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The commodification of ethnicity: Vlisco fabrics and wax cloth fashion in Ghana

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In this article, we position ethnicity at the heart of the marketplace in contributing to a more complex and multifaceted understanding of identity formation and commodification. We approach the commodification of ethnicity on two, interconnected levels in a globalizing world of fashion. We unravel the designs and discourses of the corporate company and textile producer Vlisco, based in the Netherlands, as well as the practices and ideas of fashion designers in Ghana who make abundant use of wax cloth fabrics. Of central concern in this article is how a corporate company and fashion designers in their designs and narratives unite an understanding of (fashion) identity as both ‘African’ and cosmopolitan, as an individual and collective expression. It is clearly not our intention to applaud these processes of commodification uncritically, fuelled as they are by global capitalism. Yet we do want to approach them as creative processes in all their complexity.
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Keywords: African fashion; African identity; Ghana; Vlisco; ethnicity; textile; wax cloth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: April 1, 2015

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  • The International Journal of Fashion Studies is a scientific peer-reviewed journal that fosters the worldwide diffusion of Fashion Studies. Fashion Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that has been producing an extensive repertoire of theories, analyses and enquiries.
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