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Made in America Finds Its Place in the Apparel Sourcing Landscape

For apparel and textile companies, Made in America might not be for everyone, but it has become a viable alternative to foreign sourcing in certain circumstances.

The recent round of textile trade shows in New York featured companies that have found their niche in U.S. manufacturing–primarily in New York and Los Angeles–by focusing on their strengths instead of competing with low-cost foreign production.

And the approach may be working.

According to the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), the value of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing increased 12 percent in 2018 to an estimated $76.8 billion. U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $30.1 billion in 2018, a 5.4 percent gain from 2017.

Investment in fiber, yarn, fabric and other non-apparel textile product manufacturing, according to NCTO, was up 79 percent to $1.7 billion in 2018 from $960 million in 2009, when industry production began a slow turnaround.

At Premiere Vision New York, 13 manufacturers were exhibiting as part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Manufacturing Initiative (FMI). The initiative, a public-private grant program designed to support New York City manufacturing, has handed out nearly $3.5 million to 33 local manufacturers since 2013.

Cal McNeil, program manager for the CFDA, said, “It’s a really great time for designers to be producing in the U.S. for a lot of different reasons related to tariffs and overall relationship building you can do with local manufacturers.”

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Jenni Han, CEO of Acme Design + Studio, said being part of the FMI program gave the company a strong foundation to build its business.

“We’re getting interest and business every day,” Han said.

Acme Design, located in New York Garment District, works with emerging and established brands on all aspects of apparel manufacturing, from patternmaking and product development to sample making, fabric sourcing and full production.

“We specialize in the higher end because of the costs of manufacturing in New York,” she said.

At HD Fashion Inc., Ibraham said the company, which does cut and sew manufacturing, and production services, works with local designers such as Ralph Rucci and Mara Hoffman.

“Brands count on us for our craftsmanship and the service we provide,” he said. “Being part of FMI has been very helpful in helping to lower the cost of manufacturing.”

Exhibiting at the Functional Fabrics Fair, Sherry Wood, director of merchandising at Texollini, based in Long Beach, Calif., said emerging brands are particularly reliant on U.S. sourcing of yarn and materials because they don’t have the resources to import from abroad.

“Having a supplier that’s here in the U.S. and having the benefits of time, delivery and then the story on top of it is really important,” Wood said.

Larger brands are also looking into doing business with the knitwear manufacturer, which has a 250,000-square foot facility.

“They all say they want to do a third of their production in the U.S.,” Wood said. “So we are starting to see some opportunities from some big brands to run a program with trend-driven items. A lot of our programs are putting the fact that they are Made in America in their marketing story because so much of it is through e-commerce.”

At Local Loft, a platform within Texworld USA showcased 13 companies from New York and Los Angeles, a mix of production facilities, contractors and sewing, knitting and garment production services.

Local Loft participant Eli Braha, CEO of Berkley Cashmere, which makes fine knitted and woven cashmere sweaters, shawls and home goods in Manhattan using imported materials, said there are opportunities for more U.S. production.

The private label supplier of branded cashmere fashion products, Berkley sources traceable and sustainable raw materials from traditional producers in Inner Mongolia to ensure a reliable supply chain of select de-haired product. Its yarn spinning factory is equipped with technologically advanced Italian machinery to deliver high quality cashmere yarns.

Braha said as a luxury goods manufacturer, he does face competition from aboard, and the cost of doing business in New York is high. He feels the deferral and state governments could do more to support the industry, which would allow him to expand with new machinery and facilities.

At Clover & Cobbler, CEO Jaclyn Jones said she’s been able to build her fashion footwear business in the U.S., where few other show manufacturers exists.

Jones said since starting the company, which is based in Van Nuys, Calif. in October, business has been “above expectations.”

A vertical company with a 20,000-square-foot facility, Clover & Cobbler has no order minimums and has been working with several emerging designers and new brands.

“Our customers appreciate that we are made in the U.S. and I do think there is an opportunity for more footwear manufacturing here,” Jones said. “They get to reorder and capture trends right away they can come see what we do and see their shoes being made in the factory.”

The company’s marketing stresses: “For decades, footwear manufacturing in the U.S. and beyond hasn’t adapted to the standards of technology, quality and cleanliness we expect from every other manufacturing industry…We aim to breathe the life of a new generation into a centuries-old craft and honor the legacy of the skilled artisans who got us here. Together, we plan to reshape the future of footwear with a firm eye towards sustainability and ethical practices.”

Jones said she’s tried to make her fledgling company as modern as possible, with a digital presence, new machinery and conveniences for workers. So far, Clover & Cobbler has specialized in women’s, but is starting to get into some men’s as well.