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Sock Manufacturer Expands Factory Footprint From China Into US

FutureStitch officially opened a Southern California factory after years of operating exclusively in China.

The sock maker that built its name on a 280,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art vertical knitwear factory in China’s Zhejiang province opened its first U.S. factory in Oceanside near its Orange County headquarters. Co-founding CEO Taylor Shupe said the 8,000-square-foot location represents a significant opportunity for the business, which serves Stance, Everlane, Crocs and Toms.

“Our yield will be much higher” in the U.S. factory, said Shupe, who expects Oceanside will make more product per square foot than the company’s global operations. FutureStitch hired six workers for its production line, and aims to employ 20 by the end of the year. The company is targeting 50 employees by the end of 2023, and will ramp up annual production to 4 million pairs. FutureStitch plans to build several new facilities nearby to support production, which could reach 15 million pairs per year.

FutureStitch circular knitting technology.
FutureStitch circular knitting technology. Courtesy

With increasing interest in reshoring, FutureStitch aims to capitalize on opportunities in California. Shupe said the Oceanside facility partnered with San Diego Workforce Partners and North County Lifeline to recruit and employ formerly incarcerated women—a population with a roughly 35 percent national unemployment rate. In addition to providing jobs, the organizations will help new FutureStitch workers access services related to health and housing.

None of the factory’s new team members has a history in the garment industry. “It’s a unique challenge,” Shupe added, but one that “affects the entire culture of the organization” for the better. “They’re super excited to have a job and enjoy working in the dynamic environment that we’ve been able to offer.”

Chief technology officer Avi Cohen, a veteran of Israeli apparel firm Delta Galil, relocated to the U.S. from China where he managed FutureStitch’s main factory. Cohen developed a “robust training system that will get [workers] up and operational within a month,” Shupe said, versus the three-month program implemented for the Chinese factory.

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The Oceanside facility will focus on replenishing “great-selling styles really rapidly, to be able to capture episodic moments… and to create new products that would allow us to do market tests,” Shupe said. About one-third of the factory will be devoted to research and development and focus heavily on printing and embellishment, he added.

FutureStitch Oceanside aims to ramp up to producing 4 million pairs of socks each year.
FutureStitch is working with a Japanese technology company that develops printing tools that will allow the factory to “spit out socks in a matter of second, versus minutes”—a capability beyond what is currently available at its China campus. “That’s going to allow us to be a lot more productive per person and on a square footage basis, which is a big consideration because rent and energy are both much more expensive” in California, he added. Courtesy

While he says FutureStitch is still “troubleshooting” its way through some of the challenges of setting up shop in an entirely new production market, Shupe sees the company expanding nationwide and potentially creating new product lines.

“This is a huge opportunity to create a model that works for the U.S. that we want to expand on,” he said. “We want to increase our footprint substantially, and hopefully get to a place where we can do local-for-local around the world.”