Thesis Title: Global Branding for Fashion Entrepreneurs: How Womenswear SMEs Design Their Firms to Grow Internationally
The purpose of this research is to identify the resources and capabilities utilised for brand development and internationalisation of entrepreneurial womenswear designer fashion enterprises (DFEs). This thesis presents an original contribution to knowledge by using the concept of dynamic capabilities as a ‘lens’ to explore the creation of brand identity in the context of the international fashion system. In the pursuit of its aim, this research defines a dynamic capability process of DFE brand development through the codification of elements of brand identity, recognising the influence of co-creation experiences. Furthermore, this thesis identifies the characteristics of DFE internationalisation behaviour, defining how the processes of brand development and internationalisation are related to each other and embedded in the capabilities of the DFE.
Entrepreneurial DFEs, recognised within the fashion media as ‘emerging designers’, are increasingly identified as key sectors for economic growth. These enterprises are largely wholesale, highly internationalised operations within the SME sector, strengthened and supported by a broad network. However, significant focus within academic literature centres on branding or internationalisation in relation to fashion retail or established luxury firms, ignoring entrepreneurial DFEs who are sources of innovation and creativity for the fashion industry. This research fills a gap in the academic literature by examining the brand development and internationalisation processes of entrepreneurial DFEs operating in the contemporary context of the global fashion industry.
Using grounded theory to examine the practice of entrepreneurial DFEs based in London and New York, this research incorporates theoretical sampling to direct data gathering from semi-structured in-depth interviews, observation at London, New York and Paris fashion weeks, and analysis of websites, social media and press. Constant comparative analysis refined emerged concepts into sub-categories, properties and dimensions surrounding the core category of the ‘collection lifecycle’. The findings of this research are organised according to aggregate dimensions of brand identity elements, and a hierarchy of operational routines, dynamic capabilities and organisational learning.
This research finds that for DFEs, the development of brand identity is a dynamic capability process embedded in and emergent from operational routines and capabilities. As a resource, the brand guides internationalisation. In turn, internationalisation behaviour requires interaction within the global fashion system that operates as a source for organisational learning, further adapting the DFE’s brand to align with market opportunities. In the explanation of this process, this research presents a theoretical framework and a series of eight propositions defining the product development activities, operational resources and capabilities, dynamic brand development capabilities and process of organisational learning that impacts brand identity creation and internationalisation.