A California apparel producer is broadening its footprint with a new Texas outpost, the latest American manufacturer to expand through acquisitions.
Los Angeles-based manufacturer Lefty Production Co. acquired Stitch Texas, a fashion development firm headquartered in the city of Austin, it announced Monday. Lefty co-founder and CEO Marta Miller said the purchase represents a significant step in the company’s mission to make Made in the USA an achievable reality for American brands.
The agreement will give family-owned Stitch Texas, which currently focuses on product development and sampling, a seamless production outlet for its 75 clients based across the Southern U.S., Miller said. Clients’ apparel projects can be sewn at Lefty’s factory in L.A. in the near term, while Miller lays the groundwork to build out a production arm in Texas in the coming years. The first step will be figuring out how to help current Stitch Texas clients, many of whom source offshore, “bring their production home,” she said.
As the industry navigates one of the most turbulent supply chain crises in recent history, Miller said companies are beginning to recognize the importance of proximity to their partners as well as their end consumers. Brands manufacturing solely overseas might have missed out on holiday sales this fall due to delays, she said. “It’s a wake up call—maybe you don’t have to have all of your production here,” she added, “but you have to have some part of the supply chain that you can that you can touch, and feel like you’re in control.”
A native Texan, Miller moved back to her home state during the pandemic after 15 years building out Lefty in Downtown L.A. She describes the company as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and influencers looking to start their own social-media-driven lines, as it guides industry newbies through the product development process. Lefty, Miller added, has also solidified its status as a partner for a growing number of American womenswear brands and department stores that see the value of manufacturing stateside. “There’s such a tactile part to this industry,” she said. “Localizing development and production really does help them to better understand their own brands.”
When Stitch Texas owner Jan García told Miller—an occasional production partner—about his intention to retire, she felt compelled to find a way to keep the operation alive. “There’s so much overlap” in clientele and capabilities, she told Sourcing Journal. The partnership will allow the companies to share resources and relationships, with several fabric mills based in the L.A. area.
“After nine years we have come full circle and it is time for someone else to carry on,” García told Sourcing Journal. “Marta’s expertise and access to manufacturing facilities, while offering the sought after development services, is the perfect solution for our valued clients.”
Through the transition, Stitch Texas will retain its name and its four full-time employees—and some of Lefty’s sewers are already expressing interest in moving to Austin to join the team. With a lower cost of living than California and skilled sewers in short supply, Miller said workers have told her they would appreciate the opportunity to help build out a new Texas factory. “We’re seeing a large amount of interest,” she said, “and that might end up propelling our plans quicker than we anticipated.”
In the near term, Miller is bullish about integrating cutting-edge retail technology into the Stitch Texas business. Calling Austin a “baby Silicon Valley,” Miller noted the city has become a hub for tech companies, and she believes there’s a valuable partnership to be forged between incoming startups and fashion players. “There’s a celebration of technology going on here, and there’s a huge talent pool,” she said. She hopes Stitch Texas can help pioneer a true industry presence in the region, influenced by the city’s future-focused entrepreneurs.
Lefty currently utilizes Tukatech’s 3D and CAD design programs, and is a part of the company’s international community of factories, dubbed TukaCenters, which are connected via cloud-based software. By joining the network, the Austin-based firm will synergize the two operations and foster collaboration with brands, supply chain partners and even individual sewers.
Miller believes that a strong focus on connection is what will spur brands to engage with domestic manufacturing. Being able to visit a factory and see goods on the production line, or meet with a product development team located in the same time zone, is becoming increasingly important to brands frustrated with offshore challenges, she said. Meanwhile, cutting-edge technology gives brands greater visibility into the product development process, filling in any gaps.
The value of the Made in the USA label is also on the upswing, in Miller’s opinion. “The American consumer, no matter how they’re politically aligned, appreciates something made here ethically,” she said. Comparing the growth of the farm-to-table movement in the food sector to the burgeoning interest in U.S. fashion manufacturing, Miller said consumers are becoming deeply invested in the origins of their apparel. “Why wouldn’t you want to understand whose hands made it, and take pride in that?”