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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The European Commission works on initiatives to strengthen the competitiveness of the fashion and high-end industries, such as measures to protect intellectual property rights, to fight fake goods, and to help fashion small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access finance and stimulate creativity and innovation.

Policy context

The Commission Communication of 2012, ‘Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU’, recognised that the creative and cultural sectors are a largely untapped resource for jobs and growth in the EU.

Two Staff Working Documents were published in parallel to the Communication. This paved the way for industry consultations, which resulted in an Action Plan for Fashion and High-end Industries (377 kB) that outlined progress in key areas and proposed further initiatives to boost growth and create more jobs.

Support initiatives from the Action Plan

Helping small businesses access finance

The visible face of the industry – world-renowned luxury fashion houses and big high street brands – hides the thousands of small, often family-owned companies and craftsmen who contribute to Europe’s leading position in the fashion and high-end markets. These small enterprises often face difficulties accessing finance.

Helping SMEs create and innovate

The Action Plan acknowledges that design, creativity, and innovation are at the core of the EU's fashion and high-end business models. Globalisation means that Europe cannot compete with emerging economies on the basis of cost. Only knowledge and innovation-based industry, based on higher-value-added products, processes, and services, can ensure Europe’s position as a global leader.

The Worth Project, supported by the Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs, worked to initiate partnerships between designers and manufacturing SMEs in the fashion and high-end sector. This pilot action ended in November 2015 and a similar project will be announced in 2016. See the evaluation report.

In 2015, a new action under COSME was launched that specifically supports the market uptake of innovative products and services in the design-led industries, including fashion.

The challenge of fake goods

Counterfeiting poses a major challenge to the fashion and high-end industries, where creativity is at the core of the production process. These creative products account for the largest share of all counterfeit goods. In terms of value, they comprised over 50% of products detained by European customs officials in 2013 and it has been estimated that the share of fake products in global trade amounts to 8%.

Small businesses often lack the necessary means to protect their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). This is heightened by the new opportunities offered by ecommerce which enable companies to reach new markets in the digital arena, making the sale of counterfeit goods even easier. Fashion articles are currently amongst the top three products sold online. To counter this threat, the Commission is active in a number of areas

  • in 2012, the Commission launched the Stop Fakes campaign to raise consumer awareness about the dangers of fake goods and to promote closer cooperation between the Commission, national authorities, industry and consumers.

Relevant IPR legislation