At the height of textile and apparel manufacturing in the U.S., New Bedford, Mass., was home to one of the largest concentrations of mills in the country. Its cut-and-sew labor force was highly skilled, and the products turned out were considered to be of the highest quality.
Today, many of the mills still stand — as relics. There is only a handful of apparel-makers left in the city, which includes Joseph Abboud Manufacturing. Another facility, Darn It Inc., was a family run apparel maker that, in 1996, transformed its business to meet the needs of retailers, wholesalers and brands that sourced products overseas and required repairs and repackaging for the U.S. market.
Today, Darn It continues to offer repairs and repacking as well as relabeling, inspections, returns process and mold remediation. It also has a large dry cleaning and laundering facility as well as on-site pressing. The company has expanded by offering logistics, warehousing and distribution. High quality and speed are the hallmarks of the company, said Darn It chief executive officer Jeff Glassman.
“When I graduated from college my dad [Norman Glassman] said there’s really no way we would talk about me joining the business until I have some experience outside of the manufacturing plant,” Glassman told WWD. “He was a clothing contractor, and he was supplying the labor and thread to make garments for manufacturers all over the country. Back then there were about 120, 130 clothing contractors here in New Bedford. It was a major sewing town and he had around 450 sewing operators. He started the business in 1968 and by the 1980s had a very large plant. I was always excited to go into business with my dad, but he told me to go get some experience.”
Glassman went off to work at some prominent retailers, including the-then May Co. By the early Nineties, Glassman said a confluence of factors was impacting the market — including the onset of “casual Fridays.” As he entered the family business, Glassman said the U.S. apparel industry was in a steady decline, and then when NAFTA took effect sourcing shifted overseas. He gave his dad notice, and was about to leave when a client who had sourced products from another country pleaded for help. He had 40,000 pairs of pants that needed inspection.
“There were some open seams, and there were some oil stains. And crooked labels. And the pressing was not great,” Glassman said adding that the client needed him “because we had the skill set and the people to do it.” As a result, Darn It was born, and as retailers and wholesalers expanded their overseas sourcing, Glassman got busier and busier.
“We solve problems,” Glassman said. “We are a solutions company. When products are made overseas problems arise. And we can help fix these, and get product onto the store shelves quickly.”
The ceo said the bulk of the work is done by the firm’s sewing department. “Mostly, minor repairs,” Glassman said. “A lot of the time customers ask us to inspect garments because there may have been a skipped stitch in the side seam and we can replace that as well. We do a lot of hemming for customers. We do a lot of label change. A lot of folks also come to us with private label product.”
Glassman said one notable job was when 30,000 children’s polo shirts came in and needed the buttons replaced because there was too much lead in them. Three buttons on each added up to 90,000 button changes.
“We have a plethora of machines, all relatively new. We just upgraded all of our machines last year that can handle any minor repairs,” Glassman said. “But when it comes to major repairs, I’m very honest with the customer and we’ll tell them it might be better if you get these remade somewhere else.”
The ceo said the fulfillment side of the business grew out of customers asking if Darn It could simply ship the products directly to the retailer after the repairs and refurbishments were done. Again, Glassman said it was about identifying a need in the market and offering a solution. “That’s what we do,” he said.
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