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The BoF Podcast: The Fashion Industry Unpacks the US Election

The BoF team and industry experts Sharifa Murdock and Stephen Lamar discuss what the close vote means for the future of fashion.
Source: Lucas Sankey

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LONDON, United Kingdom — Election night ended in the US without a clear answer as to who will lead the country for the next four years. And though former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to have established a small lead over President Donald Trump in several key states as of Thursday afternoon, many questions remain about what will happen next.

Sharifa Murdock, co-owner of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs, and Stephen Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association joined BoF’s Lauren Sherman, Brian Baskin and Imran Amed to discuss what’s at stake for tariffs, trade agreements and corporate activism whatever the outcome. 
  • Trade policies have changed under the current administration. Trump renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement and levied tariffs on goods imported from China and some European countries. Biden may not have implemented these polices given the choice, but his administration will be cautious about retreating from Trump's trade positions, Lamar said. "They don't want to be seen as the new government immediately going soft on China," he said.
  • Trump campaigned in 2016 on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, but in the fashion industry at least, American factories cannot compete directly with overseas rivals on price, said Murdock of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs. "News flash, stuff that left isn't coming back," said Lamar, who added that a Trump or Biden administration should focus instead on creating new kinds of apparel production jobs in the US.
  • Sales of luxury goods are holding up relatively well in the US as the wealthy redirect money that normally would be used on trips and hotels toward handbags and apparel. Trump's tax cut has also played a role, giving wealthy consumers more disposable income. Biden campaigned on raising corporate taxes and reversing some of Trump's tax policies. However, his ability to implement his vision depends on Democratic control of the Senate, which appeared unlikely as of Wednesday afternoon.
  • Corporate activism has flourished under the Trump presidency, as brands and retailers that previously remained neutral on political issues came under increased pressure by consumers to take a stance. The panelists predicted that activism was likely to continue, no matter who wins the election. "One thing that Trump did do was bring out… views that haven't been looked at previously," said Murdock. "No matter who wins [diversity and inclusion] is going to be on people's minds."

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