Study ties 40,000-plus jobs here to creative services like fashion, architecture, and interior, industrial and graphic design. City could do more to stoke NY’s creative juices, study argues.
New York’s design sector is the unsung hero of the city’s economy, growing by 75% in the past decade to supply more than 40,000 jobs, an economic think tank reported Wednesday.
More designers are employed here than in any other U.S. city, thanks in part to an explosion in recent years of Brooklyn-based companies, said the report, released on Wednesday by The Center for an Urban Future, a think tank in Manhattan. It noted that the number of Brooklyn-based firms spiked from 257 in 2001 to 433 in 2009, for a 70% increase.
But the massive potential of New York’s design industries isn’t sufficiently exploited by local economic development interests, the report said, arguing that city and state governments don’t do enough to promote local designers and their work.
In other cities around the world, the government invests cash and energy in promoting their design industries, said David Giles, the study’s author. “Milan brands their furniture designers, London brands their industrial and graphic designers,” he explained. “And in the U.K., the Trade and Investment agency is a venue for foreign investors to meet manufacturers.”
Similarly, he said, other cities promote aggressive export strategies, while New York does not; for example, while New York’s state export assistance program has a budget of $1.5 million dollars a year, the province of Ontario has $70 million to work with annually. “There’s huge potential here,” Mr. Giles said.
Designers in New York echoed the study’s conclusions. Amy Smilovic, the head designer for the young contemporary design house Tibi, has noticed the differences in her travels. “When you go to Milan or Paris, or even Miami,” she said, “you get the sense that design is part of the heritage and that it’s very respected and promoted. New Yorkers are hard pressed to even know when fashion week is.”
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can convey that impression.
“In Paris, when you go to even the fabric shows, the trade center is so accessible by train and all the Metro platforms have signage up everywhere so everyone in Paris knows the shows are happening.” Ms. Smilovic said. “New Yorkers are hard-pressed to even know when fashion week is.”
But Brooklyn native Paul D’Aponte, whose company Fabbrica D’Aponte designs apparel, accessories and furniture, said that while the city doesn’t seem too concerned with marketing design, he can’t really blame public officials.
“When they’re having these massive problems with the education system, for example, that takes precedence,” Mr. D’Aponte said.
“I wouldn’t mind help with my business, but I’d be better off if I had had a better K-12 education to begin with,” he joked.
The city’s Economic Development Corp. said Wednesday it would review the report’s recommendations. “Over the past two years we’ve launched a number of programs dedicated to helping our thriving creative industries,” said a spokesman for the EDC. “But we’re of course always looking for new ideas.”
On Wednesday, the EDC announced the implementation of “Fashion Campus NYC,” an initiative designed to give exposure to up-and-comers in fashion and retail management. It is the first in a series of six initiatives the EDC has planned to promote the city’s fashion industry.
The study by Mr. Giles defined the city’s “creative economy” as a work force of around 40,500 in the fields of fashion design but also architecture, interior design and graphic and industrial design.
Hat tip: Crain’s New York Business