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Immigration Reform is Crucial to the Future of Colorado's Fashion Industry

An op-ed from the creator of Colorado Fashion Week


When I founded Colorado Fashion Week in 2011, my mission was to build an economically sustainable and well-respected professionally organized trade event for the state of Colorado. During the last several years, I have enjoyed seeing the industry grow and become a fiscal driver to our local economy.

The fashion industry is powered by diversity. Ideas are shared and new designs are inspired by people who come from different backgrounds. 

Immigrants who come to the States are willing to work hard and sacrifice to contribute. As fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg says,

We take great risks and are willing to leave everything behind in pursuit of big dreams and ideas. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our work. We believe in America.” 

The American fashion industry is an invaluable economic tool. Nationally, the fashion industry employs almost 2 million people and generates more than $250 billion in annual revenue.

But we stand to lose our competitive advantage and positive economic standing due to the current immigration policies of our country – a loss that will negatively and directly impact Colorado’s fashion industry and the strides made thus far.

International designers and key industry talent are hesitant to explore business relationships internationally because of the hostile nature of our immigration system. This is a massive blow to an industry that has long thrived on the enrichments and substantial contributions of immigrants from across the globe.

In May 2018, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and FWD.us released a report with qualitative data on the impact of immigration policy on the U.S. fashion industry. The study examines how the skills and talents of immigrants from around the world have contributed to the industry’s success. 

Fashion thrives on diversity.

Immigrants guarantee this reality and more: People from different backgrounds and cultures bring fresh styles and new ideas. Many of the most well-known U.S. brands were founded by immigrants and their children. 

Those of us in the fashion industry overwhelmingly support a comprehensive reform of our outdated immigration laws to attract the best industry talent to the U.S. and at home in Colorado. Our leaders have provided a clearly outlined set of recommendations for reform, including direct pathway legal immigration status for those affected, for example.  Another key recommendation is a request for an increase in the number of H-1B visas offered to, and for, foreign industry talent - which simply put, will be a positive socio-economic win for the U.S. and its economy. 

It is only with these, and similarly proactive, policy changes will Colorado continue to maintain its budding fashion economy.

Justice Kwarteng is the founder of Colorado Fashion Week.

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