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Assessing The Paris Fashionable Concepts Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2810 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The concept of ‘Paris fashion’ represents one of the most powerful and long-running place in modern history. But even a cursory examination of the way the term has been used draws attention to the complexity of the notion of the fashion capital, and to the complexity of the fashion process itself. The routine description of the city over the past 200 years as the capital world of fashion contribute to this understanding.


Figure 2.2 , Eifel Tower in Paris, Available at: http://www.eiffel-tower.us/Eiffel-Tower-Images/eiffel-tower-1.jpg

Paris is the ‘Fashion Capital of the World’. Paris has long been an international hub of fashion design. Paris is home to many distinguished design houses, such as Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chloe, Givenchy, Lanvin, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton. Paris is also a premier destination for shopping, with streets such as Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honre and the Champs-Elysees hosting boutiques from designers around the world.

Besides fashion and leather goods, Paris is has a number of well-known jewelers, such as Cartier SA, Boucheron, Chaumet, and Van Cleef& Arpels. They have their flagships at the famed Place Vendome.

Twice a year, Paris is home to a fashion week, where the city’s fashion houses present their collections. Designers from other countries also present their collections in Paris. Notable examples include Belgian designers Dries van Noten, Martin Margeila, and Ann Demeulemester; Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf; and Japanese deisgners Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Junya Watanabe.

Pinault-Printemps-Redoute and LVMH, the two major holding companies in contemporary fashion, are both headquartered in Paris.

Paris has been interpreted as a world centre of fashion because of its distinctive metropolitan cultures of consumption, both in the narrow sense of shops and shopping, and in a broader sense of the practices associated with the wearing of fashionable dress in the spaces of the city. There has been something approaching a naturalization of Paris’s relationship with fashion, often around the elevation of a certain construction of fashionable femininity to a symbol of Parisian superiority. [Fashion’s World Cities, David Gilbert, 2006]


Figure 2.3 , Christian Dior Haute Couture fashion show 2009, Available at: http://iamfashioncrazy.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/christian_dior_haute_couture_2009_01.jpg

Since the seventeenth century, fashion has been an important industry and cultural export of France, and modern “haute couture” originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris is considered one of the world’s fashion capitals, along with London, Milan, and New York City, and the city is home or headquarters to many of the premier fashion houses. The culture of Paris and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups. Paris, has played an important part as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth century, first in Europe, and from the nineteenth century onwards, world wide. From the late nineteenth century, Paris has also played an important role in modern art, cinema, fashion and cuisine.

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Paris is today the melting pot of diverse cultures. However, it still retains its own unique charm or attraction when it comes to ethnicity, geography and the French language. The once isolated local customs arising out of regional differences have matured to become a cultural identity that is unique to the heterogeneity. The culture of Paris (or to say France), has been largely influenced by mandatory defense service, the Franco-Prussian feud and World War I and World War II. The two world wars were responsible for the flood of cultural influences and centralized market forces.

Today, the people in Paris symbolize collective identity. The Parisian society is more inclined to believing in “public-spiritedness”, state “socialistic” spending, and in “public” initiatives. The Paris culture is characteristic of ‘chauvinism’, a term which is widely used all over the World (the countries of the West, esp. Europe and the Americas), integrated politics, universalism and the popular French grandeur. Although, now the traditional family structure has evolved from the joint family to nuclear. Most modern people in Paris prefer to relate to the term ‘French’ as a nationality and their language and not a measure of ethnicity, specific to the city. There are many immigrants from Africa, Asia and other European countries who have made Paris or France their home with diverse ethnic ascendants, resulting in interracial relationships.

According to Hofsted’s Framework for Assessing Culture, the culture of Paris is moderately individualistic and high Power Distance Index.

