Wednesday 8 May 2024

Fashionable follies

A fashion industry group is lobbying for protections. They make the usual arguments and a newer one. None of it makes sense.
An industry group says it pumped $7.8 billion into the economy last year - that's 1.9 percent of New Zealand's GDP.
They could be right; I'm not going to check the figure. But if the industry entirely disappeared and we relied on greater imports of clothing, GDP would not drop by 1.9%. Capital and labour would shift to other sectors, which would expand.
"What we really need is someone to take us under their wing and fight for us," designer and Mindful Fashion chair Juliette Hogan said.

"From the beginning with a levy on garments coming into the market, then at the end that levy is actually used to invest in recycling technology."
This is protectionism wrapped in circular economy nonsense. Setting a fixed per-garment charge raises the relative price of low cost product relative to higher cost products. 

Suppose that it currently costs $20 to get a garment of similar quality to a $10 import. If you buy local, you're sacrificing two shirts or whatever to get one local one. If a $10 fixed charge is set on every garment, then imports rise to $20 and locals rise to $30. You now only have to sacrifice 1.5 shirts or whatever when choosing to buy local. 

The fixed levy shifts relative price ratios between local and foreign-sourced goods. And that's the protectionist point of the thing. Or, if they've convinced themselves that that isn't really what they're doing, it's nevertheless the effect.

In any case, garments do go through a life cycle. New, to used, to thrift shop, to rags, to landfill. Landfills charge on amount disposed. It's all fine. If there really were a more cost-effective way of reusing, people would be doing it already. 
The Government has ruled out putting levies on products from overseas.
That's a relief!
Another challenge it wants help with is training. 

Tim Deane owns Norsewear, a company that uses top-end knitting machines to make merino socks. 

He's trying to find ways to teach his 20 staff to use new and complex machinery.  

"It's almost impossible for me to find any technical courses that can be used to upskill them. Now there is nothing," he said.
If a polytech put on a course training people to use very specific industry machines, could it recover the tuition cost? Courses for forklift operators can make sense - the country has a lot of forklifts and there are basics that transfer across the things. 

It could be that there are enough top-end knitting machines across the country that a polytech could put on a course and not lose money on it - oughtn't that be the test? 

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