When people think of fashion, the first thing that comes to mind is a frivolous industry, in which only appearances matter. But the reality is that it is much more than that, and it plays an important role in the global economy.
When we talk about fashion, the conversation normally revolves around new collections from international fashion brands, new trends seen on the catwalks of the four fashion capitals (New York, London, Milan, and Paris), or the must-have clothing, bags, shoes, and accessories of the moment. Oftentimes, the conversation seems somewhat frivolous, but the truth is that fashion goes far beyond “it bags” and the trends of the season.
The fashion industry (excluding, even, the beauty and jewelry industries) is one of the most important for the global economy. Currently, fashion represents a value of 3 billion dollars. And, like any other large industry, fashion creates jobs: 1.8 million jobs in the United States alone (according to data published by the Joint Economic Committee of the United States) and 57 million jobs in developing countries. Yes, some of these jobs are for roles like Creative Directors of brands, but many of them are also jobs like cotton farming, factory work, and sewing. Then, there are the creative people in marketing and advertising, the couriers and drivers of shipping companies, and the salespeople in countless boutiques around the world. If we look at the numbers, it’s very clear that fashion plays an important role in strengthening, developing, and growing the world’s economy.
Fashion goes beyond ateliers and brands. We must also take into account the editors, writers, stylists, models, and photographers who help communicate the message and allure of the industry. This work is just as complex as making a haute couture gown. The fashion industry is one of the most important in the world; in fact, it is the second largest commercial economy in the world. Just as fashion affects the global economy, other industries and the economy, in turn, affect the fashion industry. For example, if the cost of raw materials, like cotton or silk, goes up, international trade agreements between countries change and, sometimes, international relations between nations are even affected. All these factors have an impact on the clothing you buy in your favorite boutique.
When talking about how fashion affects the economy, we must look at the income and thousands of jobs that are generated by Fashion Week. Twice a year, the four fashion capitals of the world host events that generate a lot of commerce—not only in the fashion industry but also in the restaurant, hotel, and tourism industries. A report published in 2017 by Fashion United states that the Fall / Winter runways of New York Fashion Week that year (which had around 150,000 visitors) generated 528 million dollars for different sectors in the city. For comparison, the Super Bowl generated 347 million dollars in the city of Houston that same year.
The fashion industry may seem simple and shallow to many, but when we take a closer look, we can see that it’s one of the most important industries in the world and intertwined with many other global sectors. In some countries, it is the main source of work for the majority of the population, and in others, it has become part of the national identity. Fashion is a way to express ourselves, but we are also cogs in the machinery of global economy.