In the 1980s, 90 percent of all garments worn in America were made in the U.S. — but by 2008, the total had dropped to 10 percent.
The battle between domestic manufacturing and outsourcing has been going on for years. Companies find benefits in both, but it’s only recently that there has been an upsurge in the number of American designers who are choosing to keep all of their production domestic. While the cost might make outsourcing seem like a more viable option for a lot of designers, when you take a closer look, it’s easy to see how domestic production is actually the better alternative. Not only is it helping the economy in America, but it’s also changing and improving the world of fashion. Let’s take a closer look at why domestic production has become so popular recently.
Basically, a production plant is only as good as its employees. Domestic production often comes with better wages and working conditions for employees. Domestic individuals are thus able to produce parts in higher quantities that might not be possible where working conditions aren’t strictly regulated. In outsourced situations, workers are sometimes subjected to possible injury or aren’t working at their fullest capacity. Many companies opt for domestic production because they can rest assured that their employees will be safe.
Even though many outsourced plants might at first glance appear to be less expensive than domestic plants, the real cost can only be measured by the outcome of the final product. If an outsourced facility is rushing to fill giant orders while skimping on quality, that could result in lowered bottom-line profits. Local manufacturers tend to put more emphasis on quality and ensuring that clothing is durable and attractive. It’s not just about quantity at the end of the day.
Depending on where companies are outsourcing, they could experience significant delays in receiving materials and getting deliveries out on time. Some countries have shortages in resources and have to import them in order to complete deliveries. China, for example, can be adversely affected by water shortages, which can increase production costs and cause significant delays. These factors are more controlled in the U.S., and domestic manufacturers can plan more wisely as to how much material is used and what the final cost will be. It also helps to ensure quality control.
Differences in time zones and communication methods can cause significant production delays. If a designer implements a small change in a product, that change can take a lot of time to finalize with an outsourced company. Domestic manufacturing makes that much easier as communication within the same or nearby time zones doesn’t require as much advance notice or as many different devices.
American Designers Doing Domestic Production
Check out some of the great American designers who are keeping production in the states:
Kyla Joy is a Los Angeles-based luxury handbag and lifestyle brand founded by Joe Citizen in 2015. The company’s mission is to inspire women to “Live the Life You Love,” and they spread that message by empowering women to embrace their own personal style. All of their quality handbags are handcrafted in Los Angeles with fine Italian leather.
Keeping New York Everywhere, or KNYEW, is made in Los Angeles and Las Vegas by owner DJ Crooked. They are an amazing street style brand and produce high-quality handmade basics like hoodies, tees and outerwear. Their clothes are stylish and sustainable.
JLEW Bags are made in New York by owner Jamie Lewis. She wanted to create bags that made getting from work to the gym to a night out a little more seamless and fashionable, so she started creating prototypes and eventually found a model that worked. All her bags use G2 Zippers and are handcrafted with the finest materials.
Posa Apparel makes high fashion and highly functional apparel out of Denver, Colorado, and all of their clothing is handmade. Owners Amber Hochbein and Paul Simmons are not only devoted to sustainable fashion but are also passionate about giving back in a meaningful way. Customers can select from several charities that receive a percentage of their sales.
Calvin Rucker’s tagline is “Casual Couture for the Creative Class.” They started in Downtown Los Angeles and create handmade and timeless clothing that the trendy downtowners love. They have showrooms in L.A. and New York to showcase their designs.
Shinola is a factory in Detroit that is dedicated to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the city and to the U.S. They make luxury watches, jewelry and designer handbags for men and women and curate other fine gifts as well. It’s important to the company to maintain production in the U.S. to stimulate the economy and maintain high quality control over their products.
The trend toward domestic production is helping to move American fashion in a new direction and to ensure that more jobs stay in the United States. The trend toward higher quality products is definitely going to help keep American fashion relevant, especially in the face of the quick and dirty “fast-fashion” trends that have taken over in the past few years.