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California Apparel Industry Sees Future in Tech-Based Products

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

California’s apparel and textile manufacturing industry has been in a downward spiral since 1990, however, a recent report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation indicates that athletic apparel and sportswear with high-tech elements could reinvigorate the floundering business.

One area of growth is the incorporation of new material innovations into fabric, including biometric devices that monitor the wearer’s behavior and physical response. However, the study found that California would have to invest in new machinery and in the development of higher-skilled labor.

It should come as no surprise that California, home to Silicon Valley and more than 270,000 computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs, could see a boost to all of its manufacturing sectors by looking to the tech world for advancement and growth opportunities. Manufacturing processes in both high-tech and low-tech industries have grown increasingly dependent upon technical tools, and specialized training is crucial, the report noted.

Edward Leamer, a professor of economics at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “Many people who have lost their jobs are not suited for the new jobs that are out there. We need to offer a different kind of education. The most important thing to have when you graduate from college is the thirst for knowledge.”

California’s apparel manufacturing sector has seen the largest job losses of all manufacturing industries in the state. According to the report, in 2012 the number of people employed by the fashion industry declined 42 percent to 80,000, from 2002 when the sector employed 138,000 people. The appeal of lower-cost nations in Southeast Asia, as well as cheaper regions in the U.S., is driving apparel production away from California, the report revealed.

Overall, California lost 842,190 manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2012, however, it remains the leading manufacturing center in the nation, accounting for 11.4% of the manufacturing gross domestic product in the U.S.

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