Conceptualising Luxury Fashion in China: A Postmodern Interpretation

  • Tiantian Ye

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


The overall purpose of this research is to take a new perspective to understand how contemporary Chinese consumers conceptualise luxury fashion consumption, as an imported phenomenon, from their own experiences. The research aims to develop a new framework to guide studies into consumer value in cross-cultural contexts. By adopting the qualitative interpretivist method, this study utilised Bevan’s (2014) phenomenological interview technique to conduct private interviews with ten Chinese consumers who were willing to share their personal experiences of luxury consumption and their perceptions of the importance of luxury fashion. The results of the research reveal that Chinese consumers not only characterise luxury four-dimensionally (Shukla and Purani, 2012; Shukla et al., 2015)—in financial, hedonistic, conspicuity and functionality terms—but also imbue luxury fashion with a unique contextual value that impacts the socio-cultural realm of their worlds. Chinese luxury consumers see luxury fashion as a ‘symbol of the West’ and the ‘art of life’ that they should aspire to. This research has filled the knowledge gap by reviewing the evolution and consequences of the spread of luxury fashion beyond the Chinese elite and into the middle-class market. This study indicates that the growing accessibility of luxury fashion has allowed less affluent consumers to partake of the luxury goods boom, but has caused elite consumers a degree of disorientation and alienation. Moreover, this research has expanded the field of behavioural studies on postmodernist thinking (e.g., Goulding, 2003; Firat and Venkatesh, 1995), and produced a framework that includes an instrumental value and aspirational value realm as an anatomy of the fragmented consumer experience.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLiz Barnes (Supervisor) & Patsy Perry (Supervisor)


  • luxury fashion
  • consumer culture
  • Chinese consumer
  • interpretivist paradigm

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