Why the General Public Needs to Care About Textiles and Apparel

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

41 thoughts on “Why the General Public Needs to Care About Textiles and Apparel”

  1. The importance of the U.S. apparel industry and U.S. apparel consumers, to not only the U.S., but globally, was interesting to see in this video. The video offered an interesting and informative breakdown of statistics and data on what the U.S. apparel industry and U.S. apparel consumer are. I found it interesting that the U.S. creates a mere 5% of the world population, yet buys 25% or the world’s clothing and shoes. That amount of consumption makes a significant impact on the apparel industry world wide. I found it shocking to hear that apparel products in the U.S. contributed more to economic growth than any other retail product. The industry is easily underestimated and forgotten by so many who assume it has moved elsewhere due to the vast number of outsourcing companies. Knowing the industry creates 4 million U.S. jobs, and that it is such a large part of our growing economy, is very interesting and shows the great importance of this industry. Clothing is more then just clothing. It represents all kinds of issues (political, environmental, etc.) and is heavily involved in the global supply chain. It is one of many products that is required to keep up with global competitiveness and is important to the global economy. This video was insightful into the apparel industry’s importance and offered intriguing statistics.

  2. I agree with Marta San Martino–the ignorance and misunderstandings of the impacts of Textiles and Apparel is far too overlooked. I myself am guilty in not caring as much for T&A but this video really changed my view. The bar graph regarding the contribution to economic growth in the US shows that Apparel and footwear stands tall even compared to the automobile industry and fast food. This was particularly interesting because Americans are so wrapped up in fast food and cars: you can see multiple fast food chains and car dealerships just on one road alone, so you would think those two would be the most beneficial in the economy. Yet, apparel and footwear beat those two products by a couple billion dollars. Which in retrospect makes sense, since people need clothes, but again, one doesn’t always think about this product as being the number one impact on the economy.

    The clip goes into the background of what we actually are wearing when getting dressed each morning. The supply chain of how the garment gets into our closet. This is actually an important aspect that honestly no ordinary person stops to think about. But in actuality it is very important–the name brands we wear keep the infamous look around the world and allow certain companies to continue to grow. Even the corporate social responsibility that “improves the lives of workers around the world” — that statement in itself has become a big issue lately with fires and other mishaps in garment factories in lower-income countries. These countries basically throw away their lives to create these garments that come into the US and in our closets, yet again, an ordinary person overlooks those facts.

    The garment goes even deeper with the product safety compliance. The amount of work to make sure a garment is safe enough to wear or strong enough to wash is insane. Taking textile science gave me a little preview of the importance of product safety and the amount of time, effort and experimenting goes far beyond any task I have had to do.

    Policy makers and apparel and footwear industries work together to create a competitively global industry. US has 4 million retail workers alone to contribute to the success.This clip was very insightful, and I do agree that the general public needs a better understanding and care about T&A. The clip really makes you think about the different impacts your “fashion statement” has. It is more than just the production of the garment, it takes on different aspects of the world.

    1. Great comment! This week in class we will discuss textile and apparel trade policy. I hope from the session as well as the upcoming case study 2, students will have deeper understanding about the complexity of issues associated with the textile & apparel industry as well as why this industry significantly matters.

  3. This video was very insightful. As a TMD major I have been taught some of the information that it offered up, but I think that the general public really does not understand how important textiles are. Numerous times while I have attended URI I’ve been asked what my major is and I always get the same response. It is one of humor. Once I tell people what my major is they seem to not take me as seriously as before they knew. I think that the general public of URI has a certain stereotype of the major and of the textile industry in general.

    My fellow classmates who are not in the TMD/TM program think that when I graduate I want to put outfits together but do not realize that’s not what I have been studying. I have taken buying classes, economics, and learned about globalization along with many other subjects. I really enjoyed this video because it shows how momentous the textile and apparel industry really is to our everyday life and economy. The statistics in the video are eye-catching and the average Joe would never guess that information.

    I think that more people need to be aware of this video and know that the textile industry is more serious and consequential than putting outfits together that look good.

