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Blog

Fashion and the US Economy

Mallory Gutierrez

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Less than 2% of all retail production takes place in the United States. Due to cheaper production costs, the majority of brands use international manufacturers to produce their clothing. My personal experience working in the industry has allowed me to  see first-hand just how much we rely on other countries for goods. 

Pressures to compete on costs constantly keeps big brands in a hunt for better margins despite increasing price competition. While producing outside of the US may be beneficial for those margin goals, it doesn’t contribute to the overall economic haul here in the United States. In fact, companies who choose to manufacture internationally could be hurting the economy from all aspects. Let’s consider how:

What Impact Does This Have on the Economy?

According to the 2018 McKinsey Global Fashion Index, the fashion industry is now worth an estimated $2.4 trillion. This number only continues to grow as fast-fashion continues to take over the industry and drive global sales numbers. 

Having launched my online boutique over six months ago, I’ve seen customers wrestle with the idea of spending $250+ for a pair of jeans. Having sourced products from all corners of the US to find those made domestically with a focus on ethical labor and manufacturing, it’s not lost on me how the true cost of apparel has been hidden from consumers for so long. Those jeans, made in LA, have benefits that roll downhill to improve the US economy for years to come; but also have a level of care stitched into every seam that won’t be found in the $35 pair from your favorite Instagram ad you’ll end up tossing after one season.

Fast Fashion has changed the retail industry significantly. Consumers want the lowest prices and “deals”, because that’s how we’ve been trained to shop, and retailers with the lowest prices are the ones who have earned customers’ loyalty. “Americans are so convinced that cheap fashion deals are fair that we often view with suspicion designers who make a well-made product that isn’t cheap” (Cline 61). This has driven retailers to be highly competitive on cost, which also means the quality of clothing has been sacrificed. 

Once the industry started moving overseas to find cheaper costs, domestic manufacturing was not able to compete. Here in the US, we have labor laws and minimum wage rules to abide by. As labor is a big chunk of the cost in making a garment, we immediately were becoming obsolete in the cost game.  “Apparel manufacturing was named one of the fastest-dying industries in America of the past decade, topped only by newspapers, wired telecommunications, and textile mills, which can hardly be counted separately. We lost almost 650,000 apparel jobs in the 10 year period ending in 2007.” (Cline 37). 

The United States was once known as a thriving place for manufacturing and textile production and it’s sad to see the loss of so many businesses and jobs. Let’s take a stance and work to bring jobs back to America! Purchasing an item from MARU Collections or from other brands/companies who share this same vision, not only benefits your closet, but it helps to push our economy in the right direction.


Sources:

https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-retail-sales-statistics-and-trends-3305717

Cline, Elizabeth L. Over-Dressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion., Portfolio/Penguin, 2013

Fashion and the Environment

Mallory Gutierrez

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Shopping for the perfect dress or pair of jeans can be a fun, yet stressful experience. You have to not only search for a beautiful garment that fits your style, but you also have to find something that fits within your budget. When faced with the choice between that $20 dress or the $150 one, the $20 might easily feel like the best option. Most people would consider the cost to their pocketbook, and not look much further to other costs their purchases might be impacting in their community or the world at large.

Okay, this might feel a bit dramatic. But, I thought it’d be helpful for you to keep some potential impacts to the world in mind - in these cases, environmental impact. No political commentary here, either, just someone that’s observed the fashion industry from many experiences, and has seen opportunities for improvement.

There’s a high correlation between fast fashion and our ever-declining environment, and these 3 examples might help you double-think that “cute cheap top”:

1.       Dyes Are Killing Factory Workers

Leather-tanning is a harsh process that is causing fatal illnesses in migrant workers all over the world. Factory workers in Bangladesh are being poisoned by leather chemicals on a daily basis. Leather-tanners dump excess waste into water sources and effect entire communities. Over time, as locals continue to consume this water, they experience a slew of medical conditions which have even included cancer.

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2.       Excess Waste Due to Quantity

When individuals toss their unworn clothes due to poor quality, a majority of those items end up in landfills, increasing the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere along with other harmful toxins.  Earth Pledge estimates that nearly 8,000 chemicals are used during the production process. Fast-fashion manufacturers rely on speedy production. In order to expedite the growth process of raw materials to garments, more chemicals are being pumped into our plant sources. This means more pesticides and chemicals are being released into the environment on a grand scale.

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3.       Resource Consumption

Fast-fashion companies use at least “378 billion liters of water” annually during the production process. By using such large amounts of natural resources on a consistent basis, fast-fashion distributors are robbing our environment of precious materials that could be used elsewhere.

