Translating Fashion into Danish

With their association to enterprise and innovation, creative industries have emerged as a legitimate concern in national cultural and economical policy in many countries across the world. In Denmark, the fashion business, in particular, has been hailed as a model for successful (post)industrial transformation. In this paper, we explore the birth of Danish fashion from the ashes of the country’s clothing manufacturing industry, suggesting that the very notion of Danish fashion is indicative of – and enabled by – a development towards a polycentric fashion system. The intriguing idea that fashion could emanate from Denmark and secure growth, jobs and exports even outside the fashion business has taken hold among policymakers, and compelled the government to embrace fashion as a national project. In investigating the emergence and rising stature of Danish fashion, particular at home, we first establish a theoretical frame for understanding the cultural economic policy and the motives, principles and strategies behind it. Then – drawing inspiration from Michel Callon’s “sociology of translation” with its moments of translation: problematization, interessement, enrolment and mobilization – we identify the actors and analyze their strategic roles and interrelationship through various phases of the development of Danish fashion. Callon’s actor network theory (ANT) is based on the principle of “generalized symmetry” – originally using a single repertoire to analyze both society and nature. We adapt this principle to study the realms of market, culture and politics within a common analytical framework. In our analysis, the state responds to industry transformation, interprets it and develops its own agenda. But it can hardly be said to develop policies for the industry. On the contrary, we suggest, fashion is mobilized to lend its luster to the nation, its institutions and politicians.

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