Fashion’s economic potential

Monday, June 30, 2014

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IF we believe Ms Anna Wintour — the most powerful woman in the US multibillion-dollar fashion industry — when she opines that "Fashion is about looking forward and not back", can we in Jamaica now sit up, straighten those seams and be brutally honest about the folly that has zipped our struggling industry for far too long?

When, in truth, can we look forward, as Ms Wintour says, to the potential of our own fashion industry?

As it stands, in a world that has still not fully recovered from the recession, we in our well-crafted state of delusion refuse to unite under a single banner. We gleefully mount several productions and expect the fashion influencers to visit Jamaica several times a year. Indeed, why not? Our designers have as many followers as Mr Usain Bolt, right? And fashion editors are dying to see what we're up to, right? Better still, corporate Jamaica is awash with cash and eager to sponsor anything called fashion, right?

The logical thing to do would be to unite to power a too long fledgling industry and together present the best of our models, the best of our designers and, of course, the best of our country. This can be done twice a year as happens in New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

The economic and employment potential of that kind of organisation is huge. Anyone who doubts that just needs to look at the data from the events mounted in New York and London alone.

In 2012, for instance, New York Fashion Week pumped a record US$865 million into that city's economy, an increase of US$92 million on the revenue earned five years before.

According to the city's Economic Development Corporation, each year people are spending more on hotels and restaurants.

When you add to that the fact that in New York in 2012 the fashion industry provided employment for just over 173,000 people, you can understand why then Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not shy about highlighting the Government's role in promoting the industry.

In England, the fashion industry, we are told, provides an estimated 816,000 jobs and is said to be the largest employer of all the creative industries.

According to the British Fashion Council (BFC), London Fashion Week, which includes 58 catwalk shows and attracts 5,000 visitors, orders for the clothing paraded on the catwalk generate an estimated £100 million in sales each season.

The BFC's Fashion Report for 2010 states that the direct value of the fashion industry to the UK economy is £21 billion, while fashion's wider contribution to the economy in influencing spending in other industries is estimated to stand at over £37 billion.

In addition, Oxford Economics estimates that sales of UK designer clothing have been rising by around 20 per cent a year in the last decade, and are currently worth in the region of £2.9 billion.

This, certainly, is an industry that Jamaica can and needs to properly tap into. Staging events that often leave many designers frustrated and broke, with the audience wondering why they even left home in the first place, will not cut it.

The applause that greets mediocrity needs to end, and excellence must be recognised as the only acceptable standard.

This is an industry that can help Jamaica claw its way out of the economic hole in which we now stand. The Government and private sector interests need to start working towards that goal.




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