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A model of fashion: endogenous preferences in social interaction

Listed author(s):
  • Viviana Di Giovinazzo
  • Ahmad Naimzada

The aim of this paper is to investigate the dynamics of the fashion cycle as originally described by Simmel (1904). The theoretical models used in the more recent economic literature (Stigler & Becker 1977; Karni & Schmeidler 1990; Matsuyama 1992; Coelho & McCure 1993; Corneo & Jeanne 1997) have the undeniable advantage of making the cycle widely applicable, and consequently appropriate for the analysis of the most varied fields of consumption activity. However, in the process, the originality of Simmel's thought has been lost. Since they are built on the principles of standard economics, the above-mentioned models generally assume that preferences are exogenous and overlook the fact that individual tastes change in time, partly in line with choices previously made by the social group. This paper proposes a model of the fashion cycle in which conspicuous consumption 'snob' and 'bandwagon' preferences (Leibenstein 1950) are determined endogenously and depend on previous consumption experience, both personal and that of other consumers. Thus the particular contribution of this work in comparison to the preceding economic literature is dual in nature. By assuming preferences to be endogenous, it reflects more accurately the dynamics causing perpetual motion in the fashion cycle. By assuming preferences to be shaped through the social interaction of a heterogeneous community of individuals, the model manages to identify more closely the psycho-sociological nuances that, according to Simmel, give rise to the cycle.

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File URL: http://dems.unimib.it/repec/pdf/mibwpaper235.pdf
File Function: First version, 2013
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Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 235.

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Length: 18
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision: Feb 2013
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:235
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  1. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Conspicuous consumption, snobbism and conformism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 55-71, October.
  2. Karni, Edi & Schmeidler, David, 1990. "Fixed Preferences and Changing Tastes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 262-267, May.
  3. H. Leibenstein, 1950. "Bandwagon, Snob, and Veblen Effects in the Theory of Consumers' Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 183-207.
  4. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-92-11 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Coelho, Philip R P & McClure, James E, 1993. "Toward an Economic Theory of Fashion," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(4), pages 595-608, October.
  6. Jess Benhabib & Richard H. Day, 1981. "Rational Choice and Erratic Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 459-471.
  7. Di Giovinazzo, Viviana & Naimzada, Ahmad, 2012. "… Do as the Romans do. A model of conformity with the endogenous formation of preferences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 654-658.
  8. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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