    1. Christina, I can really relate to your comment. Whenever people ask me what my major is at URI and I tell them TMD they do respond in a humorous way almost like they do not take my major seriously. The same applies when people ask me what I want to do for my career when I graduate and I tell them I want to be a buyer. People react negatively because they do not understand the textile and apparel industry and how important it is to the world. This video gave a nice overview of the textile and apparel industry and I found it to be very interesting. America account for 5% of the population but account for 25% of clothing produced; I found this to be an interesting fact. it goes to show what a big impact the US textile and apparel industry can have. I also agree with you Christina, I do not want to put outfits together when I graduate. When I graduate I want to be a buyer which is a fulfilling and important job that should not be made light of by people who do not necessarily understand the textile and apparel industry.

    2. I agree with Christina 100%. When interviewing two people for our assignment number two I received responses such as, “Isn’t that the building next to the Memorial Union?” or “Thats is not a real major because you cant do anything with that degree.” This not only insulted me but baffled me as to the unawareness of just how much the textile and apparel industry effects each an every one of us. Like this video mentioned, you are wearing more than just clothing and displaying more than fashion, you are wearing and broadcasting political, environmental, and economic issues. Non- TMD majors overlook this reality when they are apart of the 5% of Americans that consume 25% of the world’s clothing and shoes.

  4. I agree with Christina completely. Most people in the United States are oblivious to the apparel industry. It’s true, every time I tell someone my major they look at me with confusion and always ask what I will do with that major. However, there is so much more to it than simply clothing. Textiles and apparel are one of the major factors that allow the economy of different countries to stay alive, especially the countries that export. Apparel products in the United States help the economy more than any other product. I would say most of the students on campus who are not TM/TMD majors would be unaware of half of the statistics from this video. This is scary because we need more people to help with the textile and apparel industry, especially in the U.S. The industry creates so many jobs and opportunities, and therefore needs to be more important in the United States. The people of the U.S. are the one’s who are buying most of the clothing and shoe products, however, we probably know the least about the industry.

    TMD433 has showed me how important the textiles and apparel industry is and the movement of products. I think this class would be very beneficial, especially to many business majors.

    1. great comments! I agree that the importance of the T&A industry is unfairly underestimated by many people. Somehow this is also related with the way people in the T&A field (including our TMD department) brand ourselves. If we only discuss “Fashion” or “Design” in front of the general public, of course, why would everybody care about that? But if you tell people our industry provide so many jobs, contribute so much to the US economy, matters to the destiny of so many people living in extreme poor conditions and involve so many complicated yet cutting-edge policy agendas, why won’t other people care about T&A?

  5. The national public needs to recognize how much influence the Textile and Apparel industry has on the world. The perception of the industry is absolutely misunderstood and ignored by the majority of the world and it should not be. Mentioned in the video America makes up 5% of the world but that population is wearing 25% of all clothes and shoes. This 25% of American people that are wearing the apparel and footwear industry generates the most economic growth than any other product available at retail contributing $350 billion dollars. This is huge and people think nothing about how the clothing they are putting on everyday is actually made and how long it takes to actually get that one piece of clothing in their closet. Not only do they not know but they do not seem to care about the whole process as to where their garment is coming from. Consumers mostly care about how they look walking out the door in the morning if its for school, work, internship, or etc. Also a lot of consumers only really care about the brands they are wearing.
    For example when I was interviewing people for one of our assignments people had no idea what TMD was and why it is important. I truly believe consumers should be aware of this industry. It frustrates me when people hear I am a TMD major they automatically think I want to either sew clothes or draw clothes and its that simple. Being a TMD major I have learned a lot more about the Textile and Apparel industry especially from taking TMD433. The most important thing is to keep the public knowledgeable about the importance of the industry because without the Textile and Apparel industry everyone’s life would be different in some kind of way.

    1. I completely agree with you and how the general public doesn’t realize everything that goes into the clothing that they wear. They don’t realize that it is a much bigger process than just having someone sew fabric together. Clothing is an everyday essential and the fact that nobody seems to care about the textile and apparel industries is crazy since it really does affect everyone. I also liked your point on how nobody seems to care where their garment is coming from. When people are buying clothes they don’t think about who is making the clothing and all that they know is where the label said it was made but there is a whole lot more to it than just that. All the label represents is where the garment was sewn together, it doesn’t account for where any of the other manufacturing took place or where the yarns, fibers, etc. are from and more importantly, it doesn’t tell you the conditions under which the garment was made.
      I got similar responses when I interviewed people as well. The only reason my interviewees knew about TMD was because they had friends in the program but that was the only thing that they knew about it. And I know that most people on campus talk down about the program because they think it is just a bunch of people who like fashion but our program is so much bigger than just that. People don’t seem to realize that it is a lot more complex than it may appear and that it is an industry that affects everyone.

