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Cutting-edge Nostalgia: New Zealand Fashion Design at the New Millennium

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The growth of a successful and internationalising New Zealand designer fashion industry has taken the country and often the international fashion community by surprise. This paper examines some of the factors which have contributed to that success. In particular it argues that the contents of the most successful collections draw not on the much vaunted New Zealand and Pacific influences, but on a cosmopolitanism which is deeply marked by both irony and nostalgia for an imperial European past. Thus the characterisation of New Zealand design as edgy and intellectual, owes at least as much to its sharp 'takes' on British, French and East Coast United States upper class fashion of seventy years ago, as it does to the so-called Kiwi ingenuity and outdoor-influences with which it has been credited. The paper argues that this design success embodies in a literal way the ethic of New Zealand neo-liberalism, with its nostalgia for a tradition which was never 'ours' and its imperative to exploit international markets.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.

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