The Italian Fashion System: Between Historical Heritage and Industrial Districts

This paper will analyze the Italian ‘fashion system’ in a historical perspective, following Kawamura (2005) and Donzé & Fujioka (2021). Scholars have mainly explained the emergence of an Italian fashion paradigm linking its development to the organization of the industrial districts. In this work, I will consider a long-term perspective to highlight the persistence of a ‘luxury culture’ in manufacture in specific areas and its adaptations over time. In particular, the focus will be on the interconnections between the enduring presence of craftsmanshift and industrial/post-industrial structures. I will evaluate this process also comparing the main historical characteristics of the French model with the Italian fashion system in the 20th century. The literature on the fashion industrial districts has been considerable, with many case studies, able to shed light on the dynamics of the development of the productive areas (Merlo 2003; Alberti 2006; Pinchera 2009; Capalbo 2012). Districts represent prominent areas for the development of textiles and fashion in Italy, and have contributed to forming a ‘district culture’ that has subsequently spread to other regions. However, globalization and international economic crises have changed the traditional structures of the Italian districts, so that some scholars have spoken of the possible end of the districts or of their strong evolution, sometimes involutionary (Belussi, Sammara 2005; Biggiero 2006; Guerrieri et al. 2001). In this regard, this paper takes into consideration some case studies to highlight recent developments. In particular, the industrial policies connected to the widespread cultural demand for sustainable products that are capable of countering the crises.