By Frances Harder
Fashion for Profit Consulting
Before this catastrophic virus attacked the world, the US textile and apparel industry was, and is going through many necessary changes. Big department stores where closing and more and more goods are being sold online. Fast fashion was being replaced with demands for more sustainable products. Due to this current world epidemic these facts are now being magnified and it will be important to address them with new solutions. The US textile and apparel industry with good planning could return to be a new vibrant industry.
1) We must first begin with the realization that traditional further education for the industry needs rethinking. Traditional curriculum content of the training delivered in two- and four-year programs are mostly outdated. With student debt and the lack of well-paid jobs after graduating is leaving graduates with years of debt that can never be repaid. There is a return by some universities and colleges to offer certified short-term training, and even a new model of apprentership programs. Once the apprentice/student graduates they will usually get a job offer. Plus, while they serve their apprentice, they usually receive a stipend of some kind. More online classes are here to stay, and this will also require curriculum changes and professors and educators to be retrained.
2) The vibrant LA apparel industry of the past is in dire need of restructuring and effective planning for a more efficient infrastructure. Old buildings with out of date elevators, alleys not wide enough for trucks to unload and load to name a few issues, which make it hard for factories to be competitive with the efficient factories in China, or the cheap labor of other third world countries. More help and training to incorporating better equipment and the use of robots. Planning for more mass customization with an emphasis on the benefits of investing in 3D printing, digital printing, recycling and upcycling to name a few.
3) The Marts with showrooms are also shrinking and closing. Trade shows are also realizing that they will need to offer an alternative to onsite shows to sourcing online.
4) Additionally, I never thought I would say this, but we all have enough clothing to last for years. These days we are not basing our clothes shopping so much on trends but more on our lifestyle. Lulu Lemon leggings for example are often being worn all day. From the gym to throwing on a sweater for a lunch date and in some cases throwing on a nice jacket for a dinner date! The Millenniums are much more focused on the environment and often frequent secondhand stores to purchase their new wardrobe. Companies are recycling and upcycling used clothing.
5) Another very important part to this overall shift and plans for redevelopment of the U.S. textile and apparel industry is that the end consumer must be educated and be prepared to pay more for what they choose to purchase and wear. Landfills are full of fast fashion and the production of clothing is a major global polluter. Even top brands would rather take their labels off their products before they are discarded rather than donating to third world countries. However, there is a shift for high-end brands to accept their used clothing from customers and recycling them.
These key factors should be discussed before subsidies are given out to small and large businesses. Otherwise these funds are at risk of being wasted. It will require an overall intensive plan and the involvement of progressive industry thinkers to advise on the integration of the above points to help make it a successful venture. It’s not only about the California apparel industry but these points affect the whole global textile and apparel industry.
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