Made in: USA

‘Made in the USA’ has received its fair share of attention lately. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as conversations surrounding domestic manufacturing tend to be more emotionally-charged than discussions about foreign manufacturing partners. With it being an election year, we’ve heard candidates promise up and down to protect American jobs and boost domestic production – talk of job creation and retention has been front and center for several months now. Then of course there was that hiccup with Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats not actually being made in the US.

“The true origin of the fabric in that hat remains a mystery — whether US- or foreign-made and by whom — and a striking example of how difficult and murky it can be to verify something is actually ‘Made in USA.'” –BoF

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. True, Trump’s campaign hats are sewn at a factory in Los Angeles, but that isn’t enough to satisfy the stringent requirements of a ‘Made in USA’ claim. Shinola, the watch company based in Detroit and lauded for its American heritage, came under fire recently for a similar discrepancy.

“But as you can imagine, many of the components and raw materials are simply not available in the U.S. and because of that we are unable to meet the almost unattainable Made in USA standards created by the government.” –WWD

In 2015, watchdog agency Truth In Advertising filed a complaint against Walmart saying over 100 of its products had “Made in USA” labeling errors – leading the FTC to initiate an investigation. The case was closed three months later after Walmart clarified its claims and made more detailed disclosures about the percent of American-made content.

Clearly “attention to detail” needs to be one of your skills if you’re bold enough to make a Made in USA claim. What are these labeling standards, and why are brands struggling to meet them? Continue reading

Made In: Ethiopia

Apparel companies have scoured the globe for suppliers of low cost labor: with wages in China on the rise, the scramble to find an alternative is in full force. This kind of goal makes a country like Ethiopia, whose garment sector has no minimum wage, extremely attractive.

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In 2015, Ethiopia was identified as a top sourcing destination. The cheap labor is certainly one reason for this designation (garment workers earned about $21 a month in 2014), but Ethiopia also presents the opportunity to go from fiber to fabric in one place. In addition to local production of cotton, Ethiopia possesses capabilities in spinning, weaving, and processing  – in a world where lead times can determine a company’s success, having all of these components in one country is a huge advantage. Furthermore, textile and apparel products enjoy duty-free access to Western markets under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA – which was given a 10-year extension in June 2015) and Everything But Arms (EBA). Continue reading

Made In: Myanmar

In the never-ending search for cheaper labor, the fashion industry has landed on its next target: Myanmar.

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This isn’t Myanmar’s first appearance in the garment sector. In the early 1990s, apparel production companies began making their way into the country as demand for imported garments increased in both the United States and the EU. Being the only industry in the country able to connect with global and regional production and distribution channels, the garment industry grew rapidly: as a percent of Myanmar’s total exports, the garment industry grew from 2.5% in 1990 to 39.5% in 2000 – around USD $868 million. At its peak, it reached a size of 400 firms and 300,000 workers. By 2000, more than 50% of Myanmar’s apparel exports were making their way into the US. Continue reading

Made In: NYC

Last weekend I went full-on tourist and signed up for a free tour of the Garment District in NYC. Armed with my camera and some good walking shoes, I made my way down to 40th and Broadway to meet up with Mike, of Mike’s Tours.

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There he is. A true New Yorker and a garmento himself, Mike took our group on a 2 hour tour of the place where he built his career in the fashion industry. In the span of about three blocks, it appeared that Mike either worked in or did business with somebody in every single building. He knew where every factory was located and what types of clothing they produced, what the building was before it became a factory, and even how much the rent per square foot has increased in the last 30 years. Continue reading