The fashion industry is a prime example of the changes to the United States urban economy. Cities can be defined by their density and scale, and New York has one of the highest population, employment, and density levels in the country. New York City is home to the nation’s largest “fashion cluster”, which is due to New York’s historical role as a center for apparel design, production, distribution and marketing. Fashion is strongly aligned with the new creative thrust of economic development and urban policy. The fashion industry is already an economic engine for New York City, due to the fact that creative people and innovations can be strong initiators of urban growth.
Fashion, similar to technology tends to create regional network agglomerations and strong headquarter cities. The fashion industry operates within agglomeration clustering similar to Marshall’s scale economies. Agglomerations are important not just for providing access to labor suppliers, but also because it advances the New York brand and social environment. The design sector is highly clustered in New York City. The industry relies on highly skilled labor as much as factories and economies of scale. Amenities and cultural capital are positioned to lure talented and creative individuals. The fashion industry needs to be broken down into four parts: manufacturing, wholesale, supply and design. These significant relationships can be seen in Figure 1. Like Jacobean economies, these four components are all inter-related and depend on each other to function and be successful in the industry. Ideas spill over from one component to another. Those in the fashion industry claim that this focus of talent and supply stores function similar to an ecosystem, where all of the parts make up the whole.
Figure 1: Fashion Industry Relationships
Fashion is a collective process where many different people are necessary. Fashion designers work together with fashion magazines and editors. It has become a design and innovation oriented industry. Certain events helped this transition: New York Fashion Week, Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily Magazines, and prestigious New York City design schools. The city’s New York Fashion Week generates an estimated annual economic impact of $733 million. Today, New York City is almost sixteen times more concentrated in fashion designers than any other US city. New York has clearly benefited from the branding fashion provides the city.
Apparel manufacturing provides over 20,000 jobs for working and middle-class jobs. This is about 30% of New York City’s manufacturing jobs. Executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space, Deborah Marton believes that “design and manufacturing are inextricably linked and what they produce is innovation” (Fenner, 2010). Before 1970, almost all of the United States apparel supply chain was located domestically and about 70% in large cities. Apparel industries have moved production offshore for cheaper labor,...