Current Project (2016-2019)
Gangs, Brands, and Intellectual Property Rights
Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Luxury Brands
received funding from The Research Council of Norway through a FRIPRO Mobility Grant, contract no 250716. The FRIPRO Mobility grant scheme (FRICON) is co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Marie Curie grant agreement no 608695.
In 2010, Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the most famous and most powerful outlaw motorcycle club in the world, operating in more than fifty countries across the world, sued Alexander McQueen, the iconic fashion designer, for trademark infringement. This case brought to light the Hells Angels obsession with the protection of their intellectual property, an obsession that has since the 70s slowly spread across the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs at large. The fact that the most notorious and self-proclaimed outlaws take recourse to the very law they attempt to disregard raises questions about the nature of the encounters across the legal and illegal as well as of the strategic use of legal protection afforded by, for instance, the trademark law. The project aims at understanding the ways in which outlaw motorcycle clubs use the law and legal businesses to further their interests and acquire power across the spaces of legality and illegality. The project will specifically focus on outlaw motorcycle clubs in central Europe (Austria, Czech Republic and parts of Germany) and will utilize ethnographic and historical research, combined with media and legal analysis.
Enterprise of Culture
International Structures and Connections in the Fashion Industry since 1945
Fashion is often studied from a purely theoretical perspective, from a costume history or dress history viewpoint, or from a popular media-driven vantage point. 'The Enterprise of Culture: international structures and connections in the fashion industry since 1945' breaks new ground, using the fashion business to examine how various types of cultural encounters – between 'core' fashion cities such as Paris and London and 'peripheral' areas such as Sweden and Scotland, between style labs and the high street, and between fibre makers, clothing manufacturers, and retailers – stimulated innovation, and created a new and competitive industry. This European Union-funded project involves researchers from the universities of Leeds, Erasmus Rotterdam, Oslo, Newcastle, St Andrews, and Heriot-Watt, and from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Centre for Business History Stockholm.
Funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area II (HERA II), ‘The Enterprise of Culture’ seeks to explore the relationships among fashion as a cultural phenomenon and a business enterprise, and to examine the transmission of fashion as a cultural form across national and international boundaries by intermediaries such as educational institutions, media outlets, advertisers, branders, trend forecasters, and retailers. One of the major questions behind this project is how Europe rose from the ashes of World War II to rebuild and reshape its fashion industry, and how that industry has defined European identity in modern times. The creation of fashion ecosystems, as embodied in the branding of so-called fashion cities and a network of fashion weeks and fashion fairs, has contributed to the re-building of nations. European state and city governments increasingly dedicated resources to the fashion business in the postwar era. This made sense economically and culturally because fashion allows nations to ‘invent’ and ‘reinvent’ traditions, both as a central part of diaspora economics and as a symbol of the imagined communities of Europe as an assemblage of nations and of regions. This project seeks to deepen our understanding of these developments using an interdisciplinary approach that explores the relationships among enterprise and culture. Fashion is often studied from a purely theoretical perspective, from a costume history or dress history viewpoint, or from a popular media-driven vantage point. The Enterprise of Culture breaks new ground, using the fashion business to examine how various types of cultural encounters—between ‘core’ fashion cities like Paris and London and ‘peripheral’ areas such as Sweden and Scotland, between style labs and high street, and between fibre makers, clothing manufacturers, and retailers—stimulated innovation, and created a new and competitive industry. Over the next three years, the Enterprise of Culture team will hold a series of workshops, conferences, and public programs, will produce articles and books, and will launch a pilot oral history program on the history of the European fashion business. Our team of historians and management scholars has a strong commitment to public understanding and will work closely with non-academic institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Centre for Business History in Stockholm, the Marks and Spencer Company Archive in Leeds, and the sponsors of fashion-textile trade fairs throughout Europe, including Première Vision, Bread & Butter, and Messe Frankfurt. ‘The Enterprise of Culture’ is based at the School of History, University of Leeds.