The recent election has left a lot of people wondering how the new administration will change their industry (and world) as they know it. In the Fashion industry, where 93% of garments worn in the USA are made elsewhere, retail insiders are reflecting on the trade systems and operations in place.
The erosion of domestic cut-and-sew garment assembly jobs in the 1990s created a gap in the industry and pushed US manufacturers out of business trying to compete with the wages of other NAFTA and WTO countries. Without a dedicated effort to spark innovation in US manufacturing (from apparel to automotive), the talent and efficiency gap got larger.
Labor and Training in Fashion
As jobs left the US, the skill sets that powered that productivity such as knowledge of industrial sewing machinery and best-practices in the apparel making process were largely lost. As facilities got smaller, efficiencies around assembly lines and specialization within apparel manufacturing were also lost. Think about it – high school students across America were once taught in home economics class how to use sewing machines. Education priorities changed and as a result sewing skills fell by the wayside. Now, new ventures in apparel manufacturing largely bare the cost of educating a workforce with a limited base knowledge.
Technology and Fashion
To this day, there isn’t much technology involved in the apparel production process. It’s very much still manual and high touch, especially for certain types of fabrics and styles. While there is headway being made on on robotics in fashion manufacturing, there are many operational hurdles (including training and mechanization costs) that are prohibitive for manufacturing facilities – already making incredibly low margins – to implement.
Trump and Fashion
Trump has already met with industry leaders like Vogue’s Anna Wintour and LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and has stated that he will impose new taxes on goods coming in from abroad like Mexico and China, so the margins previously achieved from producing abroad will be eroded – another hurdle for an industry already chasing diminishing margins.
If it takes a lot of money and time to train people and buy new machinery, how can US manufacturing resurface when brands need to re-shore?
Luckily there’s hope. For Nineteenth Amendment, the answer lies in rethinking the model. The root of the issue stems from fashion’s cyclical, trend driven nature. But, developing new product and holding inventory is expensive and production is hard. The solution is to bring all the excitement of new product to consumers quickly without the risk of inventory in the most efficient process possible – from sale to production.
At Nineteenth Amendment, we’ve created a marketing and manufacturing software for fashion brands of all sizes to pre-sell products and connect to a network of pre-vetted, no minimum cut and sew domestic manufacturers so that brands can pre-sell collections and manufacturer on-demand. Our solution allows brands to grow organically with upfront cash flow from direct-to-consumer sales to fund manufacturing and we give US manufacturers a constant flow of orders year round. The Nineteenth Amendment marketplace allows shoppers to access amazing product they couldn’t otherwise find from makers.
There is a new generation coming into ownership of US based manufacturing facilities leveraging federal and state grants to teach manufacturing labor skills and equip their facilities with the latest technology and machinery. By partnering with young entrepreneurs, like Nineteenth Amendment partner facility Shilo Bird in Brooklyn, New York, who are looking to transfer their corporate fashion production skills and experience into creating boutique cut-and-sew domestic facilities, we can achieve no minimum, quick turn production in an ethical, sustainable, and local way. This resurgence is refreshing and encouraging and, while limited, offers a solution to slowly grow a domestic manufacturing base.
Learn more about how Nineteenth Amendment is determining the future of fashion and read our Manifesto and start voting with your wallet today.