This article seeks to lift the lid on the `black box' of fashion production by exploring the role of the customer image within the working practices of UK high street womenswear retailers. Following production of culture and symbolic interactionist approaches to the culture industries, the author suggests that the customer images — that is, practitioners' notions of the likes and dislikes of target customers — facilitate teamwork by smoothing conflicts that arise through the division of labour between designers, buyers and merchandizers. The customer image serves as an ordering principle that helps fashion workers to narrow down the wealth of competing ideas and generally guides their decision-making processes. The creation of colour palettes and `storyboards', as well as the selection and modification of sample garments, will be used as examples of how the ordering principle is applied by designers, buyers and merchandizers throughout the production process
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