Once upon a time, the fashion world was elite, buttoned up and well-bred.
Only the hoitiest of toitiest could afford the trends when they debuted twice a year.
Over time, the Milan runways gave way to glossy magazines, and the September issue of Vogue could incorporate cerulean into wardrobes the world over with just one spread.
The commercial creep never ceased, moving from high-brow to right now. Advertisers could create a sensation with one simple campaign featuring clothes sold in a shopping mall near you.
Suddenly corduroy is everywhere. That was the 90s. Today, fashion changes in an instant, with one post and one influencer at a time.
In terms of business, fashion is profiting. A congressional report in 2015 puts the annual figure at $1.2 trillion dollars “with more than $250 billion spent annually on fashion in the United States,” accounting for 144-thousand jobs domestically.
But here’s the paradox. This study by the Foundation for Economic Education shows how the earnings of the “global apparel industry” keeps growing and growing, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics has the stark, shrinking reality of some sectors within fashion.
From 1990 to 2011, the fashion manufacturing job market fell off a cliff. These are the hardworking people who cut, sew and assemble everything from underwear to overcoats. Many of those jobs are moving offshore, where fabric is cheaper and work conditions are loosely regulated.
Of the factories still existing in the U.S., some communities are doing better than others. The bureau shows they’re concentrated heavily in the eastern half of the country. Bottom line: demand for fashion is on the rise, manufacturing jobs are on the decline and the industry’s future is anyone’s guess.