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Fan fashion in the Age of Creative Business


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Presentation held at FSN2018 in Fandom and Media Studies. This talk discusses fan fashion and creative business. In this paper, I will draw out a framework to study different forms of fan fashion, ranging from professional clothing lines that brand pop-culture to haute couture produced by designers and fans. I argue that we need to examine the space of the creative business in more detail, where fans and professionals increasingly exchange and create value in a platform economy.

Fan fashion serves as one example, but I shall show that the trend towards fan-driven business models and a fan-centric economy is a much larger one.

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Fan fashion in the Age of Creative Business

  1. 1. Star Wars on the Catwalk Fan Fashion in the Age of Creative Business
  2. 2. Star Wars couture ‘Founders of Rodarte, Laura and Kate Mulleavy, explained they mined nostalgic feelings and their “fascination with storytelling and cinema” to design the chic Star Wars gowns with film stills printed onto silk textiles’ They did a special photoshoot at the Skywalker Ranch. PAPER is the first fashion publication that George Lucas has granted access to the property., 2014
  3. 3. Introduction Fan fashion is booming and diverse - fan- made costumes, official costumes/cosplay, retail, and high fashion clothing lines. Today I’ll introduce you to some cases related to this, and show you a typology for analyzing this phenomenon *With fashion I mean both low (retail) and high
  4. 4. Embodiment and fandom Fan fashion as an example of how bodies, art and fan identity interlace (self- expression, enunciative identity) This phenomenon is not just fan-driven anymore, but increasingly facilitated by creative business itself
  5. 5. Fan-driven business models Platform economy (Uber, AirBnB but also Etsy, ebay) facilitates a change in value. Platforms monetize the activities of users and fans. The result? Radical changes in how we work, socialize, create value, and compete for the resulting profits. Urgent: We need to discuss business/economy more, rather than ‘labor’/’activity’
  6. 6. Explorative Typology I will propose a typology today, a definition and lots of examples to run by you. But this is explorative, based on some pilots. More research and case-studies are needed. Note that fashion overall (Kawamura, 2011) is not researched enough. Often devalued in academia; it’s seen as linked to women and outward appearance. (For more info, you can check my pIlot study in The Companion to Fan Studies of The Hunger Games fashion)
  7. 7. Defining fan fashion Fan fashion is the system of production and consumption of clothing in the “aesthetic economy” (Entwistle, 2015) of fandom and creative business. The fashioned body of the fan is a produced and cultural body. Wearing fashion is a bodily practice. In fan studies, these embodied expressions (including tattoos and make-up) can be studied further. They signify subcultural capital and identity clearly and visually.
  8. 8. Cosplay Fandom Fan fashion Design Fan design/ fashion Luxury fashion Retail/apparel Licensed Commissioned Self-created High fashion inspired by pop-culture Catwalks, exhibitions, online Fashion in pop-culture High-end clothing lines/labels Fan-made/custom Wearables (e.g. Red Bubble) Branded retail (e.g. Primark’s Pottershop) Typology of fan fashion
  9. 9. Catwalks Fashion shows like Her Universe at Comic Con push the boundaries of fan/geek culture and design/creative business. E.g.: LEGO dress worn by Ashley Eickstein The creative space and related audience is clearly still a fannish one; the fan convention itself.
  10. 10. Cosplay Since you have heard me about this often, I won’t detail, but this culture is very affective with a strong community and identity component This is a booming creative business also of official cosplays (especially in Japan), fast fashion/costumes from China and more. Fan labor matters here.
  11. 11. Couture Jan Taminiau’s Marvelous collection explicitly draws from female superheroes, comic strips, Marvel and more - intertext matters here and the designer performing fandom #popart
  12. 12. HIgh-end Clothing lines This is essentially luxury pieces, not your everyday fast fashion from Primark. Like Rag & Bone’s Star Wars collection or the Capitol Couture collection (by Trish Summerville who worked on Catching Fire’s costumes) designed for Net-a-Porter ‘features laser-cut leather, streamlined silhouettes and dramatic eveningwear.’
  13. 13. Fashion in Pop-culture Of course fashion also shapes pop culture and vice versa and this lines blends more and more. Think of Alexander McQueen’s pieces or Jan Taminiau’s that’s used in Hunger Games, or in Lady Gaga performances for instance
  14. 14. Custom wearables Business models that tend to emerge from fan artists/crafters who print on-demand and customize t-shirts, jewelry, leggings and more. Today this is easy with platforms such as Red Bubble. Customization overall is a big trend and technology (e.g. printing tech) will accelerate this change. This is the unofficial part of the spectrum, without licenses and small-scale (right now) but problematic when scaled up/bootlegging
  15. 15. Branded retail This is what we probably all have in our closet. Shirts from H&M with the Jurassic Park logo. Gryffindor shirts from Primark. Also the revival of ‘fake’ band shirts in a lot of mainstream shops which music fans also criticized last year (at least in my country). Also consider how businesses, bands and others create more ‘authentic’ versions of this that are true merchandise. The Disney shop’s clothing lines. Or shirts of Hard Rock Cafe that are collectibles in their own right..
  16. 16. Food for thought What I’d love to research further: a) How do fan artists view their self-made fashion and what are their business models? b) How does fan fashion relate to the emerging platform economy (e.g. Etsy)? c) What’s the relationship (and tension) between fandom and luxury goods? d) How is dressing up viewed by fans themselves? How do they culturalize fandom through their bodies?