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Fashion Capitals of the World Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2021


The fashion industry spins for a long period of years since the recording of human history. It has been know to coexist with human culture for a long period. The fashion industry is a dynamic industry, which is a product of history and ‘an objective term that depends on context to give it its emotional qualities.’ For a long period of time, Paris and Milan have been considered as the two cities which house the origin of fashion and thus have been regarded as the fashion capital of the world for centuries.

However, after the Second World War, the fashion trend moved from the European high culture to the American ready-to-wear, and this trend directly encourages success in American fashion, as well as stimulation for designers in Japan, China, and other parts of the world. This was attributed to the starting of the concept of globalization. Everybody is left wondering and asking the hard question, can Paris and Milan maintain their position? In this research, evidence that shows that the US, Japan, and China are also able to be the new capitals are discussed. At the same time, some proofs that emphasize the undisputed identity of Paris and Milan are also included.

Thus, a conclusion can be drawn as they are still recognized as the capitals, but it is also undeniable that other countries are threatening their position with impressive works. This comparison will give a clear picture and help the fashion shoppers understand why there are so many renaissances of these two old cities as the world fashion center.


The fashion industry is a significant and interesting area. First, because of the multi-function nature of fashion, everyone can build a relationship with it, and thus my project would be in relation to everyone. Besides, the fast-changing characteristic of the fashion industry is also a factor to be considered and likely to influence the world fashion trends. There is neither a fixed theory, nor an everlasting phenomenon, nor a forever market in this industry. Its dynamic nature has helped it evolve from an industry dominated by the two cities to a multibillion industry with many players. Changes are taking place at every moment, thus, new questions and discussions are available at every time.

This research focuses mainly on fashion capitals. The function of fashion is largely diversified. Apart from serving the daily necessity function of clothing, it can also be regarded as an identity, both of an individual or a nation. The clothing culture identifies the people of a particular nation. Notable in this is the Nigerians whose clothing fashion distinguishes them from the rest of the crowd anywhere they are.

Moreover, it is a way of communication, to express one’s psychological status or social and cultural background. By being the fashion capital, not solely a national identity is built, but, huge trading revenue will be brought. This is because the fashion industry has evolved to be an economic powerhouse trading billion of currencies in individual countries. This is one aspect that makes this industry an important subject of study in modern times. It has diversified its function with time to become a prestigious industry. (Menkes, 2000)

Can Milan and Paris Remain as the Fashion Centre of the World?

Paris and Milan, the two major fashion capitals are taken as the main areas of study in this research. Their role as capitals can be dated back to the origin and history of fashion. On the one hand, their role as the fashion capitals is said to be undisputable in some articles. But the success of the US and Japanese fashion is notably recognized and the effect it has on the Paris and Milan fashion industry is being appreciated. Take Hong Kong as an example, Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the most popular shopping commercial centers and which house major clothing companies with fashions from all over the world including from the United States.

The change of the fashion market can be seen from the branch of a different brand, to be exact, over a half of the shops are brands from Paris and Milan. However, in recent years, a change has taken place that there are more brands from different parts of the world. The mass culture fashion is taking a more dominant role than before, from the role of clothing to play the role of luxury and recognition. With this changing aspect of the fashion industry, it is necessary to examine it in detail. (Menkes, 2000)

My question for this research is thus drawn from this phenomenon. Under this fast-changing industry, can Paris and Milan continue to be the fashion capitals? Will Tokyo become the new fashion-leading icon? Will the American culture of fashion gain more and more popularity and certainty?

As regards the chronological question, the time after World War II, where the first drastic change has taken place in the fashion industry will be examined. Before the war, the fashion trend was tending to the high culture. Clothes were mainly worn for cultural values.

