Working in Fashion: The Most Beautiful Job in the World?

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On Wednesday, December 9, 2020, Professors Renate Stauss and Sophie Kurkdjian of the Department of Communication, Media and Culture organized the first talk in an event series running throughout the 2020–21 academic year entitled Fashion Talks at AUP: Between Despair and Hope. The inaugural lecture, which took place online, saw invited speaker Giulia Mensitieri present her book, The Most Beautiful Job in the World: Lifting the Veil on the Fashion Industry.

Mensitieri holds a PhD in social anthropology and ethnology from the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and is also a research fellow at IDHE.S-Nanterre. Her research encompasses the transformation of labor, new forms of domination and exploitation, and the political weight of the imaginary in the fashion industry.

In her talk, which focused heavily on the aspirational notion of “dreams” in fashion, she introduced her methodological approach to ethnography and discussed the key findings of her two-year study of one stylist’s working world. She maintained that, for her, fashion was not an object of study in and of itself, but rather a means to analyze capitalism. “Fashion is an urgent field to understand capitalism and change it,” she explained.

After introducing her research, Mensitieri suggested three oxymorons to help the audience think through some of the contradictions inherent in the industry: overexposure versus underpayment, prestige versus precariousness, and self-fulfillment versus self-exploitation. In a highly political and passionate talk, Mensitieri inspired the audience to think beyond the use of “dreams” in fashion images, instead hoping to foster much-needed collective action that aims to halt the spread of precariousness in the industry.

You can watch Mensitieri’s full talk below.