The Economic impact of the fashion industry on the city of Antwerp

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The glamour, excitement and creativity of the world of fashion have always appealed to the imagination. But the fashion industry comprises more aspects than solely the designing process and fashion shows. Worldwide more than 870,000 companies are involved in the process of whole-sale, retail and manufacturing, representing a turnover of about 562 billion euros in the past three years. Within this globally spread industry of fashion, a small but nonetheless significant role is played by Flanders, and the city of Antwerp in particular. In this series, based on a study conducted by Antwerp Management School, we will discuss the impact and economic value of fashion in Antwerp, and highlight the importance of the fashion industry within the local and global economy.

In 2015, Antwerp Management School conducted a research on the economic importance of the fashion industry in the city of Antwerp, commissioned by ModeMuseum (the world renowned Antwerp fashion museum of the Province of Antwerp), and in cooperation with Rebel Groups Advisory Belgium. The Flanders Fashion Institute (Flanders DC) was part of the steering group. For this research an extensive range of sources was used, ranging from numerical economic data, over questionnaires answered by people from within the different sectors of the fashion industry, to articles written by national and international press. The results of the research emphasize the importance of the fashion industry for Antwerp as a city, and show which aspects still require more financial and governmental investment and support. To be able to frame the characteristics of the fashion industry within a wider context, the research consists of five different parts, all  highlighting one certain aspect of the industry.

1. Business economic impact measurement

The research shows that the city of Antwerp is an important pole of attraction for companies within the creative core of the fashion industry, such as designers and pattern designers. In Flanders, more than 30% of the companies in the creative sector are located in Antwerp. For their head quarters, however, most companies seem to prefer to be located in industrial zones, rather than in the centre of a city. The high end independent designers on the contrary prefer to live and work in the centre of the city. Economically they play a small role, but their symbolic value is very important. Remarkable is the fact that independent designers realize the highest added value per employee. This is an indication of the creativity of their work in comparison to the other actors in the fashion industry.

2. Spillovers to other industries

When we look at the impact of the fashion sector on other industries within the production process, we see that fashion has a multiplier of 1,65. In concrete terms, this means that a demand of the fashion sector with a value of 1 euro leads to an increase of the production of the entire economy of 1,65 euro. This additional economic value, or spillover, mostly ends up in the fashion sector itself. This is followed by accounting services, logistics, trade and exploitation of real estate. The multiplier of the creative activity is relatively higher than that of the other subsectors that are comprised in the found multiplier for the fashion sector. When we take into account the large share of the design sector in Antwerp, we can assume that the spillover effect in Antwerp is higher than in other regions in Flanders.

3. Press coverage and reputation of the city

“Antwerp fashion” has a strong reputation and coherent image abroad. The central topic in national and international reporting are the many independent designers, such as the world renowned “Antwerp Six”. But the attention of the press goes further than that, mentioning topics such as the designers’ labels, special boutiques, fashion events, and permanent factors of attraction such as the Antwerp royal academy of fine arts (KASKA), and the Antwerp fashion museum (ModeMuseum). 

AdobeStock_98803809.jpegThese institutions have been consistently reputable, and moreover, articles about fashion are hardly ever written with a negative connotation. All elements of Antwerp fashion are described as avant-garde, pioneering, creative, dynamic, all being blessed with a very positive national and international reputation.


Another additional advantage to the press coverage is the press’ enormous reach. The articles used in the research are only a fraction of the total press coverage about Antwerp fashion. Still they already had an accumulated reach of about 922 million times potential reads and an advertising value of 42 million euros. Moreover, two thirds of the articles in our database were written or published by foreign press. These articles are not only originating from neighbouring or other European countries, but mostly from the USA and Asia. This makes fashion an enormously powerful ambassador for the city of Antwerp.

4. Effect of fashion on tourism

The role fashion plays in the motivation of tourists to visit Antwerp is hard to determine, because the public serveys were not only focusing on fashio and mostly this motivation consist of several aspects. Existing research, however, shows us that the major part of tourists visiting Antwerp, about 80%, spend time and money on shopping, but that only for a much smaller share of these tourists, about 16% to 40%, this is related to the positioning of Antwerp as a fashion city. And still these results should be viewed with caution. Better data and more research are required for measuring the impact of fashion on tourism.

5. Benchmark with other cities

Antwerp has a unique position within the world of fashion. As a relatively small city, Antwerp can still hold their own position between cities such as Paris, London, Milan and New York, all being large fashion capitals with the influential fashion weeks. This position is consolidated by the reputation of the fashion department of KASKA, ModeMuseum and the Flanders Fashion Institute, but mainly because of the creativity and innovativeness of Antwerp’s independent high end designers.

However, in many other fashion cities, designers and aspiring entrepreneurs seem to be more supported than they are in Antwerp, which could possibly lead to the move of creative designers to other places on the long term. In other countries we see, for example, more scholarschips, grants and financial support, more studio spaces and business incubators, more coaching and guidance, and more support of local production and craftmanship.

Do you want to know more? In the next part in this series, we will take a closer look at these five separate components of the Antwerp fashion companies, the results of the research, and the direct and indirect impact of the fabulous fashion industry on the city of Antwerp. 

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