Details of clothing, the textile used and the inclusion of religious affiliations were emphasized. After the war, especially the years after the 1960s, when the modern democratic society was starting its development, a new style of fashion emerged, is the ready-to-wear fashion. The latter one is quite different from the former one, instead of encouraging a’ cult of individuality’, the ‘trivial, the ephemeral and the superficiality of individual appearance’ is emphasized. (Menkes, 2000)

This research project will first discuss how Paris and Milan became fashion capitals. Afterward, the threats from the new world, including the US, Japan, and China, will be examined. Lastly, the work that Paris and Milan do in order to sustain their position will be explored, so as to answer the big question of this research to explore if they can continue to be the fashion capital under this challenging context.

Timeline in the development of Fashions

Before the Second World War, fashion designs were mainly for the royal’s purpose and it was considered a royal privilege. The development of fashion in Paris and Milan dates back to the rule of King Louis XIV who introduced Le’ Ballet as a noble behavior. Together he brought about expensive clothing designs for the nobles. He made a lot of money by modifying expensive fabrics and accessories for nobles and soon he was sought after by many princes.

Creativity led to the development of songs and dances to accompany ballet and later The Paris Opera House was established. Then King Louis established the court post of Haut Couture, meaning Royal Counts of French Nobles. At the same time, it is reckoned that Italy had developed the opera and was practicing it. During the Second World War, in America, the government sank fabric fabrication to about 15% hence there was less development in fashion during the period of 1941 to 1945.

People became more inclined to fashion and women started wearing new clothes mainly shorter skirts. Americans were not as creative as the French or Italians but they developed good sports wears. It was Christian Dior who liberalized women’s wear at this time with her frail waist and wide skirts. At the same time, the Nazis wanted to move the Haute Couture to Berlin to give German women a Parisian look but it was resisted by Lucien Lelong leaving the luxury back in Paris.

Milan as a fashion Centre

Milan province of Italy has been accounting for 28% of the country’s gross income solely due to its fashion designs. It s the home of famous car brands, like Alfa Romeo, Pirelli, and others, but all of which don’t rival its fashion design industry. Italy has remained a fashion center of the world for a long time. It has rivaled France since the beginning of the 20th century in the fashion industry. Any tourist thinking of visiting Italy thinks of fashion.

For a long time Milan has been considered the fashion hub of the Italian cities although currently, Rome is also emerging as a major fashion center in Italy. Milan is famous for its fashion and shopping center renowned for fashion shopping like Montenapoleone. It holds the Prêt-a-porter fashion shows twice a year. Milan has been considered by many as the fashion capital of Italy and probably the fashion center of the world as well. (Menkes, 2000)

According to Mike Smith (2002), Milan is undisputed the center of Window-shopping in the world. He asserts that one does not even have to look at the clothes in the window but just watch the advanced ultra-chic Milanese strolling buy. Milan fashion culture has developed over time to a multi-fashion culture producing not only garments and clothes but also has produced fashionable fewer allies and motor brand over time. The development of fashion in Italy can be traced back to the 1950s when a fashion show was first held in Florence in 1951. This changed the perception of the Italians about the fashion industry.

They started viewing the fashion industry as an expression of their culture and class. Initially, the fashion designs were had a royal appeal which had fine and elaborate clothes. However Italian fashions changed drastically in the 1960s when fashion designers started producing clothes that were uniquely art but with a street-savvy taste. This developed to prêt-a-porter styles in the 1970s and 1980s. This popularity of the Italian styles led to the development of Milan as a fashion center. The Milan fashion styles have advanced with time to produce famous suits, jeans, and T-shirts that are famous in the entire world.

According to Giorgia (2001), Rome has risen to be a significant fashion center rivaling Milan in Italy. He asserts that the fashion glamour of Rome has kept Milan on its toes and the trend is likely to topple Milan in the near future. Milan has endured wearing designs or Prêt-a-porter while Rome has haute couture. Indeed Rome has rivaled Milan in many other fashion aspects. While Milan has fashion like Versace, Prada, and others, Rome has more famous and influential labels like Sorelle Fontana, Gattiononi, and others. In the near future, Rome may rival Paris in the fashion industry. Hence Milan has faced fierce competition not only from other parts of the world but also from within the country itself.

