Most people out there may think that fashion is a frivolous business, but that's mainly because of the way it is presented.
If, rather than giving importance only to celebrities, models, glamorous shows and assorted stylish Instagrams, the focus would be re-shifted towards the people working in the industry at all levels (and not just when a catastrophe hits a factory...) or there would be every now and then more features about the development of innovative materials and textiles, maybe we would all start understanding how things really work behind the scenes (and not just behind the scenes of a catwalk show).
Fashion has also got political relevance: while at the design level the industry is influenced by political choices and social changes, runways at times turned into stages where it is possible to convey messages and slogans.
Besides, all sorts of politicians use fashion to project a powerful image, launch their political propaganda or highlight their sense of patriotism (remember the items on display at the "Fashion & Politics" exhibition at NY's FIT Museum eight years ago?).
As you may remember, Demna Gvasalia combined in his Balenciaga's A/W 2017 menswear collection the brand's logo with the Bernie Sanders red, white, and blue logo for the American presidential campaign.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper recently asked Senator Sanders what he thought about it in an interview. A surprised Sanders laughed and ironically stated: "Of my many attributes, being a great dresser or a fashion maven is not one of them."
Yet things may become more serious in the fashion industry as the world discovers the real impact of certain decisions taken by Trump.
A few days ago Trump expressed for example his concerns about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal that he would like to replace or renegotiate (Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced at the beginning of February that the trade negotiations to reform NAFTA will start in May) and stated he wants to get on with his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, announcing that Mexico will pay for it via a 20% tariff, a border adjustment tax, or other duty proposal forms.
This would definitely have impact on the economy of the country that may decide to react with "mirror actions" as announced by Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo. Such actions may actually turn into fabric and apparel import tariffs on the US since Mexico is the first Latin American supplier of apparel products to the United States.
Mexico operates through the maquiladoras, that is factories importing materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly and processing, and then exporting the assembled and manufactured products.
In the case of textiles, this manufacturing operation system consists in the United States exporting fabrics and apparel parts to Mexico that then sends back finished products such as clothing and textiles.
Textile production is the fourth largest manufacturing activity in Mexico and includes the making of thread, cloth and decoration, in both natural and synthetic fibers. Besides, the textile and apparel sectors account for nearly 20% of all manufacturing employment in Mexico.
Though it has faced growing competition from countries like China, as the 2016 Top Markets Report on Technical Textiles Country Case Study explains, Mexico has also been tapping into other areas of specialization, such as the development of protective textiles, products that appeal to the United States.
At present it is reported that consumers in Mexico have chosen to boycott American companies such as Wal-Mart, Starbucks and McDonalds, but, in the long run, Mexico may seek agreements with new markets in Central America and expansion in Europe where companies may be attracted by the low peso and by the possibility of discovering companies selling innovative textiles and high quality cotton or denim at very competitive prices. In return the States would have to find a replacement for cheap Mexican companies, and this may prove tricky considering shipping costs with countries as far as China or Vietnam.
The develompents of the US-Mexico relationships may therefore mean there are changes ahead for quite a few apparel American companies. In the meantime, the most poignant comment about the wall did not come from the fashion industry, but from a door company - 84 Lumber. Its latest ad was shown at yesterday's Super Bowl, but in its edited version since it contains "content deemed controversial for TV". The advert shows indeed a mother and daughter's migrant journey towards becoming legal American citizens.