In Time Magazine’s recent expose on the dearth of manufacturing jobs here in the US, and how it affects our economy, it was found that if Americans bought just 1% more of products made in USA, it would create 200,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 1990 there has been an 80% decline in manufacturing jobs. In a recent spotlight on the fashion industry, it was found that we have gone from over 900,000 manufacturing jobs to about 150,000 today. In 2010, there were 7,855 private business establishments in the apparel manufacturing industry, employing 157,587 workers—compared with 15,478 establishments and 426,027 workers in 2001. In 2010, only two U.S. counties had more than 500 business establishments—Los Angeles county, California with 2,509, and New York county, New York with 803.
How important is the fashion industry? Households were found to have spent, on average, $1,700 (in nominal terms) on apparel, footwear, and related products and service; about 3.5 percent of average annual expenditures. As Mark Twain once wrote, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” So as a society we are spending on apparel, it is just is not being felt here on our economy.
Dave Schiff, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer for Made Movement, a marketing agency focused solely on American-made products, states “The bottom line is, when people buy things made in America, it’s good for America.”
For way too long, business owners have believed that overseas production saves money — a savings that is then passed along to consumers in the form of lower prices.
But designer Nanette Lepore, a proponent for American fashion manufacturing who produces approximately 85% of her clothing line in New York City, says that the cost saving is negligible. Unless you are producing in massive volume, she finds that the overseas margins are not much different. “We find that we are within a dollar or two of what we’re making here in America.” And she has been profitable here for the last 12 years. Specialty labels like hers and others stationed in New York City would likely find a cost benefit to producing in the Garment Center, yet many of these designers are still sending work to other countries — whether because of a force of habit or a belief that producing in America is too expensive.
In 2009, the Made in Midtown study— a joint effort with the Design Trust for Public Space, examined how the Garment Center, that tiny swath of New York which once produced 90% of all clothing sold in the United States, benefits New York. It was commissioned as a response to city legislators, who were considering removing zoning protections for the area in order to transform it into a more “tourist friendly” destination. That study is still ongoing.
Made in Midtown helps paint a picture of just how important American fashion manufacturing is to New York and the country. According to Erica Wolf, executive director of Save the Garment Center — an organization that seeks to preserve New York City as the capital of American fashion - who was a key advocate of the study, the Garment Center alone accounts for more than 1.1 million square feet of manufacturing space. This space houses more than 7,100 manufacturing jobs, accounting for $2 billion of economic output and 3,500 indirect jobs. And this is as many factories in the area are working at half and quarter capacities. ).
In a 2010 survey of local designers commissioned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, nearly 80% of respondents said that the Garment District is either "very important" or "extremely important" to their production.
Recently, however, there have been indications that consumers are catching on to the importance of “Made in America.”. Given a choice between a product made in the U.S. and an identical one made abroad, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy the American product, according to a new nationally representative survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, more than 80 percent of those people cited retaining manufacturing jobs and keeping American manufacturing strong in the global economy as very important reasons for buying American. About 60 percent cited concern about the use of child workers or other cheap labor overseas.
And people would pay extra to buy American. More than 60 percent of all respondents indicated they’d buy American-made clothes and appliances even if those cost 10 percent more than imported versions; more than 25 percent said they’d pay at least an extra 20 percent. (Perhaps more surprising: According to a new survey of consumers in the U.S. and abroad by the Boston Consulting Group, more than 60 percent of Chinese respondents said they’d buy the American-made version over the Chinese even if it were to cost more.)
Some American clothing companies are trying to expand this trend. All American Clothing Company is just one such company. They manufacture every item here on our soil, and after years of outsourcing to other American factories, they have just bought their own factory.
In addition to producing their own products, they will also manufacturing USA Made clothing items for designers across the country, most notably here New York. In a massive marketing campaign to do their part in helping revitalize the Garment Industry, they are now accepting submissions from designers of denim products who would like to make their items in the USA. And for those NY boutiques who would like to carry these USA made items in their stores at a wholesale price, they will work hand in hand with them also.
Made in USA fashion is on its way back, thanks to a collaborative of many companies, such as All American Clothing Co. This is a grassroots movement that is sure to catch on. Even retailer giant Walmart is trying follow suit. They recently announced that the company is investing $50 billion in American-made products over the next 10 years.
So ultimately it is up to us as consumers to make buying American part of our shopping process. As demand continues to grow, more companies will make the decision to go local. And that will be good for all of us.
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