It may be difficult to find an article of clothing that has the label saying “Made in the USA”. During the ‘60s about 95% of clothing worn in the USA was made there. Then came years of trading agreements and recessions affecting the domestic production of apparel, and then 97% of clothing was manufactured overseas. Many companies and custom apparel manufacturers simply sent their business offshore due to the decline in capital and a qualified workforce.
Apparel was one of the first industries to be outsourced. Cheap labor in low-wage countries was attractive about 40 years ago. It was a worldwide trend. Clothing manufacturers sought bulk and cheaper products.
However, there is renewed interest and investment in US-made products in the new century, and promise of continued growth with improved trade agreements. Throughout the USA there are now more than 100,000 textile mills turning out fabrics like cotton, wool, silk, and other natural fibers plus a range of synthetic fibers. Domestic clothing consumption is about 3% but the industry is starting to recover. Textile manufacturing and home-grown apparel are trending in 2021.
Finding qualified workers is not easy, but as increased automation is adopted by the fashion industry, training staff is less time-consuming and recruitment an easier process. Lasers are used to precisely cut patterns and robots are used to automate sewing and action in certain steps in the manufacturing process. However, custom apparel manufacturers still need people to sew the pieces together.
Even though clothing manufacturers in America face many challenges, they’re doing better than other advanced nations. The main consumer purchase decision is to buy quality. People who buy American-made will spend a bit more than on a foreign-made apparel. American designers, wholesale suppliers, and manufacturers know the latest style desires and what people wish to wear, seasonally and perennially.
American-made clothing businesses often offer a virtuous offering: going green and donating a percentage of profits to charity. New American clothing companies often start off by selling online before moving to actual retail locations.
If you are one of the custom apparel manufacturers launching a new clothing line, or even arranging custom corporate clothing for staff, you will need to consider the question: manufacture in the USA or overseas? You will find that both options have their pluses and minuses, but according to one source, it is clear that going domestic is the best choice in terms of requirements, deadlines, and the goals of your business.
Here are five good reasons to manufacture your clothing in the USA:
Quality Control of USA Manufacturers
You pay for quality. The loose thread that is overlooked by a Chinese manufacturer working in bulk gives the “cheap” feel to some overseas-made, cheaper goods. American manufacturers simply do a better job of quality control and are thorough with this aspect of their business. The perception that Made in USA clothing is better quality is justified.
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
Overseas clothing manufacturers for small businesses have a higher minimum order quantity than home-grown manufacturers. The higher quantity you order, the more you will spend on costly shipping. Low MOQ from American clothing makers gives you more freedom and flexibility. No sea freight costs mean they and you are spending less on shipping.
With the shipping time factored into the supply of overseas-made clothing, if you choose sea freight, you are looking at about a month added onto the time it takes to manufacture. Airfreight is of course much more expensive. With American-made clothing, you are paying for road or rail supply, much quicker and more cost-effective.
Time differences and communication difficulties with overseas manufacturers can cause problems and delays. Domestic, trained, and culturally fitting customer service is an added bonus of using American manufacturers.
Creation of Jobs for Americans
This is not a direct benefit to your business bottom line, but your choice of manufacturer affects your economic context.
There are other considerations for going with American clothing manufacturers. Testimonials from people who have visited overseas clothing factories are shocking. Workers are on 14-hour shifts, 7 days a week. They live at the factory in squalid conditions. They get one day off per year.
American clothing manufacturers offer occupational health and safety and decent wages plus legal conditions. You can be proud of how your clothing is made.
Startup clothing companies like Buck Mason and Petit Peony have found local processes cheaper than they thought, saving them research time and money. Established brands like Brooks Brothers employ 200 people and make 6,000 shirts every week within 10 miles of their flagship NYC store.
They cite increased flexibility and much shorter lead times as major incentives to continue to make their products in the USA. The Peds company invested $16 million in 2015 to upgrade an existing sock manufacturing facility in NC that employs 1,400 people. They are responding to the growing demand for Made in USA products.
Retail giant Walmart made a commitment in 2013 to source products made, grown, or assembled in the USA for 10 years, ending 2023. This Re-shoring Initiative forecasts that purchases will create 250,000 American jobs in manufacturing. And quicker times from factory to shelf. The data examined on this project in 2016 reported the following positives: in order: Proximity to customers, skilled workforce, impact on the domestic economy.
“Sewbots” and 3D printing, new technologies as well as e-commerce are becoming important to the fashion industry. The e-consumer moves at a fast pace and clothing suppliers need to keep up with consumer behavior.
Brands can lose 40% in markdowns due to a long time to stock from overseas suppliers. Making clothes locally gives companies the advantage in flexibility in design to reality for what makes it to the hanger in the store.
Americans are Creating a Demand for Made In USA Clothing
According to Industry Week, a study by Consumer Reports says that about 8 in 10 Americans say they would rather buy American products than imports. 60% of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay 10% more for the local product.
This gives companies the green light to make locally sourced and assembled clothing and pass on the slightly higher ticket price to the consumer. There is simply a perception that the goods will be of better quality.
Sourcing Journal reports that 45% of surveyed consumers say they always/usually purchase clothing Made in the USA, and one in five Americans view clothing durability as linked to the country of origin.
That is surely a hugely welcoming statistic if you are considering making your clothes domestically, about one in two shoppers will tend to see your product favorably. You will have a competitive advantage both in flexibility, speed to market, and ethical business practices.
If you’re interested in producing your style in the USA you can view the apparel manufacturing and product development services we offer here.