American Manufacturing: Past, Present, & Future

American Manufacturing

There’s been a lot of talks lately about the rise of American manufacturing in the Fashion Industry, especially with Trump as President.  But what is really happening right now with American manufacturing and what’s to come for the future?  Let’s take a closer look starting with what caused American manufacturing to decline in the first place.


Past: What happened to American Manufacturing?


Over the past two decades, American manufacturing has had a steep decline.  In 1990 there were almost 940,000 manufacturing jobs in the US, and by 2013 only 144,000 remained. Today 36% of all US Apparel imports come from China, 11% from Vietnam, and 6% from each Bangladesh and Indonesia.  Today 36% of all US Apparel imports come from China, 11% from Vietnam, and 6% from each Bangladesh and Indonesia. Click To Tweet (Statistics are taken from maloney.house.gov report)   So what happened to cause such a large part of our manufacturing to go overseas?


Two major things were happening during that time.  One was the rise of fast fashion companies like Zara, who opened it’s first store in the US in 1989, and H&M who later came to the US in 2000.  This caused consumers to now want the latest trends at a reduced price and more frequently than ever before.  On top of that was the rise of e-commerce especially with big brands like Amazon & eBay who both started back in 1994 and 1995 respectively.  This again was a huge disruption to the way the American consumer had purchased.  With the internet, it was now becoming possible to price compare as well as shop practically around the globe and have it delivered right to your front door.  American manufacturing just wasn’t set up for the fast turnarounds and certainly couldn’t compete with the extremely low wages of other nations.  And so the shift began.  I remember working at a well-known company located on 7th Ave back in 2006 where I supervised over 50 pattern makers and 50 sample makers and watching as over 70% of them were laid off as the company transitioned to making everything overseas.  It was at that moment that I realized American manufacturing was dying.

But over the last 3 years, there have been talks over more and more companies bringing their manufacturing back to the US, mainly due to the rise of labor prices in China.  But is it really possible?  Can companies bring manufacturing back?  And what’s currently happening that’s affecting American manufacturing?


Present: What social trends have affected local American Manufacturing?


There are 3 main social trends recently that have affected local manufacturing in America;

1. Social Responsibility Trend

With the increase of globalization of the fashion industry, social responsibility has started to matter more than ever before. This includes everything in the supply chain such as standards for safety, labor, sustainability, ethics, product quality, etc.

With the fashion industry being the 2nd largest polluting industry in the world, companies have started looking at ways to combat this issue in order to save our future planet. With fast fashion on the rise, the polar opposite trend of recycling, up-cycling, and sustainable fashion has started to increase more and more which in turn is forcing manufacturers to now re-think how they do things in order to comply with sustainability requirements, etc. With fast fashion on the rise, the polar opposite trend of recycling, up-cycling, and sustainable fashion has started to increase more and more Click To Tweet

 Social responsibility also increased after the garment industry experienced the deadliest disaster in its history, the 2013 factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh which killed over 1,100 people.  Since then, consumers have started to care more and more about where their clothes are being made and under what conditions.  This has forced brands to make more responsible sourcing decisions and think twice about where they are manufacturing.

2. The Rise of Social Media

As social media continues to increase, along with the addition of new social platforms, the rate at which information can leak and spread to the public is speeding up dramatically and in turn affecting buying decisions.  For example, one person can post a message on Twitter about a company producing in a sweatshop in China that goes viral and all of a sudden everyone is now boycotting that brand.  Which then impacts the company who naturally wants to avoid any negative PR and so forcing them to now look for a different manufacturer. Social media really has put the buying power and future life of retailers in the hands of the consumer.  Social media really has put the buying power and future life of retailers in the hands of the consumer. Click To Tweet

3. Technology Advancements

A lot of new technology has already begun to hit the market!  Want to know all about this new tech?

Continue reading the rest of the blog on MakersRow.com to find out what the future holds for American manufacturing.

Want to do your part and produce in America?  Come on our next Fashion Manufacturing Tour to meet our preferred American manufacturers and start your line!

American Manufacturing

Fashion Consultant Christine Daal