The new demand for apparel to be produced domestically is great! But not as easy as it sounds. Sure, its sustainable in reducing carbine emissions and potentially it could support more new jobs. However, many years ago we chose to send most of our production offshore and happily enjoyed purchasing all those cheap clothing, which in reality most of us don’t really need any more clothing. However, after a long busy week its so tempting to go to the local mall and shop mindlessly to decompress and then go home with a bag of “stuff”!
So, in order to bring back apparel production to the USA there are some important necessary steps that will need to be realized before this can happen efficiently. Some of these points below are already slowly being implemented but in order to really compete with China and India we need a good plan and industry collaboration.
- There needs to be a BIG investment into the modernization of existing factories, or to design and build new factories around the new modern methods to produce garments in a sustainable more efficient way. Robots to move the garments in production and in some cases a robot can be used to sew the whole garment.
- Sewers need to be trained and retrained to implement the use of new machinery and new manufacturing methods. I would propose to train entry level employees with certification programs, which will allow them the opportunity to move up the corporate company ladder. More like apprenticeship programs that were and still are popular in Europe.
- Circular production methods need also to be incorporated, which will incorporate machinery to shred old and used clothing, or old inventory to repurpose the shredded fibers into new textiles.
- On demand production is also another great new method to only produce garments that have orders and can be produced in small lots more often. The days of 20,000-unit orders are much reduced with retailers ordering when their stock is low, or with seasonal or trend changes.
- Computerization to create customization to a customer’s body measurement is another huge new benefit to being more sustainable and efficient in production and reducing waste. The customer sees a style they like then they scan their own body to see how that style would look on them. If they like how it looks on their own avatar, then that style and pattern would be computer generated, cut in single layers and then sewn individually to the customers measurements. It’s the new century of the new age couture made clothing that is made to each individual customers taste and to their personal measurements.
- 3D printing is another fast-moving anomaly that is and will change the world of fashion forever. Choose a new outfit and have it 3D printed to your own personal measurements. 3D is already being used very efficiently for shoes and other more ridged items. Stella McCartney has designed and produced fashion shows that feature her 3D creations. At the moment the fabric that is 3D printed is still a little too stiff to wear comfortably but I am sure that soon the art of 3D printing garments will change our clothing options. Maybe one day we will all have a 3D printer in our own home and create our own garments daily. The garments can then be melted down and used for the next creation.
- New sustainable fibers made from to name a few: Pineapple, Banana skins, fermented wine, recycled and upcycled clothing.
- Online purchasing directly from the manufacturer often cuts the retail mark up of 2.2 percentage. This usually results in more reasonable pricing. However, the down is that if shipping individual orders it all takes more labor time to pack and ship.
- Trend differences have been changing for a while but the last two years with the Pandemic we are mostly working and Zooming from home. This has accelerated the demand for more comfortable clothing. We are not willing to be dictated to as much as in the past. Those leggings you wear to the gym will usually stay on all day and the tops changed out.
- Supplementing production with nearshoring production in Free Trade countries. This is a good strategic move to supplement domestic production and support third world countries. If south of the border the goods can be shipped and received in a more speed efficient way than sourcing in the far east. This allows orders to be filled and shipped in a timely way to accommodate online sales. Plus, retailers are buying less more often.
So, where do we begin? Some good news is that there are investors who are already investing in rebuilding our once vibrant apparel industry. The investments are coming from domestic and international investors. Some of the countries already investing in building a new direction and infrastructure for our industry is interestingly coming from China.