After decades of chasing cheap labor costs, apparel brands have found themselves plunged into a new, cold reality dictated by overseas tariff and trade uncertainties. The traditional China-based manufacturing of this industry has likely been permanently disrupted, and brands intent on scaling their businesses don’t have the luxury of remaining short-sighted about their supply chains.
Complicating matters is the rise in social media that’s cycling trends at skyrocketing speeds, forcing brands to react more quickly than legacy supply chains have historically allowed. Speed and agility are now the leading drivers of success in today’s apparel industry, and many companies have come to realize—some the hard way—that the true cost of a product is far greater than the sum of its parts. Los Angeles-based Arzee International is one sourcing, product development and manufacturing company helping brands calculate that smarter math by improving their speed to market via advantages carried only by U.S. facilities.
“Production moved out of the U.S. chasing cheap labor, but it sacrificed quality, sustainability and, unfortunately at times, responsible manufacturing practices,” said Arzee founder and head of business development Ryan Zimmerman. “Today’s customers are more demanding. They not only want superior quality in materials—with enhanced aesthetics in terms of fit and shape—they also want the product ethically sourced through sustainable business practices. Leading and emerging brands understand this well, and the shift back to U.S. apparel manufacturing speaks to this.”
When exploring the advantages of domestic manufacturing, three chief benefits emerge, all of which are knotted together to reduce the cost of production.
Shorter lead times
U.S. manufacturing is proving to be faster and more efficient in design development, sampling and production lead times, enabling brands to adjust quicker to trends. Where a typical Asian manufacturer would require 12 to 16 weeks from development to delivery, a modern, organized and technologically advanced U.S. facility can run through the cycle in five to eight weeks.
These brands are also able to leverage yet another advantage of U.S. manufacturing: Los Angeles’ signature pigment dye washes. Able to capture color more richly, a technique that is less common in Asia.
Apparel and textile production moved out of the U.S. because the industry saw the value in lower first costs. But those benefits relied on large minimum order quantities (MOQ), which today’s market can have significant implications on the bottom line. The massive MOQs required by most Asian factories leads to excess inventory, potential markdowns and potential brand dilution.
For example, emerging designers who want to manufacture a line of t-shirts would get hit with an MOQ per each color, where a domestic apparel manufacturer can produce at an MOQ of 500 units per style and split into colors every 100 units. This level of flexibility simply isn’t available in Asia, said Zimmerman, and it affords brands the ability to hold a smaller inventory position and take on less risk.
It also enables the ability to pivot more quickly toward trends, a crucial skill in today’s social media reality. When trends shift, brands need adjust and capitalize right away, brands that go through the traditional legacy cycle of designing the line for the next season, are going to miss the boat.
Among the many challenges with overseas production is the complexity and costs associated with handing off a line. Due to language and time barriers, brands end up running multiple rounds of samples due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of execution and design intent. Domestic manufacturing may not just simplify the design handoff process by eliminating the language barrier but mitigates the need of having to resort to travel across the globe with technical and design teams for development handoffs.
Based out of Los Angeles, CA, Arzee International is a leading domestic cut and sew manufacturer for Department Store and Boutique Private Label accounts and Emerging Designers.
To learn more about Arzee International and the advantages of U.S. manufacturing, click here.