U.S. Textile Plants Return, With Floors Largely Empty of People

This is a strongly recommended New York Times article which focuses on the current status of the U.S. textile industry.The article reflects many things we’ve discussed in the class.

First, we still live in a world of “specialization”, in which each country produces something but not everything based on their respective comparative advantage. It is important to realize that the reason why textile manufacturing is coming back to the United States is because the manufacturing process has become more “capital and technology intensive” in nature.  Therefore, it makes senses for the United States as a capital and technology abundant country to focus on producing “capital and technology” intensive products. At the same time, with the fast rising labor cost in recent years, some developing countries are gradually losing “comparative advantage” in making labor intensive apparel products. This factor further affects T&A companies’ decision making on where to produce.

Second, textile and apparel industry is NOT disappearing in the U.S., but it evolves constantly in response to globalization and technology advancement.  “Made in America” is starting to mean something again, but not the same as what it used to mean. As the business function of the textile and apparel industry in the US becomes more capital, knowledge and technology intensive, it provides even more promising career options and opportunities for our TMD/TM graduates than in the past.  That’s also why in the classroom, we emphasize creativity, critical thinking, analysis skills, playing with technology, leadership skills and having a big landscape of the industry in mind.

Third, as we discussed in the class, the “made in ___” label can no longer reflect the whole supply chain of finished textile/apparel products in the 21st century.   Instead, we live in a “made in the world” era in which different countries share responsibilities in T&A product development, manufacturing and distribution. Neither is it the case that the U.S. textile and apparel industry is all about “manufacturing” today. Those non-manufacturing functions such as retailing, merchandising, branding and marketing actually contribute much higher added values and result in a U-shape global apparel value chain called “smiling curve”.

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Top Foreign Brands Fail Quality Tests in China

quality

From China.org.cn “Shanghai’s market watchdog announced Monday that some batches of products produced by leading foreign fashion brands, including H&M, FOREVER 21, American Apparel, Diesel and Lacoste, failed in the city’s latest quality tests.

According to the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau, quality problems ranged from poor color fastness and fiber content to a high pH index and slippage.

Other top brands – Moussy, Trussardi, Tommy Hilfiger, Desigual, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Teenie Weenie, Jack & Jones and Lanvin – were found to be substandard apparel.

A batch of long skirts of American Apparel failed tests for poor wet rubbing color fastness, a high pH index and slippage, while another two batches of its trousers were found short in fiber content.

Dye in clothing with poor color fastness bleeds onto skin, which can be harmful, while a high pH indexh can cause skin allergies and make people vulnerable to bacteria.

A batch of Diesel male shirts had poor color fastness to light, while a batch of Lacoste female skirts were found to have poor color fastness to wet rubbing and sweat stains.

Lacoste passed tests in reexamination for the skirts.

Five batches of Forever 21’s skirts and trousers failed for poor color fastness to wet rubbing and slippage. After rectifying, it passed the new tests.

H&M had one batch of blouses failing in slippage and one batch of jeans in fiber content. Moussy failed in one batch of overall for a high pH index, while a batch of T-shirts of Jack & Jones had poor color fastness to wet rubbing, sweat stains and light.

Are you surprised? How to explain the above phenomenon? What would normally happen to these apparel companies if their products failed the quality test in the home markets (such as the United States)? If you are the owner of these companies mentioned in the article, how would you respond?

3D Printing as a Game Changer for the Global Textile and Apparel Industry

 

3D printing is an emerging and transformative technology that adopts a fundamentally new approach of “additive manufacturing” to make things. Textile and apparel (T&A) is one major area in which the 3D printing technology is believed can have a wide application.  Companies such as N12 and a few designer-researchers have started the pioneering work of using printer to directly print wearable apparel for consumers.