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3rd International (Non) Western Fashion Conference: The Global Politics of Fashion
Date: 22-23 November 2014 
School of Modern Language and Culture

3rd International (Non) Western Fashion Conference: The Global Politics of Fashion

Global Creativity Industry
School of Modern Language and Culture
Faculty of Arts
University of Hong Kong, HK
22-23 November 2014

The third edition of the (Non) Western Fashion Conference is focussing on the politics of fashion from a global perspective. Despite so-called fashion globalization, the epicentre of fashion is still very much concentrated in Europe. But what do we really know about the global politics of fashion? How does fashion intersect with global politico-economic processes? What are the global power relations embodied in fashion? How do the meanings of fashionable and traditional dress relate to that hegemony? How should agency and orientalism be understood? What are the mechanisms that ensure that the centre of fashion is retained in Europe? How can alternatives be identified and how are they co-opted? What are the politics of fashion appropriation and exclusion? Is dichotomous thinking about fashion reified in the processes of fashion? Although much is written about the influence of western fashion in the non-West, relatively little research is done on what the appropriation of non-western fashion trends in western fashion really signifies. Also, even though trends have been coming from London, Deli, Milan, Shanghai, New York, Sao Paolo, Casablanca and Dakar it remains predominantly European designers who put them on the global fashion map, while Indian, Chinese, Hispanic Latin American, Moroccan and Sub-Sahara African fashion designers continue to be excluded from European Fashion Weeks.

This edition aims to focus on agency in the context of global fashion politics. Sandra Niessen (2003) argues in Re-Orienting Fashion Theory that ‘Eurocentric hegemonic fashion discourse aims to preserve a boundary between the West/Rest to both protect its position of power and to ensure the maintenance of a conceptual other for self-definitional purposes.’ But she also argues that conceptual traditional dress is just as much a tool for the non-West to differentiate and emphasize local distinctiveness. Traditional dress is rapidly being invented and reinvented to not only create a sense of belonging and stimulate the consumption of a culturally marketed Self, but also to further national interests, stimulate international tourism, influence foreign investments and as a tool for public diplomacy. In the process, self-orientalism is playing an important role whereby, contrary to orientalism, the orientalist gaze is used to turn oneself into the Other to create, maintain and strengthen a distinct cultural identity (Iwabuchi 1994). From this perspective, the Orient is not a defenceless and innocent victim of western orientalism, but actively uses the orientalist gaze to take agency. Therefore the question whether fashion globalization leads to cultural homogenisation deserves a new debate with a focus on the contemporary revival/(re)invention of traditional dress.

The (Non)Western Fashion Conference was initiated in 2012, with its first edition in Rabat (Morocco 2012) and its second in London (UK 2013). Its main objective is to provide a forum for scholars who focus on a wide variety of fashion systems and who wish to rectify a prevailing ethno- and Eurocentric discourse in fashion studies. Although fashion is historically located all around the world, many fashion traditions remain little known and therefore seem less important or influential. Many are misinterpreted due to binary oppositional thinking which creates false dichotomies like traditional versus fashionable, tradition versus modernity, western versus non-western, local versus global, and so on.
The conference aims to gather academics, curators, designers and industry professionals who are engaged in creative and critical thinking concerning (non)western fashion systems in a wide scope of geographical areas and from a wide variety of disciplines. Although it focuses on fashion from so-called non-western regions, it does not wish to be exclusive, but rather stimulate global perspectives. This is not to be mistaken for globalisation, which has been used to create participatory narratives in recent years whereby especially new economies are included in fashion discourse in the light of their recent socio-economic achievements, their convergence with the West and their successful engagement with fashion as consumers and producers. In order to understand fashion beyond Europe, it is important to refrain from thinking that it has only recently emerged as a result of globalisation (Riello and McNeil, 2010, Global Perspectives, 4-5).

Please note that it is not mandatory to present a paper to participate. You can simply send us an email (Christine Tsui –; Angela Jansen: and book your ticket by transferring the conference fee (covering the two-day conference, excl. lunch) to the following bank account, clearly indicating your name and NWFC14 as the reference for your payment:

Mulholland Capital Management
1 Queens Road Central, 
Hong Kong
Account nr: 848 560488 838

The conference fee is:
300 HKD for PhD students 
1000 HKD for regular participants

We will send you a confirmation of your payment by email as soon as we receive it. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact Christine Tsui at
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