There is clearly a significant overlap between the cities routinely described as world fashion cities, like Paris, and those identified by Friedmann, Sassen and their followers as primary world cities or global cities. Given, in Friedmann’s terminology, the embeddedness of a ‘transnational capitalist class’ whose ‘ideology is consumerist’ in such world cities, and given fashion’s inherent elitism and consumerism, it would be very surprising if this were not the case. [Fashion’s World Cities, David Gilbert, 2006]

The acceptance of lebianism, homosexuality and gay marriages in Paris, speaks volumes for the broad-mindedness of the French. In fact, Paris’ mayor Bertrand Delanoë, makes no attempt to hide his gay identity.

In Paris, the French movies, music and literature are vibrant and multicultural. The language follows a preordain official ‘originality’ standard. French is spoken widely across the globe, inspite of the repression with regional and foreign languages in certain countries. It has become a part of the education forum and a popular option in many bilingual educational institutions. As far as religion goes, Paris is secular and dedicatedly adheres to the principle of ‘freedom of religion’, a political dictate that was enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789. A mix of Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews and atheists live in Paris and add quality to the essence of French character. So therefore, Paris is a multicultural society.

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries these cities have developed intense concentrations of ‘advanced producer services’, typically in sectors such as banking, accountancy, advertising, insurance, commercial law and management consultancy. Sassen argues that financial deregulation and the development of new forms of telecommunications, media and information technology, far from dispersing economic activities as some predicted, has created an aggressive new logic for their concentration of these activities as some predicted, has created an aggressive new logic for their concentration of these activities in a few great cities. Sassen further argues that increasing economic and social polarization has marked global cities, particularly London and New York. Alongside the development of advanced producer services has been a parallel development of a low-paid service sector, often characterized by a casualized labour force with a high proportion of immigrants. [Fashion’s World Cities, David Gilbert, 2006]


::::Downloads:Somerset House Strand.JPG

Figure 3.1 , Somerset House in London, Available at: http://www.the-magician.co.uk/images/Somerset%20House%20Strand.JPG

London as one of the world’s four fashion capitals, the London Fashion Week is one of the ‘Big Four’ fashion weeks, which is organised by the British Fashion Council. The current venue for most of the events is Somerset House in central London, where a large marquee in the central courtyard hosts a series of catwalk shows by top designers and fashion houses, while an exhibition, housed within Somerset House itself, showcases over 150 designers. British designers whose collections have been showcased at the fashion week include Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, while British models who have featured at the event include Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Jade Jagger and Jodie Kidd. Fashion designer Mary Quant was at the heart of the “Swinging London” scene of the 1960s, and her work culminated in the creation of the miniskirt and hot pants. Mary Quant named the miniskirt that she designed after her favourite make of car, the Mini. The English fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth is widely considered the father of Haute couture.

According to an article in the Time, yet behind this confection of a city peopled by the famous and beautiful, all dressed in the latest cutting-edge fashions, was a sense that the new London was a key site in much broader changes taking place across the Western world: increasing consumer affluence, particularly among teenagers and young adults, changing intergenerational relationships, and new attitudes towards popular culture, leisure and the body. [Fashion’s World Cities, David Gilbert, 2006]


Figure 3.2 , Cultural icons of London, Available at: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3d/London_cultural_icons.jpg

The London culture concerns the arts, music, museums, festivals and other entertainment in London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. The city is renowned for its theatre district, and its West End theatre district has given the name to “West End theatre”, the strand of mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres in London. London also homes to notable cultural attractions such as the British Museum, the Tate Galleries, the National Gallery, the Notting Hill Carnival and The O2.

An assortment of landmarks and objects are cultural icons associated with London, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the tube map. According to visiting tourists, there are a few other British cultural icons that are strongly associated with London , including the red telephone box, the routemaster bus, the black taxi or more famously known as the London cab and the Union Flag.


Figure 3.3 , The Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House in London, Available at: http://www.strollon.co.uk/UploadedDocuments/RoyalOperaHouse-25-02-09w.jpg

London has the famous, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia. There are also quite a few chamber orchestras, some of which specialise in period instrument performances, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

The city is home to more than 300 nationalities, and the diversity of cultures has shaped the city’s culture over time.

