Ap­parel Man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

‘MADE IN AMER­ICA’ BRINGS BACK CHEERS TO THE LO­CAL MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING IN­DUS­TRY

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Hardly a few would know that USA does US $ 13.6 bil­lion of ship­ments an­nu­ally in ap­par­els, which is al­most half of what Bangladesh does or 76% of what In­dia ex­ports. Though the move to­wards lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing started long time back with con­cepts like ‘ In­shoring’, ‘ Reshoring’ and ‘ Nearshoring’, it ac­tu­ally caught speed when the ini­tia­tive was taken up by Don­ald Trump, the 45th and cur­rent Pres­i­dent of the USA, who an­nounced to bring in ‘Made in Amer­ica’ pol­icy in Jan­uary 2017 in or­der to pro­mote man­u­fac­tur­ing within the US. Ever since the an­nounce­ment came into ex­is­tence, the ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ers in the coun­try have started strength­en­ing their al­ready op­er­a­tional busi­ness as well as many start-ups which saw the light of day. The es­tab­lish­ment of th­ese fac­to­ries opened the doors of em­ploy­ment for thou­sands of lo­cal work­force.

The Gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion was ac­tu­ally re­quired see­ing the fact that since year 2000, the US has lost more than 5.1 mil­lion jobs due to fac­to­ries’ clo­sure and the term ‘Made in Amer­ica’ grad­u­ally lost its cred­i­bil­ity. But, as the ap­parel in­dus­try in the US is in the grow­ing phase again, the lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers are tak­ing up the ad­van­tage of the ‘ Trump Trust’ for lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing and send­ing a strong mes­sage to the rest of the world that the US ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing is do­ing bet­ter than ex­pected. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by Reshoring Ini­tia­tive in 2017, the ap­parel and tex­tile in­dus­try ranks third among all the in­dus­tries that have reshored 48,525 jobs by 952 com­pa­nies since 2010.

Why are man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs com­ing back, and where are they land­ing?

In the 19th cen­tury, Fall River was an im­por­tant gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing hub in Mas­sachusetts (United States) in terms of pro­duc­tion. Sim­i­larly, Gar­ment Dis­trict in New York had the best concentration of sew­ers in 1931 in the world, but to­day the num­ber of sew­ers have been re­duced dras­ti­cally; the rea­son be­ing that, over the last few decades, the ma­jor­ity of fac­to­ries in th­ese hubs have been shut­tered as man­u­fac­tur­ing has moved off­shore to places such as China and Viet­nam.

How­ever, a ray of hope could be seen back in 2014 when 95% of Amer­i­cans said in a sur­vey con­ducted by Al­liance for Amer­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­ing (AAM) that they have a favourable view of Amer­i­can-made prod­ucts. Chang­ing con­sumer pref­er­ence is not the only rea­son for jobs get­ting back to the coun­try. The cost dif­fer­ence be­tween do­mes­ti­cally-pro­duced gar­ments and ex­ported gar­ments has also shrunk. Ac­cord­ing to Reshoring Ini­tia­tive, the cost of ex­ported gar­ments is a full 95% of the cost of US-pro­duced gar­ments. This has en­cour­aged more en­trepreneurs to start man­u­fac­tur­ing in the coun­try it­self. Fur­ther, prox­im­ity to cus­tomers and short lead time re­mained the vi­tal fac­tors driv­ing

Dur­ing mid ’ 90s when job loss in USA ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing was at peak and South Asian ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing was grow­ing by leaps and bounds, there was a silent move­ment among US man­u­fac­tur­ers and gar­ments used to be la­belled as ‘ Crafted with pride in USA’. It is rad­i­cally trans­form­ing the fu­ture of Amer­i­can ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing with in­tel­li­gent in­te­gra­tion of tech­nol­ogy, au­toma­tion and hu­mans. Reshoring fol­lowed by the abil­ity to brand prod­ucts as ‘Made in USA’.

Be­sides, the con­tri­bu­tion of fi­nan­cial aid from the Gov­ern­ment and sup­ply­chain syn­er­gies in Reshoring can’t be un­der­rated by any means. The New York City Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NYCEDC), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica (CFDA) and the Gar­ment Dis­trict Al­liance, an­nounced in March 2017 that it is set to in­vest a pack­age worth US $ 51.3 mil­lion to help sta­bilise and strengthen the gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try in New York City.

As per the col­lab­o­ra­tion, the in­vest­ment will cover tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness as­sis­tance and work­force de­vel­op­ment that will be made avail­able to fac­to­ries in the five bor­oughs of New York. Ad­di­tion­ally, re­lo­ca­tion and ex­pan­sion sup­port will also be avail­able for com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in mov­ing out of the Gar­ment Dis­trict.

