Fashion and Apparel

The fashion and apparel industry encompasses a wide variety of garments and uses almost every type of textile manufactured. It is generally subdivided into two categories: clothing for men and boys and clothing for women and girls. According to SelectUSA, a service of the federal government, U.S. textiles, which includes the fashion and apparel industry, "is one of the more important employers in the manufacturing sector..., representing 2 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce."

New York City is often seen as the heart of the U.S. fashion and apparel industry, and almost 75 percent of salaried fashion designers are employed there. But California, Georgia, and North Carolina account for about 44 percent of all workers in the textile industry. The manufacturing side of the industry includes workers who produce apparel such as those who use patterns to cut a variety of textiles into apparel's individual pieces, and assemblers, sewers, pressers, and inspectors to create the apparel from the textile pattern pieces. Clothing production also requires the support of workers that include fashion designers to design the article of clothing; patternmakers to draw and construct a pattern for the garment based on the designer's specifications; merchandisers and retail buyers who place the apparel in stores; and retail salespeople who sell the finished garment to consumers. Others who work in the fashion and apparel industry include fashion models, marketing and advertising professionals, and administrative and support staff. As of 2010, slightly more than 7,800 private business establishments in the apparel manufacturing industry employed around 158,000 workers.

Economically, the apparel industry is a key segment for investments, revenue, trade, and employment worldwide. Despite changes in how garments are produced and made available to consumers, which indicate declining employment opportunities in the manufacturing sector, many of the operations at apparel factories are difficult to automate because of the large variety of fabrics and the intricate cutting and sewing required of most fashions, so the fashion industry is likely to remain labor-intensive in coming years. Employment is projected to be strong for workers in retail apparel and accessory stores. Pressing machine operators, custom tailors, and workers whose skills can be used in laundries and dry cleaners also will have strong opportunities. Workers who have knowledge of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing will have the best employment prospects.

Trends within the fashion and apparel industry that may influence U.S. employment in coming years include consolidation of businesses in the retail sector, increased use of e-commerce by consumers, improved technology decreasing the need for garment manufacturing workers, and the continued use of cheap labor in countries such as China to produce apparel. SelectUSA, however, reports that the U.S. textile industry remains competitive, falling in third behind the European Union and China in global export value. According to SelectUSA, U.S. textile exports saw an increase of 14 percent between 2010 an 2011, with more than 80 percent of those exports shipping to countries partnering with the United States in free trade agreements.

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