The Enterprise of Culture

Denim on stage: university meets industry at Denim City in Amsterdam

Date 30 October 2015 (9 am-6 pm)
Venue Denim City, De Hallen, Amsterdam

This one day public conference explored the history of denim from its origins in France through the American invention of modern blue jeans and the contemporary manufacturing and marketing of denim and jeans around the world.

Although denim is often perceived as a symbol of American culture, denim fabric originated in Europe and has a long history. Yet it was only when denim trousers were riveted that the first modern pair of jeans were created in the late-nineteenth century. Since that time, jeans have been transformed from the worker’s humble garment into a symbol of non-conformity and youth protest and then into a fashion item of high social status. Meanwhile, the manufacturing of denim and jeans has relocated from the USA to Japan, China, Brazil and Turkey. Recently, the Netherlands has become an international marketing cluster for the global denim industry. The conference explored this history and culture with a roster of international speakers.

Speakers included researchers and curators from the USA, Europe and Japan, and representatives from denim companies in Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. The focus on a particular type of product—denim textiles and jean garments—allowed us to explore the inner workings of the fashion system in a microcosm. All three of the Enterprise of Culture project themes—national identity, gatekeepers and globalisation—came together in this event.

A roundtable discussion considered the future of denim and, in a twist on the gatekeeping theme, opened the floor to debate.

The day ended with the official launch of the Indigo Archive, a new archive at Denim City which will house 501 denim garments contributed by brands, industry leaders and iconic denim tastemakers. Items from Adriano Goldschmied, Hisao Manabe and Simon Guiliani were officially received into the archive

The conference attracted fashion researchers, professionals from the fashion industry, curators, archivists, academics, students and wider public audiences. More than 160 people registered for this very successful and well received event.

This conference was organised by Erasmus University Rotterdam on behalf of The Enterprise of Culture: international structures and connections in the fashion industry since 1945, a three year pan-European collaborative research project funded by HERA II (Humanities in the European Research Area II), in collaboration with HTNK fashion recruitment & consultancy. The event was hosted by House of Denim in Denim City, Amsterdam.

Download the conference flyer.

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