On the FDI side, it’s perti­nent to men­tion that the Chi­nese big­wig Tianyuan Gar­ments has in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars to set up gar­ment fac­to­ries in the US which, once op­er­a­tional, will surely make a big dif­fer­ence.

As for where the reshored jobs are show­ing up in the US, the south-east and Texas re­main the top re­gions for the same with the Midwest gain­ing ground due to its strong in­dus­trial base apart from Los Angeles which is un­doubt­edly con­sid­ered the top­most place for gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing with the ex­is­tence of re­puted names such as LA Ap­parel, 9B Ap­par­els and In­die Source.

Though most man­u­fac­tur­ers in the US have small units with 25-100 machines, the promis­ing ap­parel mar­ket within the coun­try will surely help them get big­ger in size in near fu­ture. Of all th­ese start-ups, Team StitchWorld un­folds the jour­ney of two com­pa­nies, Su­uchi Inc. and Detriot Sewn, which have suc­cess­fully es­tab­lished them­selves in the lo­cal mar­ket. A New Jersey-based ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing start-up, Su­uchi Inc. has one core goal: keep all of the man­u­fac­tur­ing in-house, within the United States and make pro­duc­tion pro­cesses faster and smarter. Run by an In­dian born woman Su­uchi Ramesh, a Computer Sci­ence de­gree holder as well as an MBA, the com­pany man­u­fac­tures knits and wo­ven clothes as well as ac­ces­sories for women, men, kids and even pets. “Out­sourc­ing has never been a part of our busi­ness model,” avers Su­uchi Ramesh who had never been in the ap­parel in­dus­try be­fore start­ing her own com­pany.

Launched in early 2015, Su­uchi Inc. is catch­ing up with the lost op­por­tu­ni­ties in ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US with its state-of-the-art, ver­ti­cally in­te­grated sup­ply chain that de­liv­ers the product as quickly as pos­si­ble in five days. To ful­fil the com­mit­ment, Su­uchi Inc. works on a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive method, Hyper-Speed to the mar­ket. Ex­plain­ing the same, Su­uchi says, “Speed to mar­ket is all about KISS – Keep It Sim­ple Stupid… It means our clients can de­sign their gar­ments in our unit, pro­duce here and ship from our unit to their cus­tomers.”

There has al­ways been a tussle over the use of hu­man ver­sus the use of au­toma­tion in the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. When it comes to USA, the de­bate be­comes even more sig­nif­i­cant as high labour cost is some­thing the lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing units are surely not look­ing at. But, Su­uchi Inc. is rad­i­cally trans­form­ing the fu­ture of Amer­i­can ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing with in­tel­li­gent in­te­gra­tion of tech­nol­ogy, au­toma­tion and hu­mans. On the tech­no­log­i­cal side, the com­pany cur­rently uses over 100 dif­fer­ent machines which have au­to­mated al­most 40 per cent of the pro­duc­tion in the fac­tory and the machines are op­er­ated by skilled op­er­a­tors.

Fur­ther, the com­pany cur­rently em­ploys around 85 work­ers, 80 per cent of them be­ing women. There’s a heavy fo­cus on job train­ing to spur job cre­ation, and Su­uchi Inc. takes a lot of pride in im­part­ing skills to the em­ploy­able and ready work­ers. The com­pany does so through its ‘Su­uchi Univer­sity’, where it trains prospec­tive em­ploy­ees in the re­quired man­u­fac­tur­ing skills, of­fer­ing em­ploy­ment at the end of the

Su­uchi Inc., rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing by bring­ing in tech­nol­ogy and hu­man be­ings together

three-month train­ing pe­riod. “We have 18 grad­u­ates from the univer­sity al­ready in our unit,” com­ments Su­uchi.

Though the com­pany is pro­vid­ing jobs to peo­ple, it’s mainly the heavy in­vest­ment from the be­gin­ning in tech­nol­ogy which is re­spon­si­ble for the com­pany’s rapid growth. Month-onMonth, Su­uchi Inc. grows 15-25 per cent on an aver­age, ac­cord­ing to Su­uchi Ramesh, who claimed the growth in an in­ter­view con­ducted by BBC News.

As far as tech­nol­ogy is con­cerned, the com­pany uses CNC fab­ric cut­ters in­stead of straight knife cut­ters which, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, cut fab­ric more pre­cisely and, thereby, help sewing op­er­a­tions take place quickly. The com­pany has also au­to­mated the process of but­ton­holes which has re­duced time sig­nif­i­cantly and has made the process faster by 40 per cent.

Even­tu­ally, the com­pany is mov­ing to­wards mak­ing the afore­men­tioned pro­cesses ro­botic (re­pro­grammable) in the up­com­ing months. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Su­uchi, it’s im­por­tant to con­sider that re­pro­grammable ro­bots and machines will make seam­stresses smarter and not re­place them. “We have come up with an idea of bring­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs to the coun­try, thereby, we can’t think of re­plac­ing hu­mans with ro­bots,” boasts Su­uchi as she is de­voted to us­ing tech­nol­ogy to in­crease ef­fi­ciency; it cer­tainly hasn’t im­pacted her abil­ity to cre­ate jobs.

