Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

The Styled Side: how Trump could affect LA's fashion industry

Ways to Subscribe
Jose Luis Garcia inspects for variations and holes in fabric before it's sent to production.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
Jose Luis Garcia inspects for variations and holes in fabric before it's sent to production.

Trump promised to renegotiate or withdraw from trade deals and increase U.S. manufacturing jobs. If he follows through, it could have a huge impact on LA's fashion industry.

Southern California's fashion and apparel industry is chewing its manicured nails over the incoming President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump promised during the campaign that he would renegotiate or withdraw from trade deals like NAFTA and would find ways to increase manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

If he follows through on both, it could have a huge impact on the fashion industry.

A hit to trade could hit your wallet

"The retail industry strongly supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Donald Trump opposes," says Michelle Dalton Tyree of Fashion Trends Daily. "Strong trade agreements are vital to retailers because high tariffs mean they can't be as competitive with their prices. For those who manufacture overseas, which is the majority, this is huge potential problem."

Consumers will notice the difference on shelves.

With trade deals in place, many American stores and designers are able to offer low prices on clothes because they are made in high volume overseas and shipped to the U.S.

If the deals go away, then tariffs will be slapped on goods and that cost would pass to consumers.

"Big L.A. brands that rely on overseas production could be hard hit," says Tyree. "Think of fast-fashion retailers such as L.A.-based Forever 21. One of the reasons they're able to turn around trends so quickly is because they're making clothes overseas."

That means big retailers that people rely on for big savings – like Zappos and Walmart – wouldn't have as many great deals, anymore.

Lines that manufacture in L.A. are more optimistic of President Trump

L.A. has the most manufacturing workers in the country, and more than 1 in 8 are employed by the apparel industry.

"Those apparel lines that make their clothes here are less concerned about what Trump has said about trade," says Tyree.

Some of them are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I didn't get caught up in his hairdo, his personality. I'm looking for results," says L.A.-based designer and Trump supporter Allen Schwartz of the line ABS by Allen Schwartz. "Obama didn't deliver."

"Until you start seeing what Trump's policies are, it's kind of the boogeyman in the closet," adds Mike Palermo of Junk Food, an LA-based brand.

However, they are keeping an eye on President-elect Trump's movements on local manufacturing and wages.

For example, if the minimum wage goes up to entice Americans back into factory jobs, then the increased cost to produce clothes will be paid for by consumers.

"When people try and push the value of what 'Made in the U.S.A.' means, everyone in L.A. is in support of that," says Palermo, "but when challenged to vote with their pocketbook, consumers don't come through."

Trump could also have a huge impact on the apparel industry's workforce in Los Angeles.

"There's an estimated 45,000 garment works in L.A. and majority are undocumented," says Tyree.

If Trump follows through on his promise to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants while in office, the local workforce would be decimated.

What this means for holiday shopping

Whatever President Trump does with trade and manufacturing probably won't have an effect on this upcoming holiday shopping season.

But consumers can expect that retailers will be pushing a "positivity" message in the coming weeks.

"They're eager to get on with it as well," says Tyree, "so expect great deals and a lot more selling slogans than usual referring to togetherness, family, shopping with your heart first."

Stay Connected