Representative Carolyn Maloney’s proud to tout New York as the epicenter of fashion — and she now has some more statistics to help back her up.
Maloney, who unveiled the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee’s report on “The New Economy of Fashion” Thursday, noted that more than 40 percent of the country’s 18,000 designers are based in New York, although Nashville, Providence and other U.S. cities are also helping to further domestic manufacturing. Overall, more than 1.8 million people work in fashion in the U.S. and nearly $370 billion is spent on apparel and footwear here each year.
While many Americans are familiar with designers like Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, Maloney said nearly 18,000 designers are working in the U.S. — a figure that has doubled in the past 10 years. New York and Los Angeles are still the dominant cities, employing two-thirds of those designers. But San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Miami, Dallas and Boston, as well as Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City; Boulder, Nashville and Providence are gaining ground.
Maloney said the report outlines how the fashion industry is changing, due largely to technology, e-commerce and 3-D printing. “A lot of the high-value components of the fashion supply chain are here in New York — fashion, design, development, marketing — although companies may be manufacturing somewhere else. And some of the redirected jobs are coming back from overseas. It’s interesting how these regional clusters are working like Nashville and Providence.”
“We can’t find good numbers to compare [New York] with London, Milan and Paris. I just believe in my heart that we have every reason in the world to promote New York as the fashion capital of the U.S.,” Maloney told WWD. Having reached out to executives at Ralph Lauren, Maloney said she hopes to have a few of them join her at a press conference in September. Her plan is to highlight what Lauren has done as a designer in terms of employing people, global sales and bolstering the industry. “I’m not in the field — I’m in government. But people say he absolutely revolutionized marketing and sales, and everything in America.”
Maloney continued, “The sheer amount of work that is taking place in New York shows that we dominate. We have to find the numbers to prove that there’s more economic activity out of New York. When I meet [some of] the designers from these [other] countries, they sound so snobby. They say things like, ‘Why is New York even trying to design? You can’t design — only Paris can design,'” Maloney said. “What do you mean? We’re selling more than you are, and we’ve got more people buying our high-end and low-end than you do.”
She also said that China has seen some production for U.S.-based brands shift to Vietnam and other countries. “In fact, someone was bemoaning the fact that China is now being undercut by Vietnam,” she said. Despite the fact that “we may be making a lot of fashion overseas, there is a huge value here in the U.S.[-based fashion industry] in terms of the types of jobs. There are over 183,000 [fashion] jobs in the city of New York and it’s about 6 percent of the city’s private-sector workforce — jobs in research and development, design, marketing.”
During a press conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology to go over the report’s findings, NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen drew attention to her New York-made outfit — a Rag & Bone dress and Rachel Comey earrings, adding that “her whole staff is lectured every morning to be sure they are wearing something made in New York.” More substantive was the fact that in the past year, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has tripled the investment in Made in New York initiatives to more than $15 million providing mentoring and training. “Again, we want to look at the whole eco-system of fashion so we also have programs where we’re providing working capital and other resources for local manufacturers. It’s really the nuts and bolts of the industry that will allow us to grow because if you can’t afford the latest technology, how are you going to be able to keep up with the orders? As a young designer, you can’t run your business on a credit card. There’s a limit to that. We want to be a place that people can come to and be able to grow their business.”
Earlier this week, Glen revealed the Designers & Agents: Made in NY Collective, which will directly support the participation of designers at trade events taking place during New York Market Week. The deputy mayor also told attendees Thursday how Made in NY has connected emerging businesses with more than 75 industry mentors, showcasing more than 150 local fashion brands to an estimated 650 million people. In addition, more than $4.5 million in financing and prizes have been awarded to emerging and small businesses.
Soon off to South Carolina to campaign for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Maloney said she is “up-to-her-neck supporting Hillary. It’s not because she’s a woman. I think she’s the most qualified candidate.”
But other duties will be waiting back in the Beltway. Maloney said, “I will probably be there for the weekend. I have a real job so I have to show up to vote in Congress.” As for the bipartisan showdown surrounding speculation about the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement, she said, “That’s going to be a battle. The nerve of them to say we’re not even going to confirm. You don’t even know who he’s nominated. It’s terribly disrespectful.”