This post is a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the As Yet Untitled post.
Since writing that post, and reading all of the comments, I have become aware of the fact that many Americans complain about the lack of quality, affordable, American-made clothing, but, if we really care as much as we claim, we would build factories, invest in quality equipment, training and technology, make an effort to gather ready and willing employees, and financial incentives to produce here... but we aren't.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of a company working closely with a large textile and clothing manufacturing company in China. A completely vertical operation, they seek American designers, run custom fabric production using those designers' desired prints, develop and produce those designs in China, and sell those completed designs in Asia, where the market is hungry for American style clothing.
Who would say no to this?
Labor, fabric, and distribution at a fraction of the cost to produce and try to sell it right here? There is no economic argument for doing it here, unless you produce luxury goods at luxury prices.
After running the numbers, comparing an attempt to produce locally with this alternative, I can't see how anyone could argue for trying to do any large-scale production here. And the biggest companies - the very successful ones? they are already moving on to Egypt. Everyone just keeps pushing to find a new frontier.
I haven't quite figured out whether this is a bad thing. It does distribute wealth, after all...
What I learned in this meeting was interesting. The general public wants inexpensive clothing in quantity. It has to be the right clothing for your lifestyle, needs, and budget.
Wanna be artistic? Wanna march to the beat of your own drummer? Make things for yourself (if you can do it well, do it, since this is a very economical choice, vs. locally made!), or, if you are a designer, do small production or truly artistic pieces locally, assuming your products can attract a price that the right customers will pay.
On a thoughtful note, read this article about Nannette Lepore, notice that it was written two years ago, and look at this one from a year ago, noticing where the company produces their more intricate items now (15% of production), and noticing what their locally made dresses cost.
We have to care enough about local production to buy it, don't we? Is that locally made promise enough to make those of us who can, open our wallets a bit wider? Only time will tell...