  6. I agree that it is surprising that apparel and footwear contribute more to economic growth than cars and food. As the video said, we wear important issues along with the clothes we wear. If consumers knew which issues they were wearing, I wonder if they would actually pay more attention. The students I interviewed seemed to think that “child labor” was the only issue in apparel production outside of the US.
    I agree with danisilva102 that this class would be beneficial to business and marketing majors. For example, if marketing majors were familiar with the issues, they could find ways in their careers to advertise and glamorize certain lifestyles to consumers, which could in turn change consumer behaviors.
    One of the students I interviewed said she would change her buying habits of she knew the issues that were involved, but she wouldn’t do the research herself. The question is how could awareness be raised to the general public outside the textile and apparel industry in a way which will change their thinking?

    1. great comments! I am glad that the video and the class help our TMD/TM majors better understand the importance of our field. And you will play critical roles in the future in advocating and supporting the T&A industry. And of course I hope you will also contribute to the building of a better world. Working as a professional in the T&A gives us such a lofty opportunity.

  7. After watching the video and reading a few of my classmates comments I am shocked to learn how much the Apparel and Footwear impacts the US and that so many students my age still do not know the importance of this industry. The impact that the industry has on our economy and supply chain and other factors should be stressed a lot more to students and especially those who may need to come into contact with this industry after they leave college. I am a TM major and from taking classes in the Business school that are not related to fashion I can say from experience that my business teachers do not relate certain important aspects of my classes to the retailing of apparel and footwear. For example the video talks about the effects of this sector on the supply chain distribution from a global perspective. In my supply chain management class we have yet to discuss almost after a full semester about these impacts. It is interesting to be in my major and be able to see it from both sides that yet we do try to make the TMD department more recognized on campus but from a business major perspective I can see where the lack of knowledge comes from.

    1. very good comment! So many times that people took it for granted for T&A. Compared with cars, airplanes, robots and various fancy IT products, clothing does look quite simple/low-tech/negligible n nature. However, when we think about how many people are involved in T&A, how many regions are making and consuming T&A, where our T&A were from and those complicated social and political factors associated with T&A, few other sectors actually can match T&A in terms of importance. There being said, I really hope our TMD/TM students can form a big picture vision looking at our T&A industry after taking the course. I also hope you guys fully realize the huge responsibility on your shoulders and the huge impact you can make on many other people’s destiny although they are thousands miles away.

  8. I am not surprised by how much the apparel and footwear sector effects the economy because these are products that everyone needs and uses and I’m not surprised that most people don’t realize this. I think that the general public takes clothing for granted. Most people are completely unaware of the impact that the textile and apparel sectors have on the whole world. They seem to think that all it takes is putting some pieces of cloth together to make a shirt. What people aren’t realizing are the social and ethical issues behind every piece of clothing they own. They get to go out and buy a new shirt whenever they want, but what they aren’t realizing is that shirt could have been made in a dark, dusty room in a Bangladesh factory by a 12 year old child fighting to survive. There is so much more to the world of clothing and I think it is important for people to be educated on the business and ethical sides of this. When I did my assignment 2 interviews and asked my friends about TMD and the global textile and apparel sectors they looked at me like I had five heads. Even in business classes, I feel like professors skip over the impact that textile and apparel has on the economy. Maybe if people were more educated on where their clothing comes from and what goes into it they’d make different choices about what they buy.

    1. I agree with many of your observations. Personally I think it is very critical for our field to rethink about the strategy of educating the general public about our importance. At least, among us, we should realize T&A is far more than just yarns, fabrics, clothing and those fancy runway shows.

  9. I agree with a lot of these comments mentioned above because I know myself as a TMD student do not think too much about the T&A industry. Before taking TMD 433 I would not think about how buying clothing and footwear affected the economy. Before taking this class I was very close minded about the industry. All I really thought about was fashion shows and what was in style. A lot of factors go into what you should choose to buy. I feel as if too many people are unaware of how and where their clothing was made from and no one is really going to care enough to research it, but if they were educated about it, I think it would make a huge difference of what people choose to buy.

