Fashion design by Hylan Booker for Worth, 'Detroit-Born Hylan Booker Revitalizes British Fashions,' Afro American, February 8, 1969. © Afro American.
Third Time’s a Charm? Failing Twice to Reawaken a 'Sleeping Beauty' of Haute Couture: The House of Worth, 1968-1971 and 2003-2013
This paper focuses on how entrepreneurs might recover a cultural asset from a storied brand in order to reintroduce it on the contemporary market. How, if at all, is it possible to revive a long dormant brand? What have been the revival mechanisms of haute couture brands? What are the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs in the re-awakening of a sleeping beauty? How does a revived house re-appropriate its past? This paper seeks to answer these questions by looking at the house of Worth, which exemplifies the transformation of the sleeping beauty trade over the years. It builds upon a wide range of unpublished sources, including legal case files, newspaper articles, objects held in public institutions, visual material, and corporate websites. This empirical case study unfolds chronologically from the opening of Worth in 1858. It identifies the mechanisms of the revival, starting from Sydney Massin’s initial idea that it was possible to revive an extinct brand in 1968 by drawing on the brand’s date of creation to Martin McCarthy’s and Dilesh Mehta’s increased use of historical references in the re-awakening process between 2003 and 2013. The paper shows the difficulties of a relaunch a haute couture house, as well as the growing use of the past in revival strategies.
Talk given at the Business History Conference, Denver, U.S.