
The findings suggest that the reputation of Paris, which is still considered as a hub for high-end fashion, is the main reason of the implication of creative fashion brands into this network. The belonging to this network thus allows them to include a premium in their products.