How many fashion designers are there, by country, and how many are freelance and how many work for brands?
Hi there, and thanks for your question! I understand you'd like to know the size of the fashion designer market by number of employees, further segmented by country and occupational status. In short, I estimate total number of fashion designers in the world at approximately 40,000, of which US fashion designers comprise over half. Only one-quarter of fashion designers are self-employed, which leaves three-quarters assumed to be employed with brands. Below you'll find a deep dive of my findings.
To provide the best answer to your question, I sourced my information primarily from government and industry statistics, and used that data to extrapolate estimates for countries for which public data was incomplete.
Although I was unable to find any precompiled comparative statistics listing number of fashion designers by country, my research indicates that the vast majority of fashion designers congregate "around leading design centers...[and] increasingly in the world's largest and most affluent cities." I was able to locate enough information about the leading countries in the fashion industry to provide an estimation of how many fashion designers there are in each of the the top countries globally, using a precompiled research ranking of "top fashion capitals" and government/industry data. Since this ranking is not directly related to the actual number of workers in the industry, I cross-compared this list with the available statistics by country for worker statistics, and discarded the outliers.
The only country for which I was able to find a hard statistic for the number of fashion designers is the US, so I used the percentage of US designers relative to the total number of US workers in the fashion industry to provide an estimated number of fashion designers for the other leading countries.
Further, although I have data to support my findings that the top countries in the world include the US, the UK, Germany and France, I was unable to find statistics to support findings that Spain and Italy comprise the other two top countries. Therefore, I have used back-of-the envelope calculations to provide reasonable estimations for the number of fashion designers in each of these countries based on all available data.
According to industry analysis of market research, there are more than 4 million people working in the fashion industry. If we assume that the percentage of US fashion designers per total workers in the US industry are reasonably indicative of global percentages, then we can estimate that fashion designers comprise about 1% of total workers in the industry. Though I was unable to find exact numbers, research analysis indicates that the number of self-employed fashion designers is a little less than 25%, which makes the number of fashion designer employees a little more than 75%. There was no publicly available data which indicates more detailed information of employment status segmentation by country .
total number of US fashion designers ÷ total number of US fashion industry workers = percentage of fashion designer workers in the US industry
ASSUMPTION: For the purposes of our estimations by country, we will assume that each country's percentage of fashion designers relative to its entire domestic fashion industry is equivalent to that of the US.
TOTAL NUMBER OF FASHION DESIGNERS: 40,000
If we accept the 1% US ratio to be representative of the global industry standard, we can estimate that the number of fashion designers in the world is roughly 40,000, of which the US has approximately half. French, Spanish, German and UK fashion designers comprise nearly another 14,000. Data for Italy was unavailable in public resources, but by our estimations we can assume that there are fewer than 7,000 Italian fashion designers.
1. UNITED STATES: 23,100
As of 2015, the US had 23,100 fashion designers and 1.8m workers employed in the domestic fashion industry. New York and California took the highest percentage of fashion designers by state, with 7,440 and 6,180 respectively. The US fashion market is valued at $385.7B, which is higher than the domestic market value for Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and France combined.
2. UK: 5,550
The UK has 555,000 workers in the fashion industry; 1% of that total equals 5,550 UK fashion designers. The domestic market value is reported as $94.1B.
CALCULATION: 555,000 x 0.01 = 5,550
3. GERMANY: 3,400
CALCULATION: 340,000 x 0.01 = 3,400
4. FRANCE: 3,400
The fashion industry in France has a domestic market value of $43.3B and it also has 340,000 workers in the industry.
CALCULATION: 340,000 x 0.01 = 3,400
Data for the total number of workers in the industry was not available for Spain, and there was no data whatsoever available in public resources for Italy. However, there is supporting data which indicates that both countries have a significant presence as a leading country in the fashion industry, so we will perform back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate a reasonable estimation for fashion designers in these two countries.
5. Spain: 1,558 (estimated)
The domestic market value for the fashion industry is Spain is $31.1B. This is the only statistic I was able to find for the country, so I used an averaged ratio calculation to find the ratio of fashion industry workers per dollar across the five countries for which I had both data points. I then applied that ratio to Spain's market value by revenue, and multiplied by 1% to estimate the number of fashion designers.
ASSUMPTION: The ratio of fashion industry workers in Spain relative to the market value by revenue is equivalent to the averaged ratio for the four countries listed above plus the Netherlands, which did not factor in the top countries but for which I had comparative data.
1. 3,122,910 fashion industry workers in the US, UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands
2. $623.2B = the composite market value by revenue of the US, UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands
1. For the ratio (3,122,910 ÷ 623.2B) = (x ÷ $31.1B), x = the total number of industry workers in Spain = 155,845
2. 155,845 x 0.01 = 1,558
6. ITALY: less than 7,212 (estimated)
As no comparable statistics were available for Italy's market value or number of industry workers, I have subtracted the number of total workers estimated above from the global total of 4 million working in the fashion industry, and then applied the 1% for estimated fashion designers.
1. 3,278,755 fashion industry workers in in the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands
1. 4M - 3,278,755 = 721,245
2. 721,245 x 0.01 = 7,212
By my calculations, I estimate that the total global number of industry workers excluding the top 5 and the Netherlands is 721,245, of which approximately 7,212 are fashion designers. As there are other countries besides Italy remaining in the fashion industry, we can safely assume that Italy has no more than 7,212 fashion designers, likely less.
To wrap it up: the number of fashion designers in the world is estimated at 40,000, of which US designers comprise more than half, and more than Spain, the UK, Germany and France combined. Thanks so much for asking Wonder! It's been a pleasure to research this question for you. Please let us know if there is anything else we can research for you.