The study, commissioned by Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) which is both a higher education institute and an observatory for the sector, backs up the claim that the big names in French fashion do more to boost the nation’s ego than any other industry. With sales of €150 billion a year, including €33 billion in exports, the fashion industry, which employs 580,000 people, generates 1.7% of the country’s GDP and creates €36 billion in added value. By way of comparison, the country’s aerospace and automotive industries contribute “just” 0.7% and 0.5% to GDP respectively. The study examined data provided by the country’s national statistics institute (INSEE), customs authorities, and annual reports from companies in the sector.
The IFM, it must be said, has cast its net wide by bringing various activities relating to fashion under its umbrella, namely textile, clothing, footwear, leathergoods, watches, jewellery, eyewear, perfumes and cosmetics. “We wanted to mark the actual perimeter of fashion, something which has never been done before,” commented IFM director general Dominique Jacomet when presenting the study. “We therefore took a horizontal approach, covering all the product categories which are not generally considered together, and a vertical approach that included the different types of activity, i.e. wholesale, retail and outlet sales from all sources, ranging from high-end to mid-range brands and distributors.”
A like-on-like comparison shows that retail sales of Swiss timepieces are equal to roughly a third of the figure put forward by IFM for its industry, at around CHF 50 billion a year. The French fashion institute also took its analysis a step further by including ancillary activities. This pushed added value to €67 billion or 2.7% of GDP for a one-million strong workforce. At corporate level, the study established that French fashion brands and foreign brands with French controlling shareholders generated €70 billion in annual sales. Of these brands, the 50 largest make 80% of their sales at export.
Lastly, the study pointed to the economic importance of the six Paris Fashion Weeks taking place each year (S/S and F/W menswear, ready-to-wear and couture) which encompass some 300 runway shows. These highlights of the industry calendar generate €10.3 billion annually in sales, as well as bringing in an additional €1.2 billion in spending. Doubtless France will continue to keep up appearances worldwide for some considerable time to come.