Milan has wakened to this challenge of the world and has been reawakening to reposition itself as the leading world fashion center. Indeed, all over the world, the “Made in Italy” label has been a prestige to many people going for fashion shopping. It is this fame that Milan wants to restore.

Paris as a Fashion center

Paris has been the center of world fashion for a long time. Perhaps Paris started developing to be the center of world fresh fashion, and new styles, during the time of Charles Fredrick Worth who live from 1826 to 1895. He revolutionized the fashion industry and was the first to be called the fashion designer of the world. He acquired this title due to his outstanding clothing works which amazed all people. According to Nathalie Fiset, this legacy remains up to date with some fashion icons like Paris Hilton being world celebrities.

Up to date, the Worth fashion design is still very popular with all people. Paris fashion legacy brings a memory of the industry players like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and others. In the 1800s fashion designs were mainly for the royals and they slowly started trickling to common people. Worth is accredited with having helped to develop fashion for common people when he set up his Maison couture, the fashion house in Paris.

They created a legacy that remains up to date with many designers attracted to fashion shows in Paris. Women designs were upgraded which Elas Schiaparellin opened the Paris Boutique which specialized in women designs in the late 20s. The effects of World War I were seriously felt in the Paris fashion industry and many had to close down. But after the war, Christina Dior re-established the fashion industry in Paris with the introduction of new-look waste-tight fashions.

But what went wrong and how did Paris lose its fashion culture? It is very evident that today many boutiques in Paris are stocked with American hip-hop styles. Major clothing boutiques stock casual tops, flowing skirts, birth color clothes, expensive jewelleries, and all manner of dresses designed in American and Japanese styles. Many famous shopping malls in Paris like Rive Gauche, Forum des Halles, and others all have stocked American clothes. Walking down on the streets and avenues of Paris one would definitely mistake the crowd for Americans. French people have completely changed their styles. (Menkes, 2000)

The change is evident more in females than in males. Men have been slow in adapting to baggy Jeans and T-shirts that are the fashions of American men. It is worth noting that other cities like Milan, London, New York, and others are all having styles and fashion shows that were once dominated by Paris. They have impressive shows same as those which were once held in Paris. A walk through Paris reveals that American culture has taken on the city not only in fashion but also in music trends and foods. According to Suzanne Krider (2007), all this can be attributed to the aspect of globalization. Globalization has led to a mix-up of people and integration of culture. It has helped people have a different taste from what they have been used to.

Competition in the fashion industry

The two fashion centers have faced fierce competition from all other major cities of the world. Notable competitors to the two are Japan, China, and the United States. With the spirit of globalization and the integration of culture, people are really trying something different from what they have been having. The world economy has been leaning toward the capitalist view and all the fashion companies are trying to expand to other parts of the world to keep to the competition.

While the fashion industry in Milan and Paris has remained committed to quality and high-level invention, other companies in China have leaned to producing fast-moving clothes with little regard to quality. Modern consumers have changed their perception and are preferring less durable but fashionable clothes to high durable expensive fashions. This perhaps is one of the factors that have led to the fierce competition that is being witnessed in the fashion market today.

Japan has been growing as a fashion hub and is on the verge of competing with major world fashion cities like Milan, New York, Paris, and others. To keep up with this competition, Japan has held fashion week and is planning to expand it to boost its image as the design center of the world. It has held the Tokyo Collection in each spring and autumn but these shows can not match similar one held in other fashion centers.

To this effect, it is planning to expand it to Japan Fashion Week to be held for a period of two weeks with an aim of attracting world-renowned designers. It is also to help the local designers like Yohji Yamamoto who is the leading designer to unveil their new design in the local market instead of the overseas market like they have been doing. According to Suzy Menkes (2000), this shows that Japan is committed to becoming a leading competitor in the fashion industry.