In London, rank, status and inequalities between people are reasonably low. This obviously shows in a number of ways, such as legislation protecting ethnic minorities rights. This is observed in the office where the relationship between superiors and subordinates is relatively casual and incorporates little ceremony.

London scores really high for Individualism. Therefore points to that fact that the British cultural values promote individuality. In London, the nuclear family is the more predominant form of basic social structure. In the business environment, the individual is more concerned with themselves rather than the team.

The level of power distance (uncertainty avoidance) in London is quite low. This means that the British culture is relatively open to taking risks and dealing with change, which can be seen in the constant revision of laws and government structures. In the workplace, conflict or disagreement, even with superiors, is considered healthy.


Figure 3.4 , The Sex Pistols, Available at: http://www.sexpistolsanniversary.co.uk/images/the_sex-pistols.jpg

London is really famous for its rock scene, and was the starting point of some of the greatest 60s and 70s band such as Iron Maiden, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen and very popular 90s bands like Blur, Coldplay, Radiohead, and Oasis that are still very popular to this day. Most of the major bands’ tours pass through London as well, favourite venues being the Brixton Academy, the London Astoria, and the Hammersmith Apollo.

In addition to generating of the bands mentioned above, London, in its capacity as the UK’s cultural centre, has served as the base of a number of internationally important acts, including David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, as well as being instrumental in the birth of dance music.

All these artists mentioned above, in their days and till date influence fashion in London and all over the world.

London has a thriving urban scene, mainly throughout the 21st century. Soul singers like Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Lemar have found themselves chart, and international success. R&B singers such as Leona Lewis, Jay Sean, The Sugababes, Taio Cruz and Alexandra Burke are also extremely popular. London also has a strong rap scene, which includes rappers like Wiley, Tinchy Stryder and Dizee Rascal among others have helped contribute to London gaining the status of having the strongest rap scene outside of the USA.

London has one of the biggest underground scenes in the world. Genres include Drum and bass, Uk garage, Dubstep, 2step and grime.

London’s ethnic population is growing strongly and this is having a huge effect on the culture. Indian food is now a significant part of London’s cuisine. Young black Londoners play a predominant part in the British music industry. Besides Afro-Caribbean and Indian culture, Bangladeshi, Polish and Middle-Eastern influences are also present.

In London, masculinity is somewhere in the middle. This may reflect the fact that British society and culture aims for equality between the sexes, yet a certain amount of gender bias still exists underneath the surface. The acceptance of lebianism, homosexuality and gay marriages in London, is cause of the all the stars who used to cross-dress for their performances, shows that people in London are broad-minded.

There are many other culture related attractions in London, including the Avenue of Stars, a walkway similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with stars commemorating notable individuals or groups.

Summary Table:

Paris & London


Both Paris and London are the fashion capitals of their countries.

The melting pot of diverse cultures is existent in both cities.

Paris and London are multicultural societies.

The acceptance of lesbianism, homosexuality and gay marriages in Paris and London, shows how broad-minded the people or society is.

There is a ‘freedom of religion’.

The rise of technology has led to London and Paris becoming more of open cultures.


Paris is the ‘Fashion Capital of the World’.

Haute Couture started in Paris in the 1860s by Charles Worth.

The people in Paris collective identity. The Parisian society is more inclined to believing in “public-spiritedness”, state “socialistic” spending, and in “public” initiatives. While London scores really high for Individualism.

Paris has a high Power Distance (rank, status and inequalities between people) Index, while London is comparatively lower.

Fashion culture in London was very influenced by the music scene, specially the rock scene, with the bands like the Sex Pistols in the 60s and 70s. While Paris didn’t have too much influence of music on fashion.


After extensive research and comparing the similarities and differences of both Paris and London’s modern day fashion scene, I realized that even though there are so many similarities on the surface between both cities but once you look at the details or to say under the surface you realize that each city is unique in its own way cause of their influences from cultural dimensions, societal values, history and technology, etc.


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