The philosophy: The more creative a nation is, the more potential that nation has for economic growth. The Richard Florida Creativity Group has compiled an index ranking countries based on three measures: talent, technology and tolerance. In addition to innovators such as scientists, professors and artists, the fashion and design industries make up a huge portion of economic growth. The index argues that economic value comes not just from raw materials, but also from the design or aesthetic content behind those materials. “The fashion industry is perhaps the best example of value creation and consumption,” said Richard Florida, founder of the group. Below, a breakdown of the top 10 countries and what they are doing creatively that could be helping to motivate their economies.

1. SWEDEN
Creativity index: 80.8
Think Ikea. Think H&M. Think Volvo and Saab. Creative companies such as Ikea, a home furnishings retail chain, roll out products that are appealing — in design, function and price. The Helsingborg, Sweden, retailer currently has more than 200 stores in 30-plus countries. Stockholm’s retail giant, H&M, unveiled its fall clothing collection in New York’s Central Park in April: It consisted of heavy knits, tweeds and balloon skirts, WWD said.

2. JAPAN
Creativity index: 76.6
Japan, the land of innovation and technology, also breeds plenty of well-known fashion designers, known for cutting-edge innovations. Names such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe all hail from Japan and push the envelope every season.

3. FINLAND
Creativity index: 68.4
Finnish residents are known for taking pride in the architectural design of their buildings and structures. This year has been declared “Design Year Finland,” in order to promote the importance and potential that the industry has to boost trade and business. The celebration lasts throughout 2005 and includes hundreds of events in Finland and worldwide, with exhibitions, a competition and a design forum.

4. UNITED STATES
Creativity index: 66.6
Richard Florida’s book, “The Flight of the Creative Class,” argues the point that the U.S. is losing much of its creative talent to other countries. Still, the nation is recognized as part of the top 10. “New York alone cranks out a larger gross economic output than all of Russia,” Florida said. “It is one of the biggest drivers of the U.S.’s powerhouse economy — fashionable services, products and ideas have so much to do with that.”

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

5. SWITZERLAND
Creativity index: 63.7
Beautiful people, beautiful land, beautiful products. Companies in Switzerland have created fantastic and timeless lines of watches, including Rolex and Tag Heuer. Rolex, based in Geneva, was founded in 1905 and has been credited with making the wristwatch a popular accessory. To this day, many of its products are still made by hand.

6. DENMARK
Creativity index: 61.3
Danish design can be compared with the Danish lifestyle: laid-back and liberating. Architecture is hugely popular in this country, population 5,413,392. Danes have created famous structures such as the Sydney Opera House in Australia (Jørn Utzon), arguably one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Other notables include: La Grande Arche in Paris (Johan Otto von Spreckelsen) and St. Catherine’s College, in Oxford, U.K. (Arne Jacobsen).

7. ICELAND
Creativity index: 61.2
In Iceland, creativity is ingrained in residents at an early age, and thus, it has no problem retaining talent. A subject of the national curriculum is “Innovation Education,” a teaching method that is used to encourage children to discover their own solutions, invent new objects and redesign objects that already exist. An added bonus: Life expectancy is high here, thanks to a low infant mortality rate, a fish-based diet and excellent health care.

8. NETHERLANDS
Creativity index: 61.1
From a creative education comes a creative way of thinking: The Netherlands is populated with numerous design schools, including the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture, AMFI Amsterdam Fashion Institute and Gerrit Rietveld Academie (which houses graphic design, theater and stage design programs, among others).

9. NORWAY
Creativity index: 59.5
Norway, the fifth Scandinavian nation on the list, has an agency dedicated to the creative development of the country: Innovation Norway was formed in January 2004 by combining the Norwegian Government Consultative Office for Inventors, the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund, the Norwegian Trade Council and the Norwegian Tourist Board. It helps develop small and medium-sized entrepreneurial and innovative firms.

10. GERMANY
Creativity index: 57.7
From Volkswagens and Benzes to Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander, Germany is well represented in both the fashion and design industries. Germany prides itself on quality and functionalism — seen in much of its industrial design — and the fashion scene is much more discreet than other countries, focusing more on classic and clear styles.

Source: Richard Florida Creativity Group’s Global Creativity Index

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