Outdoor & Recreation, Fashion & Apparel

Outdoor & Recreation, Fashion & Apparel

Cluster Snapshot


Data Sources: Washington State Employment Security Department, 2015; Washington State Department of Revenue, 2015; Washington Military Alliance; Washington Aerospace Economic Impacts 2016 Update; US International Trade Administration, 2014. All data is King County.

Quick Stats

  • Washington State has an over $8.3 billion fashion and apparel industry
  • Outdoor Recreation in Washington State accounts for $21.6 billion in consumer spending and $7.1 billion in wages and salaries
  • Notable apparel companies include Nordstrom, Tommy Bahama, Eddie Bauer, and Luly Yang 1,540 apparel companies and 3,100 self-employed fashion designers provide 34,500 jobs in Washington State
  • King County's top Outdoor Recreation companies include REI, Eddie Bauer, and Outdoor Research
  • The Seattle area is the nation’s largest consumer of sunglasses
  • While the grunge rock boom made Seattle virtually synonymous with flannel, the region’s fashion industry has stitched together an industry that some studies estimate supports over 45,000 jobs and $13 billion in revenue. And it’s surely noticeable as more and more fashion and apparel startups join the ranks of home-grown notables such as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, and Tommy Bahama

A stylish base of operations

Fashion seems like a natural extension of the Seattle phenomenon of innovative thinking. And like most other things, we put our own spin on it to set ourselves apart from better-known centers like New York and Paris. As a result, the local market actively supports locally based businesses and takes pride in developing a unique style of our own.

Poised for growth in apparel

The Seattle/King County region is in a unique position to continue its growth in this cluster. This is partly due to our proximity to and trade partnerships with countries in Asia, enabling easier access to manufacturing facilities. In addition, as a technology hub, King County gives apparel companies close proximity to technology partners that are increasingly key to everything from design and sales to fulfillment.

The business of the outdoors

Outdoor Recreation contributes not only to our region's incredible quality of life but also to our state's overall economy. King County's geography offers a variety of outdoor activities that produce significant economic impact. Across the state, Outdoor Recreation creates 199,000 jobs and $21.6 billion in annual consumer spending. From recreational boating, to hiking, to skiing, the outdoors are as recreational as they are economical.

Fashion, apparel, and textiles have a rich history in Washington. Global companies have grown from the region’s historic strengths in apparel and textile manufacturing, including strengths in the competitive niches of outdoor gear and sportswear. This cluster includes core sectors such as apparel design, textile and apparel manufacturers, apparel wholesalers and apparel corporate headquarters.

The fashion and apparel industry cluster offers assets and opportunities for economic growth in the region. State impact models suggest the Fashion and Apparel Industry Cluster supports a total of 51,700 jobs and $16.4 billion in revenue in Washington State, including direct, indirect and induced impacts. Excluding retail, Apparel design, manufacturing, wholesale and corporate headquarters support a total of 17,230 jobs and $6.7 billion in revenues statewide.

Here are just a few of our strengths:

  • Local designers with international acclaim
  • Seattle, in particular, is home to designers that represent a broad range of styles. Some attract international clientele to Seattle for custom designs. Others lead production of styles mass produced that are sold at retailers throughout the world.
  • Washington’s proximity to Asia and port infrastructure are key assets when it comes to the international nature of this cluster.

International retailers borne from Washington companies

Nordstrom, REI, Eddie Bauer, Filson and several others have grown from local Seattle businesses to be worldwide brands. Washington’s fashion and apparel niche is tied to our natural environment and quality of life and several local companies reflect the Pacific Northwest’s outdoor and recreational opportunities.

Washington State University Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles

Nationally and internationally recognized faculty at WSU are leaders in research and preparing students to enter the industry. Over half of the faculty has relevant industry experience with research in areas of international trade, business, consumer behavior, protective and functional apparel, textiles, sustainability and model development for predictive performance. WSU is the only public academic institution in Washington offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in Apparel Design and Merchandising.

Trade schools and college programs

Educational institutions such as Seattle Central Community College, Seattle Pacific University, International Academy of Design and Technology, Seattle Art Institute, and University of Washington Retail Management Program offer certificate, associate’s degree and bachelor degree programs.

  • Seattle Fashion Incubator - Seattle Fashion Incubator is dedicated to providing independent fashion brands in the Puget Sound resources to develop and grow their business. Our mission is to establish a Garment District for the region through offering wholesale materials, creative workspace, and low minimum manufacturing.
  • Fashion Group International - Fashion Group International (FGI) is a global organization with a chapter in Seattle. Its members (5,000 worldwide) come from all segments of the fashion industry, including apparel, accessories, beauty products and services, and home decoration. FGI’s mission is to assist its members in professional career advancement through networking activities and providing information on national and international trends.
  • Outdoor Industry Association - The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is a trade organization for companies serving the active outdoor recreation market. Members include manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives, and retailers. The OIA provides its members with support services such as providing business intelligence, advocacy on legislation, and cost-saving benefits. Companies such as REI, Outdoor Research, Eddie Bauer, Filson, ExOfficio, Helly Hansen, Kavu, Cascade Designs, Brooks Sports, and even Amazon.com are members.
  • Pacific Northwest Apparel Association - The Pacific Northwest Apparel Association (PNAA) has organized and run the NW Trend Show for the past 66 years, making it the longest running women’s wear show in the West Coast. The PNAA produces five trend shows a year that draw more than 160 exhibitors and 2,300 buyers from independent retailers, such as specialty boutique stores, gift shops, and catalog businesses. The exhibitors are mostly independent sales representatives representing over 650 lines of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, accessories, shoes, and gift items.

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