Creativity of Fashion Design: An Economic Creative Lifecycle Analysis of Three 20th Century Fashion Designers

By Benjamin Nickerson. University of Chicago. 

Innovations and inventions are often cited as sources of economic growth. These drivers can be thought of as functions of creativity. To study creativity is therefore to study aspects of economic growth. This paper builds upon research on creativity done by Professor David Galenson of the University of Chicago, who has found that innovators can be categorized into two groups: conceptual and experimental. Conceptual innovators often produce their most innovative works early in their careers while experimental innovators dedicate their careers towards perfecting their craft and create later innovations. This paper analyzes the artistic and creative careers of three 20th century haute couture fashion designers in order to better understand what drives innovation in the fashion industry. Each artist’s career is systematically measured by three key metrics including museum exhibition records, auction price data and museum collection dates. Essays and reviews written by notable critics of the era further support claims derived from the data. This paper finds that Cristobal Balenciaga and Madame Gres are experimental designers while Yves Saint Laurent is conceptual.

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