Investigating fashion manufacture within international development : discussing intention and efficacy
Black, Julia Katherine
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This research examines the emerging role of fashion manufacture in the context of international development, as an example of market-led development. The role of fashion brands addressing development issues as a core tenant of their commercial operations is systematically analysed, from the perspective of both production and consumption. The research asks whether fashion manufacture can function as a valuable agent or tool within international development, and critically appraises if such practices perpetuate notions of dependency. This study is exploratory and interpretive in nature. Online discourse analysis was initially used to critically deconstruct marketing methodologies and language utilised within fifteen e-commerce platforms of ‘fashion for development’ initiatives, extending the scope of prior research. Following this initial mapping, the research was furthered by undertaking seven interviews in the Spring of 2017 with leading policy professionals, development charities, trade facilitators, socially motivated garment manufactures, and several ‘sole practitioners’ operating SMEs in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings indicate a constructive and nuanced discourse amongst professional stakeholders interviewed. Consultation of development professionals, trade facilitators, and socially motivated garment manufacturers established a profitable dialogue disclosing the intent of current practitioners. This study appraises the efficacy and intent of the discourse in light of current development literature. Results suggest, however, that care must be taken in the subsequent marketing of ‘fashion for development’ products to avoid troublesome tropes concerned with neo-colonial representations of beneficiaries. In addition, the research latterly evaluates the role of consumption within development discourse.