More­over, be­ing a tech­nol­o­gist her­self, Su­uchi Su­uchi has cre­ated a soft­ware to re­duce the de­sign time and to cre­ate a gar­ment sam­ple from a 3D con­cept within 48 hours. has cre­ated a soft­ware to re­duce the de­sign time and to cre­ate a gar­ment sam­ple from a 3D con­cept within 48 hours. “Due to this, our clients are now able to see real time in­for­ma­tion of their or­ders,” she con­firms proudly.

How­ever, man­u­fac­tur­ing gar­ments do­mes­ti­cally poses its own chal­lenges and the big­gest of them all is high price. But Su­uchi says that get­ting the prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured within the coun­try is faster and qual­ity can be mon­i­tored and, there­fore, cost is some­thing the clients should not run away from. “What we of­fer to the mar­ket is bet­ter and dif­fer­ent. It’s about speed, qual­ity, and in­no­va­tion and this is why our cost is 20 per cent more than the cost which In­dia or China of­fer to the US cus­tomers,” as­serts Su­uchi.

The com­pany cur­rently op­er­ates in 10,000 square foot fa­cil­ity and pro­vides ser­vices to de­sign­ers who launch their own fash­ion la­bels; re­tail­ers who want to make pri­vate­la­bel cloth­ing in Amer­ica and large firms sup­ply­ing uni­forms to the casino and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries. With all th­ese in­vest­ment and ex­pan­sions, Su­uchi Inc. is aim­ing to clock US $ 7.5 mil­lion in turnover by the end of 2018. Man­u­fac­tur­ing gar­ments in Detroit (a city of the US state Michi­gan) which is known as the ‘Mo­tor City’ is surely not an easy task. But, Detroit Sewn – Founded by Karen Buscemi in 2015, came into ex­is­tence with a de­ter­mi­na­tion to utilise the city’s man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity and turn it in favour of the gar­ment sec­tor. Started with just one sewing op­er­a­tor and one client, Detroit Sewn has steadily grown to cur­rently hav­ing more than 100 clients (in­clud­ing big names such as Tierra Reign; Cryp­ton; Third Man Records and Lau­ren Gabriel­son) in last three years. “I wanted to be able to prove that man­u­fac­tur­ing ap­parel can work in Michi­gan and, I am proud to claim that I have done that,” says Buscemi, Founder and Pres­i­dent of Detroit Sewn.

Detroit Sewn, a small-scale gar­ment man­u­fac­turer, spe­cialises in knitwear such as T-shirts, hood­ies, baby items and home goods like pil­lows, table­cloths and nap­kins. It has also ven­tured into other in­dus­tries, mak­ing kayak cov­ers and sail pro­to­types.

Work­ing on the prin­ci­ple of ‘Make, Man­u­fac­ture, Mat­ter’, Detroit Sewn of­fers ser­vices right from pat­tern mak­ing, sam­pling, sourc­ing to digi­tis­ing, grad­ing, cut­ting and sewing. Karen says that mostly buy­ers give com­plete or­ders that need pat­tern mak­ing to get dis­patched from Detroit’s end only but some­times it hap­pens that they ask for only a spe­cific ser­vice, i.e., pat­tern mak­ing and Detroit Sewn does that too. “They even want their pat­terns tweaked to make for more ef­fi­cient sewing, and we never say no’ to them. And then, once ev­ery­thing is ready to go, we can cut and sew to the quan­ti­ties our clients need and in the time­frame they need,” ex­plains Karen. Sim­ply put, with some clients, Detroit Sewn makes a pat­tern or a sam­ple. But for oth­ers, it does ev­ery­thing from con­cep­tion to pro­duc­tion.

The pro­duc­tion floor of the com­pany is equipped with about two dozen sewing sta­tions. The com­pany is us­ing sewing machines of Juki and Singer to ac­com­plish man­u­fac­tur­ing of the gar­ments.

Detroit Sewn is a part of Detroit Gar­ment Group (DGG) and the Group was founded by Karen her­self in 2012.

Detroit Sewn en­deav­ours to make Michi­gan a gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­house

The New York City Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NYCEDC), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica (CFDA) and the Gar­ment Dis­trict Al­liance, an­nounced in March 2017 that it is set to in­vest a pack­age worth US $ 51.3 mil­lion to help sta­bilise and strengthen the gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try in New York City.

Su­uchi Ramesh, Founder, Suchhi Inc.

Karen Buscemi, Founder and Pres­i­dent, Detroit Sewn

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