90% of the apparel that you and I buy is not made by members of our extended American family. It didn’t used to be that way. As recently as the 1970s over 70% of apparel sold in the U.S. was made in the U.S. But that was before NAFTA and WTO eased the ability of “American” firms like Eddie Bauer, Ralph Lauren and the GAP to ship American sewing jobs to places like China and Bangladesh. Mind you, the age of the seamstresses who sew your clothing dropped a bit with the move, but as the Germans say, “Geschaft is Geschaft.”
I am happy to report that we are seeing a rebirth of apparel manufacturing in America. Old American firms and new American firms are producing great clothing for us to add to our wardrobe. Firms like Homage, Mindful Supply, Dehen, Sympatico, or any of the hundreds of firms listed on my friend Jack A’s amazing blog. However, a roadblock of sorts has developed in this American apparel movement: a lack of trained seamstresses. But I recently read a wonderful story about how a college in Minneapolis is starting to churn out members of our extended American family who know their way around a sewing machine.
Dunwoody College and Technology in the Twin Cities is now offering a seamstress training program whose students are being hired at wages of as much as $18 an hour even before they have their diplomas. What a great deal! So many people these days are talking about the need to pass “Living Wage” initiatives. Guess what? Just by purchasing goods made by people like Dunwoody’s new graduates, you can create your own “Living Wage ” effort. For the last three years I have been doing just that. I am usually sporting Jack Donnelly or Bill’s Khaki’s pants, Brooks Brothers shirts, Wigwam or Smart Wool socks, Allen Edmonds shoes and Allen Edmonds belts. When I have to dress up for court, I wear either my Hart Schaffner Marx or my Joseph Abboud suit.
So when looking for clothes on your next shopping trip, look for the sewn in America label. Also, I would love to know about what apparel firms you are aware of in your home town. Please shoot me a comment about the local firms whose clothing you love to wear.
Now get shopping!