Journal Article

From hierarchical districts to collaborative networks: the transformation of the French apparel industry

Bruno Courault and Peter B. Doeringer

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 6, issue 2, pages 261-282
Published in print April 2008 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwm008
From hierarchical districts to collaborative networks: the transformation of the French apparel industry

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The French apparel industry has always had a distinctive industrial organization based on agglomeration economies of common skills and the need for direct coordination among fashion designers, manufacturers, suppliers and buyers. Often referred to as ‘garment districts’, these local clusters of apparel-related firms were dominated by small and medium-sized (SMEs) firms until the 1960s when mass markets encouraged the development of large firms using mass production methods and hierarchical contracting with smaller suppliers. Since the 1980s, delocalization of production along with dramatic changes in apparel retailing have almost completely destroyed large manufacturers and their hierarchical contracting arrangements. What remains is an industry in which SMEs are largely the survivors. While many of these firms remain marginal, there is a significant core that is developing new business strategies, more diversified competencies and new types of horizontal production networks. This paper examines the recent evolution of the French apparel industry from district to network forms of organization in two of France's main apparel and knitwear regions, based upon nearly 20 years of field research. This research identifies a set of countervailing factors to global outsourcing in which SMEs can have a competitive advantage.

Keywords: industrial organization; networks; varieties of capitalism; economic systems; agglomeration; hierarchy; L14 transactional relationships; contracts and reputation; L23 organization of production; L67 clothing; textiles; shoes and leather

Journal Article.  8195 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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