Ilse Metchek, the president of the nonprofit California Fashion Association, wants to make sure L.A.’s business leaders don’t forget that.
While the town’s entertainment, real estate and finance industries may garner more headlines with their multibillion-dollar deals, Metchek was quick to point out during a fascinating conversation last week that L.A.’s far-flung fashion business is much bigger than most people realize.
The challenge is putting it into context.
“It’s hard to get a handle on the size of the industry in Los Angeles,” Metchek said, adding that the fashion business actually employs more people in L.A. than New York.
Tracking the industry is tricky, in part because the companies that comprise the city’s fashion world are so far-flung and encompass so many different sectors.
There are countless ways to slice fashion’s business side here, with brick-and-mortar retail companies, ecommerce businesses, independent designers and in-house creatives, to name just a few types.
L.A. is swarming with fashion exporters and importers. Businesses here produce and sell a mind-boggling array of clothes, footwear, cosmetics and more. Metchek figures that the city’s fashion industry ships out about $15 billion worth of product annually.
Even during the pandemic, the fashion industry in L.A. continues to grow.
“There are 19 design schools on the West Coast that are all feeding talent into Los Angeles,” Metchek said. A good chunk of that young talent, she added, goes the independent route, launching their own lines and selling via ecommerce.
Then there are L.A.’s too-many-to-count influencers, who drive so much of the style conversation and the decision-making, not just locally but globally. Metchek flagged a recent study out of London that counts L.A. as the world’s No. 1 city for fashion inspiration, thanks in no small part to those Instagram stars and YouTube creators.