Jul 3, 2013
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Study touts French luxury industry as economic force

Jul 3, 2013

How important is the designer fashion industry in terms of the economy? That is the question posed by a new survey released at the start of the Haute Couture fashion week, conducted by the French Fashion Institute (IFM) on behalf of the French Federation of Fashion and Ready-to-wear of Couturiers and Designers. The study’s purpose is to offer a quantified status report on the sector represented by the Federation and identify the strengths of the French designer fashion industry. It is a somewhat paradoxical task, proving the usefulness of luxury.

“We want to send a message to the government,” said Didier Grumbach, president of the Federation, whose one hundred members include the biggest French luxury brands. He posited that the government “tends to equate luxury with haute couture and is not aware that the grand couturiers are also the largest exporters of ready-to-wear. It is the designer label companies that are invigorating the French industry and continue to create jobs despite a difficult economic environment,” he said. Behind the glitz and beyond the red carpet is a real driver of economic growth — that seems to be the gist of industry advocates’ message.

And to back it up, the IFM and the Federation chose to use a representative sample of 30 member companies. The group alone represents 94% of the total turnover of the Federation’s one hundred members, the majority of which are considered “emerging” businesses.

The large luxury houses have been supportive of the effort and agreed to provide detailed financial information — a rare occurrence — for the purposes of the survey. These 30 companies generate a total turnover close to 15 billion euros and directly employ nearly 35,000 people worldwide. The survey does not include these companies’ fragrance business, but rather focuses on designer fashion and luxury across all product segments.

87% from exports

Breakdown of exports in the survey (IFM)

Japan continues to stay ahead of China in overall business for the brands represented in the survey. But the distribution of turnover by region unsurprisingly indicates the supremacy of Asia (46% of sales for all combined Asian markets) and a relative balance between Europe (excluding France) and the Americas, each at 17%.

A significant impact on European manufacturing

Breakdown of "made in" by product segments (source: IFM)

The luxury and designer sector has a big impact on French and European manufacturing, much more than is true for other textile industry segments, which generally outsource much farther afield. “If we consider the number of jobs generated by the amount of production (subcontract workers, subcontractors), it is possible to say that at least 41% of jobs in the clothing industry are related to orders from designer brands.” A good reason to protect embattled artisan skills and the local jobs that sustain them.

Different business sectors

The revenue share of non-textiles and leather accessories for those companies surveyed increases with the size of the company. A company that earns more than one billion euros in revenue generates 65% of this income with leather goods, whereas a company that earns less than 100 million euros only earns 20% from such merchandise. But women’s and men’s fashion and textile accessories still account for some 4 billion euros in sales per year, or 25% of total turnover for the companies surveyed (see above).

To sum it up, leather goods far outweighs other product categories, and this business mainly creates jobs for European workshops, specifically 67% according to the survey. Even better is the fact that 48% of designer ready-to-wear is sourced and produced in France and 44% in Europe, and only 8% is produced outside Europe.

To bolster their point, the IFM and the Federation have chosen not to use the term “luxury,” which is not mentioned anywhere in the document, replaced by the word “designer,” a broader and less frivolous concept. This careful choice of words says a lot about the reason for this survey, which attempts through numbers to soften the taboo that plagues the designer industry in times of economic crisis.

“We encounter the same problem with every change of government,” said Didier Grumbach, adding that the government “changes more often than the creative directors of luxury fashion houses.” A tenet yet to be verified by the IFM!

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