Australian fashion and textiles industry is now worth $27.2 billion

A new report commissioned by the Australian Fashion Council (AFC), in collaboration with Afterpay, finds that the Australian fashion and textiles industry:  

  • Contributes more than $27.2 bn to the Australian economy
  • Employs 489,000 Australians (315,000 full time) – more than mining and utilities
  • Generates $7.2 bn in export revenue, totalling 1.7% of all Australian exports, more than double the value of wine and beer exports
  • Creates opportunities for women, with 77% of the workforce female, compared to the national average of 47% 

The report, from High Fashion to High Vis -The economic contribution of Australia’s fashion and textiles sector, commissioned to EY by the Australian Fashion Council and supported by Afterpay, is the most comprehensive study of the fashion and textiles ecosystem in Australia.

What are the findings of the Afterpay and Australian Fashion Council research?

It shifts the focus from consumer trends towards the industry’s economic and workforce contribution, its current challenges, and what will shape its future development. 

Overall, the industry’s economic impact both direct ($16.3 bn) and indirect ($10.9 bn) represents upwards of 1.5% of the national economy. 

EY uncovered that more than 489,000 Australians (315,000 full time) are employed in the supply chain that is the fashion and textile sector.

This is more than the mining and utilities sectors respectively. With more than 77% women, the industry provides significant economic security for women.

The report underscored how significantly the Fashion and Textiles sector drives regional prosperity and tourism growth, given the industry’s physical retail presence in every local shopping centre and main street across the country. 

The research highlights the complex footprint of the fashion and textiles industry – from design, textile, manufacturing, retail, and education.

Its interaction with the broader economy, includes wool and cotton production, tourism, media and creative professional services and the recycling and reuse sectors. The designer label sector accounts for approximately 2% of total fashion industry employment.

The industry supports a diverse array of roles, including pattern makers, colourists, photographers, seamstresses, stylists, and uniforms and work wear production.

While the industry was able to weather the worst effects of COVID-19 with a strong shift towards online sales, the research shows leading industry challenges being rising business costs and supply chain volatility. 

EY observes that the industry needs to continue to evolve as it responds to changes to physical retailing, consumer behaviour and supply chains that have been accelerated by COVID-19.

For future growth, areas of continued focus for the industry will be responsible, circular business models where sustainable sourcing and recycling are paramount. 

The report recognises the scope for the industry to leverage new digital technologies for growth and innovation and to create more engaging consumer-focused experiences

It also highlights the need for further investment from government and business in reskilling talent to ensure workers have future-ready skills to meet the demands of new technology and more complex models of design, production and retail. 

What’s the response from industry stakeholders?

Australian Fashion Council Chief Executive Officer, Leila Naja Hibri says: “This ground-breaking report highlights the true economic clout of our dynamic and diverse industry.”

“Until now, the comprehensive value of the industry’s economic contribution – and its predominantly female workforce – has not been fully recognised.”

“Now we can better understand the impact of this sector’s significant role in Australia’s creative economy, and the substantial potential of its future.” 

Afterpay Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Anthony Eisen says: “Such a comprehensive assessment of the Australian fashion industry and its far-reaching economic impact is long overdue.”

“It is a privilege to be associated with this report, and with the Australian Fashion Council, as we focus on the long-term, future of the industry on behalf of consumers and retailers.” 

IMG‘s VP-MD, Fashion Events and Properties Asia-Pacific Natalie Xenita says: “Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is the centerpiece of our industry, and celebrates the spirit and ingenuity of our designer community.”

“This week will see the industry at its best, while delivering the economic benefit of the most important marketing event of the year for the Australian fashion industry.”  

NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said: “Sydney is the proud home of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week.”

“This platform showcases design and creativity, celebrates industry, fosters discussion and partnerships between Australia’s creative leaders while attracting visitors to the Harbour City for a world-class event.”

“It’s wonderful that these important sectors are recognised for their economic and social contribution, and there’s nowhere better to acknowledge that than at the country’s pre-eminent international fashion event, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week in Sydney.”