NEW YORK — VF Jeanswear, which produces Lee, Wrangler and Earl Jean, plans to close two plants in El Paso, Tex., by the end of this year and move some of its sewing facility to Mexico to lower costs.

“Like many companies, we are under more pressure as far as product costs are concerned,” Sam Tucker, vice president of human resources, said in an interview. “Most of our competitors don’t produce anything in the U.S. From a competitive standpoint, it became necessary to do this.”

The closing of the sewing plant will leave 640 employees without jobs. A jeans washing plant will also shut down, resulting in job losses for 56 workers. The firm’s distribution center will stay open, but 250 workers are to be cut. A jeans factory in nearby Fabens, Tex., will also keep operating, but 89 jobs are expected to be trimmed, Tucker said. The plant in Fabens, with about 380 remaining employees, will be the only VF Jeanswear factory operating in the U.S.

There are about 550 employees in El Paso and Fabens. The workers were notified of the cuts Wednesday. In July 2003, VF closed three jeanswear plants in North Carolina and Oklahoma.

Severance packages will be made available to all affected employees, and the company will assist workers in finding employment. Tucker said some employees will work until November, while others will stay on until Christmas.

— Lauren DeCarlo

This story first appeared in the September 3, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.