Talk: “Made in Italy or Made in China?” (Prof. Gaoheng Zhang)

Since Marco Polo, intercultural and trade relations between China and Italy have flourished. In recent decades, the two countries faced strenuous competition in the manufacturing sector. According to conventional wisdom, while Italian fashion represents creativity and refined style, mass production characterizes ‘Made in China’ garments. Dr. Zhang’s talk will focus on the textile and clothing industry in Prato, Italy, which has become emblematic of the presumed conflicts between these two modes of manufacturing.

It is right in the heart of Tuscany, in Prato, that a Chinese diaspora has been increasingly involved in the production of low-and middle-end ready-to-wear fashion. For some local industrialists, this is an unwelcome development, as it damages their businesses and the ‘Made in Italy’ label. Others have argued that this evolution has been beneficial to the ‘Made in Italy’ fashion sector. What has been the role of the media in conveying these dynamics to the public? And why should we care about the ‘Made in Italy ‘and ‘Made in China’ label? Dr. Zhang will use the Prato case study to provide insights into the complex relationship between two of the biggest producers in the ‘fast fashion’ market: Italy and China.

A related exhibition titled “Global Routes: China, Italy, Toronto” will be on display at UBC Robson Square during March 17-April 14, 2017.

Dr. Gaoheng Zhang is Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at UBC. His research specializations include Chinese immigration to Italy and Italian-Chinese relations.  He was educated in the fields of Italian Studies and Comparative Cultural Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University (B.A.) and at New York University (M.A., Ph.D.).

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