Licentiate Column 17/01/12: Why the Government Isn’t Helping the Fashion Industry. At all.

Green ties are now offensive for a whole new reason.  Although this person wears it quite well (via).

What would you do with an extra €25,000? Would you pay off debts? Would you give it to the needy? Or would you just blow it on clothes?

That is the non-dilemma that the Irish government grappled with (all too briefly, I suspect) – like any good profligate, they chose the clothing option. If you’re going to go down with any ship, you might as well look good doing it. Back in July, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a tender for 10,000 green silk ties to be made to mark Ireland’s presidency of the EU, which starts this month. They also issued tenders for scarves and pins.

The value of this commission is not known. On the RTE website, it’s stated that tenders average out at about €25,000. If this is the case then the unit cost is €2.50 per tie. This leaves very little for a profit margin – if the ties were to be made in Ireland. In effect, the government were pumping a little money into the economy, but its very possible that it wasn’t ours.

The Irish fashion industry is growing both at home and abroad, but the manufacturing arm finds itself gradually shrinking in the face of escalating costs and fewer skilled workers. We don’t sew anymore. We work in IT. We power social networking, search engines, vital hardware components. Like the Victorian Paddies who built London roads and carved Tube tunnels into being, the Irish are now paving the streets of Silicon Valley.

We need these people. However, we also need people who can sew and cut fabric to go along with those who have a creative vision or a good business idea that needs realising.

In the grand scheme of the National Debt, this amount of money is barely pressed peanut shavings, let alone peanuts. It’s a drop in the ocean. It’s an amount brushed away easily, as if disdainfully flicked from the wrist of a Russian oligarch.

While €25,000 would not be enough to kickstart an entire industry, it would be enough money to start a small at-home fashion manufacturing business. It would be enough to set quite a few people on their way to becoming self-sufficient, making a profit, employing and training more people and hopefully going somewhere towards healing ourselves as a country. They might even make a few green silk ties in the process.

Irish fashion – made in Ireland and sold around the world? That’s what we need to think about. We have the talent, much of which is hemorrhaging across the Irish Sea every week. Now, all we need are the tools of manufacture.

I often talk about the importance of fashion in airy-fairy terms; it’s self expression, it’s a creative outlet, it’s essential to our being. It’s all materially insubstantial. It’s impossible to refute, however, what an important (and ever-growing) industry fashion manufacture is. We need to carve ourselves a bigger niche – even if all we make is 25,000 units of a certain green tie.