Abstract: Pioneers of "Fashion" Businesses: Comparing the Origins of Haute Couture and Management Consulting

Matthias Kipping and Francesca Polese


The purpose of this paper is to compare the origins of the haute couture business and the management consulting industry. While an increasing number of authors have been comparing the rise and decline of new management ideas with fashion cycles, there has so far been little research comparing the actual organizations that produce and sell these "fashions." Do the two types of businesses also exhibit similar characteristics? How were both sectors transformed from a previous, artisan stage into a "modern" business? How did the firms manage to legitimate their roles as purveyors of fashion? What was the role of trade associations in this process? To answer these questions, the paper will look at the formative stages of both haute couture and management consulting from the end of the nineteenth through the first decades of the twentieth century. We will compare a number of crucial characteristics of the early firms in both industries, including their geographic origin, their internal organization, the role of branding and reputation. We will also look at the efforts to create trade associations and their success in defining and defending the boundaries of the industry both toward new entrants and toward outside actors such as the state.