How Patriotism and Pragmatism Drive Domestic Apparel Production

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Made in USA
Photo credit: Noorism

Beyond politics, Made in USA is—and has been—a reality for many brands. Though the U.S. remains uncertain with regard to future trade policies, domestic companies are here to stay for a myriad of reasons, including patriotism, proximity and pride. Below Noorism, Corridor, Shabbella and Plata O Plomo explain the benefits and challenges of producing their lines here and the ways in which President Trump’s policies are affecting their businesses.

Noorism

Clothing could have a fate beyond landfills and Noorism is providing jeans with a second life. Founded by Noor Zakka in 2015, the Brooklyn-based upcycle brand deconstructs old denim into new accessories and clothing. Noorism’s products, including denim origami tops and wrap skirts, are made in the New York City area. With a domestic supply chain and sustainable ethos, Noorism is raising the bar for other Made in the USA companies to protect the planet and encourage consumers to buy more eco-friendly products.

SJ: Why did you decide to pursue a domestic supply chain?

NZ: I decided to produce domestically because it allows me to be very hands-on in the whole process from samples all the way to finished production. Keeping it close allows me to have a personal relationship with the people that are actually making the garments and allows me to see the conditions in which they are being produced with my own eyes. It also takes less time so it allows me to take orders closer to delivery dates, and its better for the environment.

SJ: Why is this a good time for American-made fashion?

NZ: People are more aware of where their clothing and food comes from these days. They want to know the story behind the product and that is part of their experience in buying it and owning it.

SJ: What are the pros/cons of making your collection here?

NZ: The advantages are that it takes much less time to get production done and if something goes wrong, I can be right there to see things with my own eyes. The disadvantages are the cost of labor in the USA is much higher than other places, and sometimes it’s hard to find a manufacturer that can give us the quality we are looking for.

SJ: In terms of competition, have you seen more entrants in the Made in the USA space?

NZ: I think there are a lot more brands producing in the USA these days, but I think that so much production went off shore in recent years that it seems like the local manufacturers in NY that I work with are not filled to capacity.

SJ: Do you see U.S. protectionist trade polices as a potential boon for U.S. production?

NZ: I think anything that levels the playing field in terms of cost to produce will be helpful, but I think that the difference between making something in NY or making something in a place like Indonesia for example will be hard to level out until those less expensive areas start becoming more expensive.

SJ: What other initiatives do you have in the works?

NZ: Everything I do is made in the local NYC area. We have been working on a collaboration with another designer, Zero Waste Daniel, that he calls ReRoll, where he takes our scraps and turns them into new fabric. This is also all done in NYC.

[Read More on Made in the USA: Made in America is Back and Finding a New Path]

Corridor

Corridor isn’t about chasing trends.  In 2012, Dan Synder founded the New York-based company to provide consumers with classic and versatile garments that don’t go out of style each season. With a focus on character, fit and quality, Corridor provides transitional clothing that is suitable for everyday wear and also supports local manufacturing efforts.

SJ: Why did you decide to pursue a domestic supply chain?

DS: We pursued domestic manufacturing due to proximity. I wanted to be close to the product in order to perfect it and keep a close eye on quality. I did not even consider overseas when i first began and just have followed that path.

SJ: Why is this a good time for American-made fashion?

DS: This is a good time to manufacture in the USA because specific foreign prices are no longer that much cheaper speaking specifically about Portugal. However, I would disagree with the categorization that it is a good time to manufacture in the USA.

SJ: What are the pros/cons of making your collection here?

DS: The pros are minimums can be flexible and you can work directly with your factory. The cons are price and the customers care much more about design and quality than provenance

SJ: In terms of competition, have you seen more entrants in the Made in the USA space?

DS: I think that is true but only in terms of direct to consumer e-com brands. There are still very few traditional wholesale brands that are made in the US.

SJ: Do you see U.S. protectionist trade polices as a potential boon for U.S. production?

DS: No. TPP would have been a great thing for my business. Most of my fabrics are developed and made in Asia (Japan and India, primarily) and there are no mills that produce their quality of fabric. If TPP would have passed, that would have made my product far more competitive against EU brands.

SJ: What other initiatives do you have in the works?

DS: We are introducing more Cone Denim in our lineup for a true USA-made product. Also, we have begun producing caps and other products in the Northeast.

Shabbella

Casual and chic come together for Shabballa’s women’s wear lineup. Founded last year by Shab Sadeghi, the LA-based brand consists of soft bralettes and compression leggings, which reflect consumers’ busy lifestyles and grew out of Sadeghi’s stint as an NFL and NBA cheerleader, who also designed her team apparel.

SJ: Why did you decide to pursue a domestic supply chain?

SS: This was an easy decision because as the founder and creative director, I am very hands on during the production phase of our brand. From concept to finish, I work closely with my manufacturing team to ensure an outstanding product with both fit and finish. Having the luxury of going in and physically altering samples is very important to me, and I consider it a blessing. My team is patient and thorough, and if any changes need to be made, we get it done in a timely manner. It makes me feel good knowing I can walk in any day to my fabric house and manufacturing house, and track the progress of our orders.

