Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The American Apparel Industry

Disclaimer..... this could be ranting......

I just was reminded of the HBO documentary "Schmatta"  about the American Apparel Industry and it's migration over seas.  It really says it all about the cheap throw away garments that we can buy from Old Navy and Target that cost nearly nothing and are made of .....gasp...... CASHMERE!

There are still factories out there in the USA and Miss Celle found one of them posted about here.
So cool to see factories that are left in America.  When I got into the industry in the early '90s it was my job to manage the domestic manufacturing.  In my first job I managed a dye house in Richmond California and the pattern room of the garment dye company.  We had sewers in San Francisco and Sausalito- everything was local!

Moving on to my next job I managed domestic production.  We had factories that worked with us in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. As well we had mills in the south that we bought yarn from and I got to learn first hand about blending yarns from bails of wool and cotton and spinning of every kind type of yarn without even leaving the country.  It was incredible. And now it's all but gone.  To train my team we need to go to China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

I was just speaking with a co worker yesterday about her old job with Jantzen managing the blazer sewing line!  Amazing experience.  I loved hearing about it.  She was telling me about it when I told her I had been sewing a coat, while we were discussing our issues with the backpacks we are making (in the Philippines).

Here is a great documentary that HBO did that outlines the migration of the US Apparel industry abroad.  It just happened yesterday- it seems. It's called Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags.  It's so interesting and I lived it (at the end but still).

Check it out.  It's really interesting. I'm fascinated by the change of the industry in such a short period of time.  I've only been at it for a little over 15 years and here it is a whole new world.  Almost like twitter and ipad but not.....

1 comment:

  1. I saw the documentary on HBO (before the EQ killed the cable company) and, around the same time, I saw a documentary made by an American woman here on the booming used goods industry...which killed sewing, home or professional combined.

    Back to production. I come from a different perspective: those countries that do the outsourcing.

    I have several thoughts on the situation but I'm wrung out by a cold so will just throw them at you:

    - Felt insulted when the 1980s congressman in the documentary was explaining what a kindness it was to Indian factory workers that 20 of them be paid the wage of a single US worker. Thanks a lot!
    - Remembered being soooo disappointed as a kid when my godmother sent me a top that was...made in Haiti!
    - Bought a CareBear's baby (the smaller teddy bear a CB would hold in its arms) for 1 gourde (approx 10cents US back then) in front of my school when factories closed here to move to Asia. Sadly, lost her in the EQ too :(
    - Our gvt signed an agreement with the US to promote factories here...and I worry about the active/passive pollution, the abuses (the legal system is a joke here) and the actual financial impact on the country. After all, these are foreign companies producing foreing goods for export. Also, both my parents worked in the front offices of factories back in the 70s and 80s and their wages were a joke. My mother made about $150 US/mo as a secretary, imagine the workers. She says it was a financial leap forward from her job as a store clerk but still...

    Ok, off to drink my syrup and go to bed with a book.