Otis College Report on the Creative Economy Holds Hope and Opportunity for L.A.’s Fashion Industry

There’s one primary energy that makes everything in the universe work, and that’s creativity. For what is the world but the most amazing and miraculous creation? So as much as we talk about logistics and nearshoring, digitalization and factoring, wholesaling and retailing, when it comes to fundamentals, all fashion begins with an act of creation.

For the Los Angeles fashion industry, every challenge presents an opportunity. The Otis College Report on the Creative Economy reflects the fashion industry settling into a new home, replacing fashion centers such as Milan, Paris and New York for their debuts. 


Otis College of Art and Design knows this well as it trains young people in the craft of creation and prepares them for a career in design. As a result, it produces a valuable annual document for the apparel industry known as the Otis College Report on the Creative Economy. And the latest one, to use the trendy buzzword, has just dropped. First commissioned in 2007 and currently prepared by CVL Economics, a research and planning firm, the report draws on support from a wide range of partners, including the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Create CA.

Needless to say, the report comes amid a wild storm of change affecting all aspects of life and the economy, not to mention the State of California. “The next few years will present a sea change for the creative economy as new tools for developing and distributing creative content continue to proliferate at an accelerated rate,” the report opens. “It remains critical that stakeholders across California’s creative economy engage in evidence-based discussions about how the state can foster, support and implement inclusive development strategies to secure the future of our creative economy.”

First, some figures. California has 1.8 million jobs classified as belonging to the creative economy, with an average annual wage of $148,000. If both those figures sound rather high, consider that over 1 million of those jobs are in entertainment, while fashion’s slice of the pie is 62,700. In 2021, fashion generated $11.3 billion in gross regional product.

Hovering over everything is the disruption of COVID and its ushering in of a “new normal,” a clever term with an uncertain definition. “The effects of the pandemic continue to reverberate throughout creative sectors,” according to the report’s executive summary, “and any sense of a return to normalcy becomes less likely with each passing year. For many industries, this is a discouraging state of affairs. At the same time, the past
three years have been a period of reflection and adaptation, which has yielded an important insight: The economic value of the creative sectors extends beyond just the manifest production of artistic and cultural goods or the employment of creative people. Arguably, their key economic function is to inspire, leverage and amplify innovation across the state.”

The Otis College Report on the Creative Economy takes two principles as its foundation—that the creative economic sector is an indispensable pillar of the state’s identity and that it is both the driver and beneficiary of technological advancement. “The pandemic proved both to be true,” the report states, “as the creative sectors shifted activity from the physical world into the digital realm. The next few years will present a sea change for the creative economy as new tools for developing and distributing creative content continue to proliferate at a rapid rate.”

The report’s fashion findings, no surprise, paint a challenging picture. On the employment front, the number of gig workers in fashion grew 15 percent statewide and 54 percent in L.A. County, which the report attributes to long-term decline in manufacturing. However, every challenge presents an opportunity. “There have been new opportunities for growth that the data have yet to capture,” the report finds. “For one, the fashion world is settling into a new home. Relocating from epicenters like Milan, Paris and New York, many brands are increasingly debuting their looks in Los Angeles.” Los Angeles Fashion Week is cited as a “playground” where multiple verticals can converge for creative cross-pollination in a very California kind of way.

“A rising tide lifts all boats” is a piece of traditional wisdom. But the report uses a term that sounds ominous but is full of unlimited potential. “The phrase ‘creative destruction’—first coined in the 1940s by economist Joseph Schumpeter—comes to mind as we survey the structural changes unfolding across the creative economy.”

The glass-half-full point of view is that change and creation are synonymous. To dig into more details of the Otis College Report on the Creative Economy, visit otis.edu/creative-economy.

Images courtesy of Otis College of Art and Design.