Shopping malls in Japan are filled with fashions from France and Italy. Currently, Japan is undergoing a renaissance in the fashion industry taking in creativity, inventiveness and styles. The French Luxury House is placing a bid to recapture its old market and is expanding its operation in Japan increasing the stores and providing more variety. This shows how still Paris designs are famous with the shoppers in Japan.

New York City is the home of some of the world best known designers. It holds a billion dollar fashion industry. It has served for a long time as port for fashions entering America from Paris and Milan. But on due course, it has developed some of the leading designers to house competitive fashion factories which has exported the fashions all over the world. According to Dena Fischer (2007), the 2004 fashion show saw participation of the world renowned fashion icons like Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein and others generating $253 million. One the culture that have really benefited from globalization is the American culture.

It has been able to be spread to other parts of the world and at an alarming rate. American culture has recorded adoption not only in its famous hip-hop music but also in its fashion designs. It has been a big threat to the old Milan and Paris fashions. As we said earlier, fashion shops in Paris are all stocked with clothes from New York and reflecting the New York culture. New York is said to have fashion for every one since it has Parisian and Milanian fashions in their stores.

American culture has been marked by tight jeans for women and baggy jeans and T-shirts for men. It has taken the world by storm and shopping malls in places like Hong Kong are said to be filled with these American fashions at the expense of Paris and Milan fashions.

But it is argued that the American fashions are not so much embedded to the culture of the people unlike the Milan and Paris fashions. The Paris and Milan’s fashions are a real reflection of the people’s culture. It is not comparable to the sophisticated fashions of Italy and France which reflect the life of these people. American fashion is not taken seriously as other fashions. According to the Times of India (2007), New York topped the list of the world fashion center of 2007 carried out by the Global Language Monitor.

On the other hand, china’s clothing industry has been lifted by the end of the global quota on fabrics at the begging of the year 2005. It is to be understood that china’s export grew by 20.5% and by 22% in the first seven months of the abolition of the quotas. It has grown tremendously and by the figures released recently, china accounts for 28% of the world’s exports in terms of clothes and 15.8% in terms of textile fabrics.

This is just a glimpse of how the textile industry has grown in China and shows how it is bound to grow if the abolition of the quotas continues. According to TDC press (2006), China has created a lot of competition to Paris and Milan in the fashion industry. However, it is the Paris industries like Vuitton which has expanded the textile industry in China. Louis Vuitton, which was acquired by the American Yves Carcelle, has done its best to revolutionize the fashion industry in China and Japan.

India though not having developed full-blown fashion industry has made some tremendous steps towards achieving that goal. The industry is estimated to be growing by 11% and it has grown to be a big business estimated to be worth over $50 million. It is still small compared to the rest of the world. India has made steps in the fashion industry and in September for example, 60 designers participated in the cat-walk at the Willils Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi. It was 5 days event to be held twice a year and attract more hat 160 buyers with 70 of them being international.

The efforts of Milan and Paris

According to Lucie Muir (1998), there has been a rush in Milan city to open up retail stalls to take a share in the fashion industry. Major word fashion labels and shop owners have set base in the city. There is an increase mono-label store in the Via della Spiga, Via Montenapoleone, and others have changed to house new fashion stores like Miu Mui, Dolce & Gabbana, and others. According to Business Alert (2000), the European Union has also applied for revision of textile agreement with china in a bid to create a level playing field in the textile industry. Indeed Milan has worked to reclaim its position as the fashion center of the world.

Paris has responded in the same way with established fashion companies like Sicily and Vuitton making an advance to have their appeal worldwide. Others like Woolworth have opened up retail chains not only in major cities of the world but also in developing nations. In my view, fashion companies in Milan and Paris should try to keep their value and not get washed away by the tide of the American and Chinese cheap fashions. As we said earlier, true fashion is embedded in people’s culture and the fashion of Milan and Paris is a culture adopted by many people in the world.


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