Fashion as consumer entrepreneurship : emergent risk culture, social network markets, and the launch of Vogue in China
Montgomery, Lucy & Hartley, John (2009) Fashion as consumer entrepreneurship : emergent risk culture, social network markets, and the launch of Vogue in China. In Hartley, John (Ed.) The Uses of Digital Literacy. University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, pp. 163-183.
China has a reputation as an economy based on utility: the large-scale manufacture of low-priced goods. But useful values like functionality, fitness for purpose and efficiency are only part of the story. More important are what Veblen called ‘honorific’ values, arguably the driving force of development, change and value in any economy. To understand the Chinese economy therefore, it is not sufficient to point to its utilitarian aspect. Honorific status-competition is a more fundamental driver than utilitarian cost-competition. We argue that ‘social network markets’ are the expression of these honorific values, relationships and connections that structure and coordinate individual choices. This paper explores how such markets are developing in China in the area of fashion and fashion media. These, we argue, are an expression of ‘risk culture’ for high-end entrepreneurial consumers and producers alike, providing a stimulus to dynamic innovation in the arena of personal taste and comportment, as part of an international cultural system based on constant change. We examine the launch of Vogue China in 2005, and China’s reception as a fashion player among the international editions of Vogue, as an expression of a ‘decisive moment’ in the integration of China into an international social network market based on honorific values.
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