Dividing Fashion?

Open Lecture

Javier Gimeno Martínez will discuss how, following the federalization of Belgium in the 1990s, fashion changed from being a signifier of national identity to being one of regional identity.

Belgian fashion established a narrow connection to Belgian national identity in the 1980s, which demanded reconsideration as the country’s federalisation progressed. As a consequence of federalization, the Restructuring Plan of the Textile and Clothing Sector – which lay at the origins of the Belgian fashion boom – stopped abruptly in the early 1990s.

From that moment on, fashion lacked public funding and promotional apparatus. The force of production and creative talent was concentrated for the most part in Flanders; initially however the Flemish government did not seem interested in boosting Belgian fashion. In the end, the Flemish city of Antwerp incorporated fashion as its most celebrated creative industry.

Regional identities stemming from federalization invoke interruption and continuity simultaneously. On the one hand they legitimate their existence on the basis of a “useable past.” On the other, they justify federalization by emphasizing difference and therefore establishing a difficult relationship to their own recent history.

Related People