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