People tend not to take fashion business seriously as a legitimate source of creative, technological innovation and manufacturing growth.
As a longtime resident living in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, otherwise known as Canada’s Technology Triangle, I can say, with some sheepishness, that I am guilty of that line of thought. Here in the KW region, with two world-class universities and one of the best polytechnic colleges in Ontario, the focus has always been on technological innovation. It has never occurred to me (and perhaps to you as well) that fashion and clothing design could be technologically innovating and a driver of manufacturing and economic growth.
But slowly, this misconception is changing.
Cities like New York have recently come to realize the importance of reviving the local fashion industry. According to Aljazeera America, The city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have launched the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, providing grants to manufacturers for equipment or capital improvements, funding training programs to teach American workers specialized sewing skills. Furthermore, the Economic Development Corp. has granted $15 million to a relatively new venture, Manufacture NY, a massive space in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn dedicated to giving ousted factory owners a new place to build their businesses, with affordable rents in a part of the city zoned only for manufacturing. The organization also offers help to designers trying to start new businesses in New York.
Although the Canadian fashion scenes are more behind in this regard, industry leaders in Montreal are starting to take collaborative action: Jacques Daoust, Quebec’s Economy, Innovation and Exports Minister, has announced that the recently established mmode cluster will support the industry’s growth and competitiveness. The province of Quebec and municipality of Montreal are providing a total of $200,000 in startup funding. Several modern brands like Frank & Oak and Matt & Nat call Montreal home and have embraced digital and innovation in production.
Torontonian consumers spend a total of $3,816 per household on clothing each year which adds up to $5.8B a year of Canadian money spent on apparel. Therefore, it’s no overstatement to say clothing takes up a big part of our spending. It is perhaps high time for us to shift our thought paradigm in regards to fashion: clothing can be a driver of technology innovation and economic growth.