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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." The research group IBISWorld reported that the global apparel manufacturing industry generated $618 billion in revenue in 2015.

New York City is often seen as the heart of the U.S. fashion and apparel industry, and about 40 percent of all salaried fashion designers are employed there. But California, Texas, and North Carolina also account for a good percentage 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 2014, the apparel manufacturing industry employed around 142,860 workers, according to the Department of Labor.

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.

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, ranking fourth behind China, India, and Germany in global export value. According to SelectUSA, U.S. textile exports saw an increase of 45 percent between 2009 and 2014, with more than 60 percent of those exports shipping to countries that are partners with the United States in free trade agreements.