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Abstract

In her article "Early Twentieth-century Fashion Designer Life Writing," Ilya Parkins examines memoirs of major modernist fashion designers in the, finding that the genre is characterized by a strong geographic cleavage between France and America, overlain by perceptions of epistemic difference. She compares Elsa Schiaparelli's and Paul Poiret's work, finding that despite their differences, the opposition between France as a locale of abstract knowledge and America as a site of empiricism allows them to claim, as French designers, a certain privilege in a profession characterized by an unresolvable tension between art and commerce. The encroachment of American industrial models in their industry, however, threatens their episteme and ultimately their senses of self. Designer memoirs are poignant archives of melancholy, a condition deriving from nostalgia at the perceived loss of an aesthetic orientation and way of life, and intelligible as a response to fashion's uneasy encounter between aesthetics and industry.

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