The Economics Behind New York Fashion Week: How the Work of European Designers Transcend New York’s Clothing Market

By: Esha Dokar

A look at how the economic impact of NYFW is felt beyond the world of fashion and couture.

New York Fashion Week: Explained

For two weeks out of the year, the entire city of New York is overrun by Italian models, French designers, and kilometers of fabric. New York Fashion Week is a biannual global event where close to 500 brands showcase their collections on the runway for eager audiences. Before 1988, fashion was decentralized; New York Fashion Week started to gain traction as individual designers had additional shows around the city. After 1988, this model started to collapse, more designers began to sign on, buyers were flocking to the shows, and attendance grew more streamlined. When Lincoln Center became the epicenter of the show, New York Fashion Week became the spectacle we know and see today. As one of the most watched fashion events in history, it’s not surprising that the week is able to generate an economic boon for New York.

A Near Billion Dollar Week

What is surprising, however, is how big of a boom it generates: $887 million dollars per year. This figure is almost double what the Superbowl made in revenue for the city at the MetLife Stadium in 2014. Furthermore, the event draws in 232,000 people and generates approximately $532 million dollars in direct visitor spending. A report released by New York’s 12th District Representative Carolyn Maloney and the Joint Economic Committee details the economic benefits of fashion week for the city. One of the most important benefits involved shoring: how NYFW was responsible for bringing back jobs lost overseas. Europe, especially Paris and Milan, were seen as the only outlets for high fashion and couture, until New York took the fashion world by storm. The report states that fashion week brings in $11 billion in wages and $2 billion in tax revenue annually.

While what’s on the runway is always at the forefront of the discussion, what is behind the runway is the outstanding economic reach it has to other sectors. The industry creates jobs in areas such marketing, research, and textile manufacturing. Another production of New York Fashion Week has been joint government-industry initiatives, another piece of the report released by Maloney. A Fashion Institute of Technology alumni, Karolina Zmarlak received a loan from the NYC Fashion Production Fund, which helped her finance her own line and business. New York Fashion Week’s reach extends beyond the shows and the designers, it includes the attendees, government, and businesses that all include the quantifiable aspects of the economics behind the week.

The Unquantifiable Aspects

New York Fashion Week has many quantifiable macroeconomic impacts across the board. From its influence on the job market to government-backed initiatives, it has curried much money for the city. However, the true economic impact of New York Fashion Week lies above and beyond even the fashion market. In France, couture brands would dictate what to wear to millions of consumers looking at smaller, cheaper retail options to fulfill their desires. Similarly, New York Fashion Week influences printing techniques, materials, beauty trends, and designs. Some brands have the power to influence what other brands can do. According to a report by Yoko Katagiri of the City University of New York, the American consumer has been spending less on each piece of clothing they purchase but have been steadily buying more clothing in aggregate since 1992. Furthermore, volume of apparel consumed in the US has doubled, from 10 million to 20 billion annually since 2000, causing a 60% increase in volume consumption since 1991. As the brands in central to American high fashion continue to increase in size and collections, so do the number of replicas that fall from the retail markets. Furthermore, DeBlasio announced $5 million for programs that bolster existing fashion initiatives that help create manufacturing technology and worker training programs, another branch of the week’s impact outside of the runway.

Aside from the clothing market, New York Fashion Week also influences other spheres of art, such as home decoration. According to a report released by Janovic, the subtle colors and metal accents seen on the runway heavily influenced the colors and geometric schemes used in interior decoration. To be able to quantify fashion week’s impact on sources such as home decor and technology is impossible, but one thing is for sure: the true impact lies beyond the runway and in the hands of the modern consumer.

Works Cited:

Adams, Erika. (2014). The Staggering Economics Behind New York Fashion Week. Racked. Retrieved from https://www.racked.com/2014/8/28/7578991/fashion-week-economics

Fraser, Kristopher. (2015). The Economic Impacts of NYFW. Fashion United. Retrieved from https://fashionunited.com/news/fashion/the-economic-impacts-of-nyfw/201502105969

Shemtov, Baruch. (2016). New York Fashion Week Big Economic Impact. Maloney House. Retrieved from https://maloney.house.gov/media-center/in-the-news/new-york-fashion-week-big-economic-impact

Report: NYFW Economic Impact Close to $900M A Year. Women’s Wear Daily. https://theeconreviewdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/73a05-wwd_nyfweconomicimpact_h.pdf

Katagiri, Yoko. (2016). Firms’ Decisions to Enter a Market of Highly Differentiated Products: Apparel Industry and New York Fashion Week. CUNY Academic Works. Retrieved from https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1798&context=gc_etds

New York Fashion Week Influence Home Decor. Janovic. Retrieved from https://www.janovic.com/new-york-fashion-week

Image Source: Erika Adams, Racked Getty Images, 2014, Photograph. https://www.racked.com/2014/8/28/7578991/fashion-week-economics