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WASHINGTON — The fashion industry is squarely behind Made in America.
As the resurgence in producing apparel and textiles in the U.S. gathers momentum heading into the second half of the year, it is encompassing all aspects of the industry from coast to coast.
In a recent survey by the U.S. Fashion Industry Association of 29 of the largest American retailers, apparel brands, textile companies and importers and wholesalers, 55 percent of the executives said they plan to increase their production somewhat in the U.S. in the next two years.
New York and Los Angeles, the two key apparel manufacturing hubs in the U.S., have continued to revive their manufacturing through industry-led initiatives and marketing, while the Carolinas and other Southern states have seen an uptick in new foreign textile plant investment.
Bill McRaith, chief supply chain officer of PVH Corp., gave one of the biggest endorsements of Made in USA by an apparel executive when he said at an American Apparel & Footwear Association conference in April: “If anyone in this room still questions Made in the USA as a financially viable option, that’s behind you. It’s done. We are doing it. It has happened.”
Rising cost pressures in China and instability in Asia have contributed to some of the onshoring of apparel production, but the sourcing paradigm shift is also rooted in financial incentives, such as low energy prices and the quick turn culture of retailing.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has also played a large role in creating momentum in the Made in USA movement and the Obama administration has had a hand in championing U.S. industries with a focus on promoting exports around the world and attracting new foreign investment to the U.S. through its SelectUSA initiative. Wal-Mart is backing up its commitment to invest $250 billion cumulatively in Made in America products over 10 years by hosting its second manufacturing summit in August and rolling out a $10 million, five-year manufacturing innovation fund with a large focus on textiles.
Michelle Gloeckler, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of home and the executive leading the U.S. manufacturing initiative, recently told WWD that the retailer will for the first time bring together component parts makers with buyers at its second Manufacturing Summit in Denver Aug. 14 and 15.
The retail giant has made apparel and textile production a key part of the manufacturing revival initiative.
“Wal-Mart does not make anything,” Gloeckler said. “Our goal is to facilitate and accelerate. Because we have relationships, through government relations and our stores and distribution centers, we can help them navigate in this arena and we can also reach out to mayors, congressmen, senators and governors and ask them to name the factories in their districts that have capacity and flexibility and can make component parts for their suppliers who want to buy them here.”
The movement toward U.S. production is starting to show up in the numbers and in anecdotal accounts.
McRaith said in April that a contingency of about 20 of the biggest mills in China from the Shanghai area visited South Carolina in March looking to set up spinning capability “off of the back of $300 million in investment in spinning that is going on there today through key industries.”
According to textile industry figures, in April, eight foreign companies had made public announcements in the past eight months that they will invest a combined $700 million in new U.S. textile facilities and equipment. The investments are projected to provide about 1,900 jobs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana.
There are also active Made in New York and Made in Los Angeles government-industry programs helping to spur growth.
The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel has spearheaded several efforts, including the launch of a Made in USA database last September, helping link buyers with U.S. textile and apparel makers, and the first Western Hemisphere sourcing summit at MAGIC two years ago.
Obama is pressing for new trade agreements with Europe and 11 Asia-Pacific countries and focusing on increasing trade and investment in the region.
“The Made in America brand is stronger than ever,” Obama proclaimed at the opening of his Export Council meeting last month. “One thing I want to focus on today is opening up even more new markets to ‘Made in America’ products.”