Why US Garment Manufacturing Has Moved Overseas
Denim designer Maurice Malone of Williamsburg Garment Company (WGC), an American denim brand manufacturing in the United States, believes the US garment manufacturing industry is poised for growth driven by small to mid-sized brands.
He said WGC is doing its part to drive American infrastructure as it expands into manufacturing its own knit products and establishing a manufacturing line for others to utilize.
“Automation and foreign production didn’t erode the American garment manufacturing industry, we did it to ourselves,” said Malone, 30-year veteran of clothing design and production. “The goal of corporations is to maximize profits for investors. Contrast this against the Chinese philosophy of keeping people working by choosing larger volumes for smaller margins while sacrificing higher profit per piece.”
Why has manufacturing moved overseas? Americans almost always choose to buy cheaper over buying American, which is why American producers not claiming the luxury sector must find ways to steamline the production process and offer a better product at competitive prices, as is the WGC goal.
As consumers seek lower cost products, companies move production to lower cost areas to stay competitive. This happens even if people want to see products made in America. In economics, they use the multiplier effect to measure the circular flow of money and spending in a community. Money that is earned flows from one person to the other. From the factory workers’ paycheck, to the businesses where they shop and into paychecks of employees at those businesses. The output becomes larger than the input. Conversely, when a factory closes its doors, less money is spent in the surrounding community reducing output from surrounding businesses. It all starts with the consumer’s decision to buy American or buy cheaper.
Aiming to reverse the snowball effect, Malone believes that starting small and developing production chains within the United States will help reverse the outflow. For consumers, WGC’s goal as manufactures is to produce reasonably priced goods. “I believe in ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,'” said Malone. “As we grow, we intend to be part of building a stronger supply chain. Large companies could easily manufacture using their own or even cooperative US facilities but in corporate America, where it’s often profit over people, this is unlikely.”
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