SJ: Why is this a good time for American-made fashion?

SS: I believe it is a good time for Made in the USA because our country, since the recent election, is really focused on making America great again. And I feel that keeping jobs and production in the USA is important to our customers and our partner retailers for this simple reason. We support each other!

SJ: What are the pros/cons of making your collection here?

SS: There are only pros for me…being made in the USA from a designer point, means I get to be hands on, and we don’t deal with communication conflicts caused by time differences. Although you are paying more, again, this goes back into our economy and supports our neighbors, so in the end, its still a pro. Our customers understand this concept, and they are also willing to pay more to support our brand and the very people that cut and sew and put it together.

SJ: In terms of competition, have you seen more entrants in the Made in the USA space?

SS: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I believe in living an abundant lifestyle where your only competition is the you from yesterday. Am I noticing more companies drive their brands to made in the USA, I don’t think so. I think the companies that started off made in the USA are trying to remain here. And those who are overseas are maintaining that.

I do believe it is a luxury to have a manufacturer willing to partner with a brand to make it Made in the USA. I have noticed some factories closing due to costs or possibly having undocumented workers. I am grateful to have a great team behind my brand that helps me, as an emerging designer and fashion line, maintain my brand identity and being Made in the USA is a big part of that.

SJ: Do you see U.S. protectionist trade polices as a potential boon for U.S. production?

SS: Yes! And I think this is a great thing. It may be difficult, and we will see an increase in pricing but like I mentioned before, if the customer connects with a brand, they will pay the extra to support the economy. Shopping eco-friendly has a whole new meaning—its “economy-friendly”—that customers will appreciate.

SJ: What other initiatives do you have in the works?

SS: When our customers buy Shabbella, they should know they are supporting the economy…supporting our cutters, our sewers, our fabric makers, our label makers. There are so many people involved in making one garment, even just a tee shirt! We are really proud to give back to our community through charities that benefit those in need and some athletic programs. What’s made in the USA, should stay in the USA.

Plata O Plomo

Premium streetwear brand Plata O Plomo was founded in 2016 by Jay D’Adamo and D.H. Straiton. Plata O Plomo manufactures organic cotton T-shirts and hoodies in the U.S., and at its LA-based factories, the company pays fair wages and supports workers’ career endeavors. With its motto “Make the choice, or the choice will be made for you,” Plata O Plomo aims to create sustainnable and stylish streetwear, while empowering the individuals that make their domestic production possible.

SJ: Why did you decide to pursue a domestic supply chain?

DS: Our intent from the concept stage was to make our goods in LA, first for a higher quality garment but also the ability to have a tighter control on production. Because our goods are made in LA, it’s easy for us to go to our suppliers and see our stuff being made, [which is] important and cost-effective as a new brand.

SJ: Why is this a good time for American-made fashion?

DS: It feels like now, more than ever, American manufacturers and suppliers are hungry, and in our case, willing to play ball with us, do small runs and be competitive with overseas sources. All of our suppliers have been enthusiastic believers in new brands like ours. They know if we grow, so will they.

SJ: What are the pros/cons of making your collection here?

DS: We love the fast turn around time of making Plata O Plomo here. There is so little down side to an all U.S. production model, certainly for our soft goods, jewelry and accessories. And, our consumers like that we are an LA brand, an American brand. Incidentally, it also plays well overseas. The challenge is sometimes you just can’t find a U.S.-made product that is as good or right as an overseas source. For us, it was hats. No one makes a Yupoong-style, high-quality ball cap in the USA. Believe us; we spent a year looking. Maybe someone who reads this will come forward if they’re out there. Hey, we’re open.

SJ: In terms of competition, have you seen more entrants in the Made in the USA space?

DS: In the apparel space, there are certainly more great new brands that are wholly made in the USA like Shinola to others that have shifted large segments of their overseas production to a domestic model like menswear designer Carlos Campos. It’s good business. We do feel the more domestic production, the better for ALL of us, especially for a consumer who is disheartened by the ubiquity of fast fashion or the quality of mainline brands that gave up on domestic production (and, in a way, quality) decades ago.

SJ: Do you see U.S. protectionist trade polices as a potential boon for U.S. production?

DS: We love Made in the USA but, historically, protectionism has never been helpful to the business environment. We are a local brand with a global focus. For us, it’s a thrill to see and get to know the dozens of dedicated and talented workers who touch our goods from concept to sourcing to the cut and sew rooms to our fulfillment and warehouse team. We’re lucky to have them by our side.

SJ: What other initiatives do you have in the works?

DS: Plata O Plomo is growing rapidly. In a little over a year, we’ve introduced more product and have more in development. We will continue to make sourcing and manufacturing in the U.S. a priority, but never at the cost of quality. Other than that, at the moment, we are looking to expand our design team, and we don’t mind, they can be from outside LA.

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