Urban fashion policies: lessons from the Barcelona catwalks
Since at least a decade, Barcelona is on the world map of fashion: Antonio Mirò, Mango, Desigual, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada are famous Barcelona-based stylists teaming up with other large Spanish fashion firms, like Zara, and commercial outlets, like El Corte Ingles, to attract a large interest on local fashion and fashion-based events. Thus, Barcelona has become a straightforward “shopping destination” for millions of international visitors, developing a shopping-related image, various specialised “fashion clusters” for different market targets, and a number of fashion-related events attracting both professionals and a dedicated general audience, like the 080 Barcelona and Bread & Butter. Barcelona’s liberal and leisure-related image can be easily associated with fashion, so if the national capital Madrid retains its role of business capital of the country even in relation to fashion, Barcelona could be considered the emergent “catwalk” of the Mediterranean, challenging other fashion capitals of Europe like Milan and Paris. The article analyses the urban strategy to foster the fashion industry in Barcelona through a redefinition of the “soft” factors establishing the substance of a fashion capital: image, place qualities, events, connectedness and social embeddedness. Tourism, unsurprisingly, is an important component of such strategy. The growth of Barcelona to the stardom of international leisure and cultural tourism is mostly about the “liminal” nature and the symbolically-charged activities of visitors that can be easily extended to fashion and fashion buying behaviour. Through a number of interviews and the analysis of strategy documents and reports, the authors unravel this relationship and assess the effectiveness of this strategy face to other factors playing against a more enduring rooting of fashion industries in the city, like the volatility of the sector, the insufficient international connectedness of the city and its business orientation, and the reorientation of the tourist supply towards low-cost visitors segments.
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