Many Bostonians were proud of their Puritan heritage, but New England was also home to many hyphenated Americans who traced their roots to Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe. This chapter examines how America's largest fashion retailer integrated European imports into store promotions aimed to reach consumers at all price points. It focuses on the retail professionals who brought European fashion merchandise to the United States and created mechanisms for the dissemination of European style. Cultural analysis is extended to the activities of retail buying, fashion merchandising, and fashion promotion. The focus is on a key group of intermediaries, namely the buyers, stylists, fashion directors, merchandisers, and managers at William Filene's, who harnessed European prestige to sell fashion merchandise made at home and abroad to American consumers. These efforts produced successes such as Fashionations, until major social and cultural shifts upset the apple cart.
The fashion industry has long been a particular victim of the borders between academic disciplines that have pursued their own agendas and employed their own language with minimum dialogue with outsiders. This book represents a sustained interdisciplinary and global assault on such artificial constraints which have constrained much research on the fashion industry in the past. Many historical studies have heavily focused on the ecosystems of Paris, Milan, New York, and other fashion hubs. It breaks new grounds as the authors trace the actors involved, from the luxury conglomerate LVMH to retailers, including the iconic Swedish firm H&M. The book also emphasizes the work of fashion professionals who worked behind-the-scenes as intermediaries: trendsetters, retail buyers, stylists, art directors, advertising executives, public relations agents, brand managers, and entrepreneurs. It examines the transition from the old system to the new in a series of case studies grouped around three major themes. The book deals with the transformation of Paris from a couture production centre to a creative hub for design and brand management. It examines the special role of retailers and retail brands in promoting European fashion, with reference to transnational exchanges between Europe, America, and the wider world. The book explores seminal developments in a select group of global fashion hubs on the European periphery or entirely outside of Europe, and their roles in critiquing the mainstream fashion system with heritage marketing, vintage aesthetics, ethical brands, and local styles.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the postwar couture industry post World War II. It considers four major fashion retailers, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, I. Magnin in San Francisco, William Filene's Sons Company in Boston, and H&M in Stockholm, within the context of the revival of European fashion after World War II and the global democratization of fashion in our own time. The book looks to alternative visions of the European fashion system that have bubbled up in unexpected places. It highlights the relationship between core and periphery, and provides a discussion of the global context for value creation. The book also examines a constellation of people and places that are important to the European fashion system, even though they are at quite some distance, either geographically or symbolically, from any European fashion capital.