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Fashion exhibition © European Union

The Fashion and High-end industries represent each 3% of the EU (non economical) GDP.

The fashion industry has been undergoing transformation, with a decline of employment in manufacturing from 2004 to 2009 (from almost 2.9 million to 1.9 million jobs). However, in fashion distribution the observed trend is reversed, with the creation of 500 000 jobs for the same period.

The high-end industry, on the contrary, has proven to be resilient to the economic and financial crisis with an annual turnover of above € 400 billion and some 990 000 people directly employed in this industry in Europe. Furthermore, its growth over the past decade has been very stable: 10% in 2010-2011; a 7-9% growth is expected for 2012 and the coming years.

Moreover, the spill-over effects of these two industries on the tourism and media industries are notable: European products and their added value have a worldwide reputation, attracting millions of tourists every year. However, in the current economic context, it becomes increasingly challenging to remain competitive. Existing trade and investment barriers in third countries are an obstacle for European products to reach new markets and distribution networks.

The vast majority of companies in the sector being SMEs, the Commission also promotes the adoption of new business models and the commercial use of creative ideas through the program COSME.  The "WORTH Pilot Project", launched in 2013, also encourages market-oriented help and advice to small manufacturers and craftsmen with the support of designers.

International aspects

European savoir-faire and craftsmanship have a worldwide reputation. For example, 62% of all goods manufactured by European high-end brands are sold outside Europe. In the segment of personal high-end goods (fashion, accessories, jewelry and watches, leather goods, perfumes and cosmetics) Europe represents 74% of the global value. The value of European exports by the high-end industries is estimated at 260 billion euros, which corresponds to approximately 10% of all European exports. New markets in emerging economies offer growth perspectives. However, existing trade and investment barriers in third countries are an obstacle for European products to reach new markets and distribution networks.

Therefore, ensuring a level-playing field in international trade is a priority.

More information on existing dialogues for Textiles and Clothing


The decline of the manufacturing industry led to a decrease of properly skilled workers. The lack of young skilled employees could, in the long-term, affect the competitiveness of the fashion industry.

To this aim, the Commission has launched several initiatives in education, training and skills (such as ESCO the Classification of European Skills, Competences, and Occupations and the Sector Skills Council). Initiatives could also be developed to raise awareness amongst young people about the career paths and opportunities in the fashion industry.

Industry consultations

Workshop "European Fashion industries"

On the 13th of April 2012, the European Commission and the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee organised a workshop with 60 representatives of the fashion industries associations, education institutions, companies, designers and financial institutions, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the industry and the ways to promote sustainable growth.

See more information about the workshop.

Informal High Level Group

The European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for the Industry and Entrepreneurship, chairs an informal High Level Group gathering the CEO’s of Europe’s biggest fashion and high-end companies.

  • 19th June 2012: Possible policy initiatives for the Fashion and High-end industries

    Informal High Level Group meeting

Ad hoc working groups

Commission services discuss policy milestones in ad hoc meetings with the industry.

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