"Fashions: Business Practices in Historical Perspective"

Joint with the European Business History Association

Program committee

Francesca Polese (Chair), Bocconi University: Regina Lee Blaszczyk (Co-chair), University of Pennsylvania & Hagley Museum and Library; Franco Amatori, Bocconi University; Per Boje (EBHA President, 2008-2009), University of Southern Denmark; Albert Carreras, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Jeff Fear, University of Redlands; Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, University of California, Davis; Elisabetta Merlo, Bocconi University; Mark Rose (BHC President, 2008-2009), Florida Atlantic University.

Fashion, as a concept, refers to much more than the way we dress. For this joint meeting of the Business History Conference (BHC) and the European Business History Association (EBHA), we define fashion in two ways. First, we see fashion as a set of ideas and activities associated with business firms and institutions that persisted over time. A fashion was a durable but often time-bound business practice or conceptual horizon in production, management, marketing, strategy, taste, style, politics, trade, or finance. Fashion as a concept describing business firms and institutions directs our attention to trends, habits, and rules that delineated what was done and what was not to be done. We particularly encourage participants to look at the role of firms, associations, government, consultants, media, and other agents in spreading "fashionable" business styles. As well, we seek presenters who explore fashions in entrepreneurial action, corporate organization and governance, in economics and business studies, and even in the writing of business history. For example, we would welcome papers that trace the flow of business history scholarship into cognate fields such as political science and sociology. Equally valuable would be presentations describing popular ideas about what took place in earlier periods of business. We approach fashion in each of these arenas not as a passing fancy, but instead as a fundamental influence, a horizon of the possible in business that was (and perhaps remains) embedded in concrete practices delineated by discrete turning points that made the previous practice or set of ideas "un-fashionable."

In keeping with the conference's location in Milan-one of Europe's great industrial and design centers-we encourage papers on the business of fashion itself. In this second way of understanding fashion, we refer to the creation of consumer goods whose appeals rested on values such as utility, practicality, design, aesthetics, style, and cultural symbolism. Whether in Renaissance Florence, nineteenth century Europe, or post World War II America, those commodities and their meanings were part of a complex interplay between the parties who created, purchased, and used them. Furthermore, while fashion-industry entrepreneurs and companies have recently emerged as icons of globalization, those actors were also deeply rooted in local contexts and enmeshed in constellations of relationships that included designers, manufacturers, distributors, advertisers, retailers, and consumers. Among many factors, we seek to understand how the local related to the global. Consistent with BHC and EBHA policy and long-time practice, the program committee also will be pleased to entertain submissions not directly related to the conference themes.