Seattle is the seventh largest apparel-manufacturing center in the United States. It is also the fourth largest city for fashion designer employment in the United States. At the time of a 2010 study, there were 500-700 estimated fashion company headquarters in the greater Seattle area. Apparel and fashion products produced in Washington are also in high-demand overseas; companies like Nordstrom, REI and Eddie Bauer have a large international customer base. In 2009, the Port of Seattle reported 4.6 billion USD in freight imports related to fashion and apparel industry.
Seattle is the home of many powerhouse companies, including fashion-based companies such as retail giants Nordstrom and REI. Beyond these corporate powerhouses, independent designer Luly Yang Couture is also located in Seattle. Luly Yang is a former graphic designer, who used her skills to start a fashion empire. Yang, as a University of Washington Alumni and a Seattle local, is keeping her business deeply tied to the Pacific Northwest. She recently designed the new line of Alaska Airlines uniforms, which was accompanied by a fashion show. Yang’s bridal and gown boutique is located on 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown.
Seattle’s booming startup scene intersects with its fashion scene as well; Armoire is one of the newer fashion companies housed in Seattle. Armoire’s headquarters is located at The Riveter, a coworking space specifically for women. Armoire is a unique startup, offering their customers a monthly rented wardrobe. The customer takes an online survey and gets matched with a wardrobe that fits their taste. A few articles of clothing get sent to the customer, and they can choose how long they want to keep the clothes – but if they love it enough, they can buy it. This is an innovative way for women to keep up with the latest fashion trends, without making the commitment to buying expensive outfits.
Retail work is fundamental to the economy, and many peoples’ first jobs are in retail. In the CAI Washington Fashion and Apparel Industry Cluster Study conducted in 2010, researchers found that the industry generated approximately $8.3 billion dollars in revenue from 2009-2010. The Fashion and Apparel Industry results in $2.1 billion in wages for workers in Washington State alone.
Fashion is vital to Seattle’s economy, and there is room to grow in the industry for local students and entrepreneurs. There are several programs and opportunities within Washington State for people to break into the fashion industry. Washington State University has their nationally acclaimed Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. There are also other colleges and trade schools within the city to prepare people with industry experience. Seattle Central Community College, Seattle Pacific University, the University of Washington and the Art Institute of Seattle are a few schools that offer programs.