Fashion Drives Economy in Los Angeles & 3D Printing Will Transform Future of Design & Production


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UntitledWithout having ever dipped one toe into the glittering pool of celebrity, glamour, and excitement that surrounds Los Angeles, nearly anyone can tell you that fashion is a big part of that city’s society—as is typical with most metropolitan areas, although many have their own well-known styles—from sophisticated New York to southern Atlanta to big-city Dallas and on further west. L.A. may definitely have a niche for the more outrageous but it certainly hasn’t affected any numbers as the fashion industry drives a large portion of the city’s economy, as well as playing a major role nationally when it comes to the online world.

From Facebooking and tweeting to online sales and marketing, those who are in the know with fashion are brewing up a storm—and fans of style eat it up. And while New York may be the #1 hub for 3D printing, Los Angeles comes in directly below them and may soon nudge the Big Apple out of the way. It’s certainly also no secret that Californians are movers and shakers in the world of technology and certainly not afraid to try out new processes and new materials—especially if they are aesthetically pleasing and might garner lots of attention. We are talking about a city famous for beautiful residents who love the red carpet—and the camera—as well as being the first to wear something or ‘someone’ new.

Information regarding how fashion is driving the economy of Los Angeles was released recently in the 2016 ‘Los Angeles Area Fashion Industry Profile,’ a study commissioned by CIT Group, Inc. (whose name you are probably indeed familiar with in connection to commercial lending and leasing), as well as the California Fashion Association (CFA). Within the study, they’ve also included survey responses from over 50 area executives operating in the apparel industry.

UntitledIf you have a pulse, certainly you are aware of the pull social media has in today’s culture, from teenagers tweeting their every move, to your co-worker’s incessant Instagram habit. Social media allows anyone to type a message, post a photograph—or a whole gallery of them—and blast it out for the world to see. While this might have your less social media-savvy partners and relatives cringing, in the business world it’s online advertising gold. And fashion, photography, and ‘commenting’ surely do travel as the perfect package—making it unsurprising to hear that indeed, social media is having an enormous, and extremely positive, impact on fashion. This is accompanied by peripherals such as blogging, lesser platforms, ads, and other sales.

“Taken together, the savvy use of social media, a state-of-the-art manufacturing platform and a well-developed import and export infrastructure position the Los Angeles region as a leading global fashion epicenter,” said Marc Heller, President of CIT Commercial Services. “Both established and emerging retail and fashion companies would benefit from working with a financial institution that has deep experience in lending to this sector and that understands the challenges and opportunities it faces.”

As online sales begin to rule, large cities like L.A. and New York are showing definite declines as well as positive transitions in manufacturing—and this is where new technology like 3D printing will be key in the future due to all of its benefits, with affordability and speed reigning supreme.

“New York has little left in the way of manufacturing to compete with L.A.’s manufacturing cluster. Both areas are facing labor-cost pressures and increased labor-law restrictions, yet survive with smaller lot production,” state the findings in the report. “New York City continues to plan for the future of its garment district, which it considers ‘the heart of American fashion.’ Just like L.A., New York’s fashion leaders are hungry for good financial models to bring apparel production back to the N.Y.C. fashion district and midtown Manhattan.”

Especially in L.A., a new phenomenon called ‘clicks to bricks’ seems to be taking over slowly, offering a reverse evolution displaying success for many shopowners who begin online and only then go on later to open physical storefronts.

“Many trendsetters live and work in the Los Angeles area. These include our celebrities, models, actors and actresses, notable executives, and designers. Online social media is a core tool trendsetters use to touch others globally. People tap into this ‘aspiration’ mode every day. It is global in its reach, but entrenched in Southern California,” states the report.

UntitledWith the emphasis on digital technology and such a savvy, artistic culture, designers and manufacturers have definitely caught on to all the benefits 3D printing has to offer them. Aside from the total novelty of presenting 3D printed dresses, shoes, jewelry, and myriad other accessories, they are able to cut out the traditional middlemen and can even become their own mini-factories, should they wish. And high-tech is in high demand, meaning that 3D design, 3D printing, and virtual reality have all carved out a place within that area of the world—and they aren’t going anywhere.

“To know the story of Los Angeles’ apparel industry, one must understand the role of the ‘marts,’ states the report. “Behind the façade of these ordinary-looking office buildings is the heart of the Los Angeles fashion industry. These are the physical marketplaces for designers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to meet and connect.”

“It takes a trip to one of the marts, and perhaps to a trade show within, to appreciate the sophistication of the industry. There are products that outsiders would not have imagined, such as ‘predictive services’ and new technologies. Experts forecast trendy colors and styles for the next two years, so designers and buyers can plan accordingly through ‘predictive services,’ while the latest technology can help implement those decisions quickly.”


Apparel execs also had plenty to say on the subjects when surveyed, and polls said…

  • Social media is where it’s at – and that’s a response to be expected. Over half of the execs saw social media as the future, while 24% see integrated systems between manufacturers and retailers as crucial, while 13% see the future of their industry in 3D printing and 3D fitting.
  • Staying online is viewed as very important – over half felt that the contemporary online presence is a requirement for success, while 35% see a ‘clicks to bricks’ strategy as most important. The remaining who were polled saw online sales only as the best route.
  • Marketing – for this category, execs were asked what ‘Designed in L.A.’ marketing strategy would be most effective, to which 55% responded with social media—and this would include promotions across numerous platforms, as well as celebrity activity on their own.

The report also informs us that the future is looking very bright for Los Angeles specifically, projecting that more than $43 billion was thought to have come into L.A. ports via fashion last year. Moderate increases have been seen in the number of fashion designers in the city, and in total, fashion-oriented positions added up to 212,923 jobs. Why L.A.? Well, that seems an obvious answer, but nearly half said because of its proximity to ports, and the rest were divided between fashion designer access and fast fashion. It’s also reported that in the five-county SoCal area, wholesalers added roughly 1,500 jobs each year. Discuss the interesting data from this report in the 3D Printing in Los Angeles Fashion forum over at


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