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Contributing to the global manufacturing of fashion

Examining global patterns in manufacturing fashion products.

Fashion industries in countries and world regions with large consumer markets—such as in North America, the European Union, Brazil, Australia, and Japan—have focused their manufacturing industries on both domestic and export opportunities, although they generally import more apparel than they export.

Industries in countries and world regions without large consumer markets have also focused on both domestic and export opportunities, although they generally export more apparel than they import. However, as consumer markets have grown in highly populated countries, such as China and India, greater attention is being paid to both domestic and export production. In fact, China is expected to be the largest consumer market of fashion products by 2020 (Beltrami et. al., 2018).

Developing countries greatly contribute to the global manufacturing of fashion and typically focus on export markets. In fact, many developing countries rely on apparel manufacturing for their economic development and compete worldwide as low-wage production centers. For example, a significant proportion of total exports of countries including Haiti, Bangladesh, and Cambodia are from the apparel manufacturing industry in the country.

A factory filled with workers sewing on sewing machines.

Developing countries such as Bangladesh rely on apparel manufacturing for their economic development.
Several characteristics of apparel manufacturing account for the importance of apparel exports in the economies of these developing countries. Because apparel manufacturing is highly labor-intensive, the industry provides work for many people. Compared with other manufacturing industries, apparel manufacturing is fairly inexpensive to establish. Essentially, all that a manufacturer needs are industrial sewing machines, pressing equipment, and a building. In addition, because of continuously changing fashion trends, there is a constant demand for fashion products.
Worldwide in 2017, according to the World Trade Organization, the two largest apparel exporters were China (34.9% share of world exports of apparel, not including its domestic market) followed by the European Union (28.6% share of world exports of apparel, not including its domestic market). Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, and Turkey combined accounted for another 19.8% share of world exports of apparel.
Exporters Share of World Exports
China 34.9
European Union 28.6
Bangladesh 6.5
Vietnam 5.9
India 4.1
Turkey 3.3
Indonesia 1.8
Cambodia 1.6
United States 1.2
Importers Share of World Imports
European Union 38.5
United States 18.2
Japan 5.8
Canada 2.1
Korea 1.9
Russian Federation 1.5
China 1.5
Switzerland 1.4
Australia 1.4
Leading exporters and importers of clothing, 2017 Source: World Trade Organization, 2018.

As some of the world’s largest consumer markets for apparel, the European Union in 2017 had a 38.5% share of world imports of apparel; the United States had an 18.2% share of world imports and Japan had an additional 5.8% share.

Some countries have large fashion manufacturing industries, others, have smaller industries that are niche-oriented, and this course briefly describes the fashion manufacturing industries in world regions.

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Product Design and Manufacturing Processes in the Fashion Industry

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