The Stylish Money-Making Avenue

At first glance, all you may notice are the dramatic sleeves, sequins, ruffles, and yet another time-specific trend walking the runway. But behind all the heavy leathers and bold prints is the business side of fashion. The biannual fashion month has a massive economic impact on the cities that host the fanfare. We’re talking serious money here.

No one knows this better than New York. A 2014 financial report conducted by New York Representative Carolyn Maloney and the US Congress Joint Economic Committee showed just how lucrative fashion could be. In that report, published in the WWD (Women’s Wear Daily), New York Fashion Week (NYFW) made close to $900 million in revenue in 2014 for New York City. To give a little perspective on how huge that is, the Super Bowl and the US Tennis Open, only made $500 million and $700 million respectively in the same year. But how does a week turn over that much cash?

For starters, NYFW draws a following well into the 100,000 during this this week. 2014 saw more than 230,000 attendees to the runway shows alone. Add the fact that there are showroom visits and industry trade shows, that figure goes to over half a million people. The visitors and everyone involved in making Fashion Week run are going to spend on accommodation, transport, restaurants and other amenities to support them through this fashion time. That translated into $547 million in direct visitor spending.  The only event that overshadowed this gains in the same year was the FIFA World Cup that was hosted in Brazil. It brought in over six million visitors to Brazil and an estimated three billion in direct spending.

The event itself requires an extensive workforce that needs to be paid. Maloney further indicated in the financial report that 900 fashion companies employed over 180,000 people concerning activities that would facilitate the fashion event. This included 16,000 manufacturing jobs as well as other jobs that were typically shipped overseas. Styling takes a precedent in the payment hierarchy, with top stylists earning $8,000 a day! A less in-demand stylist can earn $10,000 for the entire duration. Both the Production and PR, as well as, the Hair and Makeup Companies earn anywhere between the $5,000 to $15,000 range during that week. Dizzy from the math yet?

(Photo: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)
(Photo: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)

With the advocation for model’s wages rights, more models are being paid fairer wages for walking at Fashion Week, instead of the ‘keep an item of clothing’ kind of payment. Fashion Designer brands can pay anything from $150 to $1,000 per model for the week. One brand can use 10 to 20 models in one runway. With just those figures in mind, it is easy to see how that translates into around $11 billion in wages and a good $2 billion in tax revenue. The money train doesn’t stop there. There are over 300 shows at fashion week and each designer that gets a coveted spot pays a pretty penny for the platform to showcase their new designs. The average cost to show at Fashion Week falls around $200,000.

Backstage briefing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg (Photo courtesy of AFI)
Backstage briefing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg (Photo courtesy of AFI)

If you want a closer-to-home example of the business ‘Fashion Week’ effect, you just have to look to South Africa. The first leg of the African Fashion International’s (AFI) Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in South Africa was the popular Joburg 2016 (MBFWJ) edition on 10th-12th March. According to AFI Group Marketing Manager, Sizwe Nzimande, approximately 8,000 people came to see the new collections in person. Hotels, restaurants and social establishments in the environs of the Sandton City’s Nelson Mandela Square definitely profited from the influx of people. Over the three days, 100 models, 42 M.A.C makeup artists and 25 GHD hair stylists, came together to complement the designer’s design language. Job creation, production promotion, Joburg tourism elevation, oh my!

The financial impact of fashion week is a force to be reckoned with. It has its own ecosystem that breathes some excitement and much needed revenue into the system. Although Fashion Week is beginning to move away from the current model to more private viewings (talk about coming around full circle) with gains like these, I doubt that they will do away with the biannual activities completely.

Perhaps it will morph into another form of buzz-worthy pandemonium. The overall lesson that can be taken away from these findings is that any fashion industry in any country can be as profitable as it wants to be. Not only would the local fashion oriented players benefits, but the city that surrounds it. It’s a legitimate business that needs to be looked more critically. I just can’t believe we haven’t fully tapped into this yet.

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