In addition, to keep up with the ever-changing trends and demand volume that fast-fashion companies rely on, they use a lot of energy resources. This increases fuel consumption and contributes to the long-standing issue of global warming.

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Sure, we all want to save a few bucks. However, we’d argue saving a few extra dollars isn’t worth the massive costs of our environment. You can start to do your part by purchasing staple items and avoiding unnecessary waste. Shopping for products made in the United States is a way to narrow in your search as you complete your wardrobe.

In order to be labeled as “Made in the USA”, products have to undergo a strategic review process ensuring that “all or virtually all” of the product was produced domestically. This alone should provide significantly greater piece of mind that production standards were high and governed by a slew of other federal regulations regarding waste management.

We have the power to make statements with our pocketbook. My family, Company and I will continue to invest our purchases right here in the United States.

Sources:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582d0d16440243165eb756db/t/585b485d2994ca583275e5f0/1482377319742/LEARN2014_LEARN2014_FashionEnvironment_ENG_FINAL.pdf                                                           

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-made-usa-standard

What Does it Truly Mean to Manufacture Domestically?

Mallory Gutierrez

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“Made in the USA” is something of a novelty in this fashion-focused society. In fact, it’s often used as a marketing tool to enhance the reputation of the brand.

When we see a product domestically manufactured, it subconsciously means something bigger than those four little words. We see quality and sustainability. We feel good about wearing that fitted blazer because we know someone didn’t have to suffer ill treatment to produce it.

As much as purchasing domestically manufactured items is preferred, hundreds of major brands all over the States outsource their products internationally. In 2016 alone, the retail industry accrued nearly 292 billion dollars in apparel sales. This made the United States the largest nation for fashion consumption. Out of those billions, only 2% were manufactured domestically. That leaves a whopping 98% of U.S. based brands outsourcing their materials.

In addition, there are many millions of jobs that are being outsourced to other countries.

Imagine the millions of talented sewing experts who could benefit from being hired by up and coming brands. By making the switch from international production to domestic, several individuals could make a comfortable living. We have a huge opportunity to realign the efforts of an industry to increase Gross Domestic Product and the prosperity of our country.

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The Horrific Truth of International Production Factories

The stories of children working in sweatshops for nearly pennies has been told for centuries. Many brand ambassadors try to justify the use of international manufacturing by explaining that they’re providing the less fortunate with a means to make money.

However, statistics and first-hand accounts of individuals working in these factories overseas denies all claim of heroic effort.

In 2013, the famous Rana Plaza, a textile company located in Bangladesh, was in such poor working conditions, it collapsed and killed 1,000 workers.

Daily, the residue of chemically-treated leather is being flushed down the sewage system in India. This causes a multitude of illnesses that go far beyond the imaginable.

These stats and more only scratch the surface of the many untold accounts.

Since the labor laws in foreign countries don’t protect the livelihood of the workers, those in the textile industry are forced to work in unfit environments. In addition, a majority of these people aren’t being fairly compensated. They’re forced to work unimaginable hours and expose themselves to toxic chemicals. This alone should be the reason every major brand in the United States chooses to manufacture domestically.

Being able to say your brand is 100% made in the United States is like a badge of honor. It means their products aren’t killing innocent people nor do they skimp on quality. Iris Alonzo, a Los Angeles based designer who makes only American-made clothing says, “We know our workers, they know us; it’s a very humane interaction, and we are as sure as one can be that these people are treated well and the production methods are ecologically sound.”

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Introducing MARU Collections

MARU Collections supports these types of designers while also designing and producing its own product line. MARU is the true embodiment of quality, sustainability, and fashion- wrapped tightly in an American-made bow. While the pieces are gorgeous to the eye and irresistible to the touch, don’t be fooled by their stunning appearance. The journey to make these pieces domestically was quite the challenge.

Founder and head designer Mallory is passionate about showcasing products made entirely in the United States. Unfortunately, the once thriving textile hub is now a stomping ground for internationally made pieces. This makes finding domestic manufacturers extremely difficult.

MARU, however, is breaking that trend and is releasing American-made items for the true fashionista and fashion-forward gentleman. If you’re searching for a domestic brand to support, visit the online shop of MARU Collections. Purchasing an item from this online boutique not only benefits your closet, it helps to push our economy in the right direction.


Sources:

https://fashionista.com/2017/07/american-ethical-sustainable-fashion

https://www.statista.com/topics/965/apparel-market-in-the-us/tps://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/india-toxic-price-leather

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/choosing-between-domestic-and-foreign-manufacturers-3502283