City's FashionNYC2020 Report Outlines State of Apparel Industry, Plans for Growth

The results of the city's year-long study as part of its FashionNYC2020 initiative are in, and while some of the finer points don't look quite so promising, the city certainly has a few initiatives planned to get the industry growing.

FashionNYC2020 was kicked off last year by Bloomberg in an effort to take stock of the city's fashion industry and to pinpoint ways to bolster the business, ensuring that New York remains a global fashion capital. The study, which was conducted in partnership with Bain & Company, is another element in the mayor's expansive efforts around the fashion industry.

In the report's introduction, the authors note the "new challenges" that the industry faces, including "shifts in consumer preferences for what and how they buy and the rise of new technologies that call into question the viability of traditional business models."

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the 27-page study (which you can download and read for in its entirety yourself here):

  • The bad news is that the garment industry isn't really growing in the U.S. The biggest growth markets for fashion right now are Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • Shoppers are spending more at very high and very low price points, but they're spending less at "mid-tier price points," which is tough news for most department stores, where the bulk of merchandise falls in that middle ground.
  •  "Buy now, wear now" is king: The study notes that consumers are increasingly looking for "on-trend and in-season" products, and as such, retailers with vertical brand strategies -- i.e, a business that controls its entire supply chain and can thus quickly create new products -- are growing the fastest.
  • "Contemporary" brands such as "teen fashion and premium denim labels" are seeing pretty explosive growth. This is especially interesting where the booming Los Angeles fashion scene is concerned, as most of these brands are based out there. (Note Halston Heritage's recent move out there.)
  • Web and social media is affecting the way people are shopping, and in addition, shoppers are having a more direct impact on the items they purchase -- either by customization or "crowd-sourced collections."
  • Good news for eco-fashion: Sustainable goods are increasingly of interest to both designers and consumers.

There are some other interesting stats in the study, especially where fashion relates to the city's business: Fashion Week alone generates $532 million in visitor spending and $865 million in total economic impact every single year. Plus, retail in the city generates over $15 billion in sales every year, as well as $768 million in tax revenue.

To help bolster New York's stake in the great fashion race, the study identified two major "asset-building opportunities: Helping to develop a new breed of "management and merchant leaders," as well as making New York a "hub of innovation" for retail. No small tasks, to be sure.

Seth Pinsky, the president of the city's Economic Development Corporation, notes that the city is also launching a series of new programs -- in addition to the existing Fashion Campus NYC and Fashion Draft NYC -- to help bolster growing fashion businesses: Design Entrepeneurs NYC (in partnership with FIT), which will help designers "launch and manage fashion businesses"; NYC Fashion Fellows, which fosters "rising stars in fashion management"; Project Pop-Up, which is a retail competition; and the NYC Fashion Production Fund, which will help rising talents get funding for their collections. All of this, of course, is on top of the CFDA's Fashion Incubator program, which offers a select group of talented designers -- including Prabal Gurung and Bibhu Mohapatra -- with cheap office and showroom space, as well mentoring.

The FashionNYC2020 initiative is really yet another example of what makes New York such fertile ground for up-and-coming designers and innovators -- unlike some of its European fashion counterparts. That said, it's worth noting that while the FashionNYC2020 report and its corresponding planned programs are likely to increase the potential for growth in the city's fashion industry overall, it also makes no mention of the Garment District -- which has, of late, seen more and more designers leave its boundaries -- as a hub for said growth. 

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