Global flows, local encounters: spatalizing tacit aesthetic knowledge in high fashion

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High fashion knowledge depends upon global flows. Designers, stylists, photographers and models
circumvent the globe regularly, along with the clothes themselves. Further, images of fashion shows
are flashed around by the world’s press and fashion magazines. In this way, fashion knowledge is
apparently global and free flowing. However, fashion knowledge is also locally situated, depending
upon closed and local networks of actors within metropolitan centres of creativity. Much knowledge
distribution therefore depends on face-to-face interaction, especially at major industry trade events.
In this paper, based largely on fieldwork at Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, London, I
consider the particular spatial dimensions of knowledge within high fashion. Firstly by mapping and
situating fashion’s knowledge within the dominant literature on knowledge transfer and flows, I apply
terms such as ‘buzz’ and ‘atmosphere’ to capture something of the local nature of fashion knowledge,
albeit ‘local’ might just as easily refer to London as to the streets of SoHo in New York. Indeed, rather
than assume local and global as fixed, spatially bounded entities, it is therefore more useful to see
how space is actively rendered through ‘scaling’ by buyers in the process of positioning and connecting to wider fashion networks. Secondly, I argue that fashion depends on tacit aesthetic knowledge
which is embodied, sensual and performative. This case study of fashion attends to the long-standing
bias in social science studies of knowledge and the economy which tend to bias towards cognitive
knowledge and markets in ‘hard’ commodities. It therefore extends our understanding of the complexity of marketplace calculations and existing definitions of economic knowledge by recognizing how
sensual, aesthetic and embodied capacities are important to fashion marketplace calculations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages19
JournalSPACES - online
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010


  • aesthetic knolwedge, fashion, fashion buying

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