State of Style Advocacy Day 2012

In 1973, there were more than 2.4 million textile and apparel workers employed in the United States; by 1996, that figure had dropped by 40% and has intensified in the last decade.  The textile and apparel industries have traditionally served a fundamental role in local economies by providing thousands of jobs and sizeable revenue streams for states including North Carolina, Alabama, Texas and New York.  In recent years, globalization and technological advances have played a significant role in the decline of the US apparel and textile industry. Trade agreements, such as NAFTA and GATT, have created an open market that encourages global competition and yields greater profits because of the lower production costs in other countries. Over the last ten years, the United States has suffered a trade deficit in apparel and textiles with imports accounting for a larger share of domestic consumption. While these imports have helped to keep prices low for most consumers, they have been a contributing factor to declining employment and closed shops in the US textile and apparel industry.

To stem the tide of a shrinking market, we look to the workforce of the next generation to restore and preserve the health of the textile and apparel industry. These young designers are the business owners and jobs creators of tomorrow – the economic stimulus of the future, but we must provide the necessary tools and resources. Design schools such as Parsons and Fashion Institute of Technology have met the challenge, creating a pipeline of talent and graduating more design students every year. Also, fashion incubators throughout the country are serving as a great resource for growing designers providing added value to their professional development.

The National Fashion Incubator Coalition will focus on the future of the fashion industry by examining the U.S. textile and apparel industry, and efforts that encourage the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurship in fashion.

Author: Steven Matsumoto

Steven Paul Matsumoto is the founder of Seattle Fashion Incubator, and an active member of the Seattle business community. Currently Mr. Matsumoto sits on Advisory Boards for the University of Washington Fashion Certificate Program, and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.

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