Producing 'Britishness' : globalisation and the construction of national identity in British fashion
British fashion is poised amidst a clutch of conflicting narratives, representations and ideologies. Through an examination of these rival encounters and the events that have gone to generate them, this thesis gives an insight into the culture of contemporary fashion, its dilemmas and the industry it supports. In particular, my discussion looks at the relationship between fashion and national identity. It posits fashion as a site central both to the re-branding of Britain and also to contestations over British identity itself, including the gendering of Britishness and its class relations. Using the cases of two iconic British fashion companies, Paul Smith Ltd and Mulberry Plc, I explore how the apparently straightforward and economically driven process of the globalisation of British fashion is, in fact, a far more culturally nuanced and locally embedded encounter than has previously been suggested. I unpack the different ways in which Paul Smith and Mulberry go about negotiating and sometimes even shaping and mobilising a sense of nationness in what is a rapidly globalising commercial marketplace. For in spite of their shared iconic national status both companies go about generating and deploying their self-confessed British character in exceedingly different ways. It is through an exploration of Paul Smith and Mulberry's contrasting corporate strategies, symbolic production techniques and product profiles that I investigate the different meanings afforded by the term Britishness. Indeed the thesis contends that, in the arena of fashion, Britishness is characterised less through some distinct essence or by a particular 'look' and more through its 'narratives of ambiguity'. In turn, it suggests that an understanding of these narratives goes some way in problematising and disrupting commonly imagined notions of Britishness borne out of Anglo-centric, androcentric and bourgeois tradition and, still further, it looks at how such notions might be re-worked in more multiple and complex ways.