WASHINGTON — The fashion industry, jittery about the faltering economy, cut payrolls across the manufacturing and retail sectors last month as the overall employment picture worsened and fears of a recession deepened.
Posting the biggest employment drop in more than four years, employers slashed a seasonally adjusted 17,000 jobs in January, a worse-than-expected showing, according to the Labor Department. The jobless rate slid to 4.9 percent last month from 5 percent, which some economists said was statistically negligible or simply a correction after the sharp jump in December to 5 percent from 4.7 percent.
"The incoming data continues to show the economy slowing sharply," said Nigel Gault, a U.S. economist at Global Insight. "Whether it is just stalled or heading into recession isn't yet clear."
Gault said he expects "more bad news" in the labor market through the middle of the year until consumers begin to feel the anticipated impact of the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest rate cuts and tax rebates being negotiated in Congress.
Economists generally agree that the U.S. has not yet felt the full effects of the housing slump, subprime mortgage crisis, tight credit and higher energy costs that have all combined to dampen consumer spending and depress retail sales.
On the retail front, apparel and accessories stores reduced their payrolls by 9,200 last month to 1.54 million, after cutting back by 7,900 in December following a disappointing holiday season. Department stores eliminated 3,500 jobs from payrolls in January for a total of 1.56 million, after gaining some ground in December by adding 4,800 jobs.
Domestic producers deepened their slump as foreign competition continued to erode the U.S. manufacturing base. Apparel producers trimmed employment by 2,500 to 202,200, textile mills cut payrolls by 900 to 162,000 and textile product mills eliminated 1,200 jobs for a total of 154,500.
"The clothing stores really took a beating," said Sophia Korpeckyj, an economist at Moody's Economy.com. "The housing market really affected consumer confidence and people don't want to spend. They don't know whether they are going to keep their jobs. Even if they keep their jobs, they may be working fewer hours and because of this uncertainty, people are more hesitant to open their wallets."Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research Corp., warned against reading too much into the retail employment numbers because the January report is based on a revision by the government.
"We get incredible revisions in everything from spending to employment [reports] and we have to really take all of these data with a grain of salt right now," he said.
The revisions notwithstanding, Yamarone said there were some "pretty hefty" job cuts in the apparel retailing sector. But he said merchants typically shrink payrolls back after the holiday season.
"Record gift card issuances lead to record redemptions and you need people to facilitate those transactions," Yamarone said. "Unfortunately, I think some retailers, particularly apparel specialty stores and department stores, just couldn't warrant holding on to their staffs after the redemptions."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast