Fashionable Organization

“The Coevolution of New Organizational Forms in the Fashion Industry: A Historical and Comparative Study of France, Italy, and the United States”

The article, written by Marie-Laure Djelic, a professor at the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration in 1999, discusses the organization in the context of its “acute environment”. Djelic uses the fashion industry in Italy, France, and the United States as an example to help frame the discussion both a historical and comparative framework. Djelic looks to offer insight on how companies, specifically in the luxury fashion industry, experiment with new organization structures and solution in response to challenges and/or changes in the environment they operate.

The paper concludes that organizational change is “coevolutional”: “the process of change in the luxury fashion industry has been one of coevolution, where environmental transformation and organizational change have fed upon each other through time.” Stated another way, a company is affected by its environment and, at the same time, the environment is affected by the company. This process is different in each location, Djelic concludes.

Like any other industry, the fashion environment has been deeply affected by globalization, acute competition, the information technology revolution, and increasing customer sophistication. What was once a “relatively stable industry”, luxury fashion is now caught in a more “turbulent” environment. Companies have been forced to implement more flexible organizational structures.

Djelic then outlines the basic history and development of the luxury fashion industry in each country. He explores industry trends, organizational forms, definitions, methodologies. He then goes into detail on the organizational response to the changing environment in each country.

In conclusion, Djelic offers a brief summary of each country: The French fashion industry has been weighed down by “organizational legacies and institutionalized practices”. It has been less willing to explore new organizational avenues than its peers. The Italian fashion industry, by comparison, has constructed “flexible but relative stable networks with regular partners.” The American fashion industry has created a more “open network” with large use of outsourcing.

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