  10. So many people are unaware of the importance of the textile and apparel industry. I wish more people could see this video just to get an idea of what T & A is about today and how much our own country benefits from it. I think this video gives a clear, brief summary of some of the topics we have learned in class and could give students outside TMD a better idea of what we study. My roomate who is a dietetics major watched the clip and was shocked to see what an impact apparel and footwear has in the U.S today. she also said she’ll think more about her clothing when getting dresssed every day. we don’t wear just the apparel, we wear everything else that made it possible to be available to us.

  11. I enjoyed watching this video because it really stressed the impact of the textile industry on the economy. I think many people acknowledge textiles as a necessity but do not often think of this industry in relation to our economy. Seeing apparel and footwear in comparison to other retail items shows that our industry is truly an impactful player in the economy as a whole.
    It also presented points such as that people in the textile industry are responsible for some of the most successful companies in America. This defies the preconceived notion that the fashion industry is aesthetically driven. Much economic and scientific intellect is requiring in every major apparel and footwear company in order to be successful. Many people do not give the deserved credit to the apparel and footwear industry, and those working in it.

  12. This video does a great job showing how important Textile and Apparel is to the U.S. and the world. I get really frustrated when people refer to what I am studying as “just fashion”. They don’t understand that textiles and apparel is not “just fashion” its not just labels and designers, it is much more. Textiles and apparel is important to our economy and without it there would be a lack of jobs, a decrease in economic growth, and a lack of our everyday items. I like that the video explains how T and A is a powerful and industry and it is important to the economy. I wish more people would take the time out to watch this video or do research on T and A. So many take advantage of T and A. They don’t think about how it contributes to our country.

  13. After watching the video I was surprised to learn how the Apparel and Footwear impact the US and the importance of this industry. Not a lot of people realize how much we are supporting other economies and industries by buying clothes and wearing them. For people to wear these clothes this allows economic growth and crates jobs in the US. Although the US does import a lot of textiles and apparel, we are still supporting other countries and the industry as a whole. The US has 4 million people working in this industry and we are supporting their jobs and companies buy buying the clothing and products they sell.
    Taking TMD 433 really has shown me how much goes into the textile and apparel industry. It shows students the importance of these industries and how much we impact them.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with everyones comments about this video. Being a TMD major at URI seems to be a joke, but if you are not a TMD major you never realize how much the Textile and Apparel Industries affect the world economy. As said in the video Apparel contributes to more economic growth than any other retail product. And as learned in TMD 433 you aren’t just wearing clothes, you wear things made all over the world and put into one piece of clothing. Globalization is a huge part of that, without globalization you would not be able to purchase the clothes and footwear available to you everyday.

    1. TMD is a premium program at URI and I always feel very proud of our students. Just like the T&A industry itself, we need to better communicate ourselves and educate the general public about our importance. It is true that T&A is far more than fashion magazines and runway shows.

  15. For our first case study we were assigned to ask other students on the URI campus if they knew what the TMD major was and what it consisted of and the answer was unanimous. Some had no idea while others just knew it had to do with fashion. In terms of fashion they thought that all we do was piece fabrics together and craft all day. One of my classmates mentioned above that as a TMD major were required to learn and take classes that can overall teach us about the different components of the industry and not just the design part. As a senior TMD major I have taken 2 economic classes, retail buying, textile science, etc. Taking these classes have helped me as an individual look at our global economy and fashion industry in a different perspective. Although the video was brief, it was VERY informative and really put numbers into perspective. I hope that others can view this video and understand that the and apparel and footwear industry affect multiple things in today life like supplying 4 million jobs to US people!

  16. My reaction after watching and analyzing this short video was shocked. I had no awareness of how big of an impact the footwear industry had in the US. Since I am currently enrolled in TMD 433 I did before the video clip had an alert mind set to how buying clothes from foreign countries helps build on their economies. For me, fashion has always been ONE of my main priorities when shopping but always had a cautious mind set on where and whom I was giving my money too. On the other hand a majority of the US population is not aware of where their money goes and how it benefits other lives. It is important to keep the youth aware with as much public communication has possible.

  17. An interesting thought I had while watching this video was how an organization such as the American Apparel and Footwear Associations feels about sustainability and environmentally-friendly design. From this video, I got the feeling that the organization was trying to justify consumer spending. They’re telling us (indirectly) that we should keep buying apparel and shoes because we’re giving all these people jobs and supporting the economy. Aren’t we so lucky to have our cake and eat it too?

    However, I am curious to their stance on issues of sustainability. I was reminded of several presentations that Dr. Aspelund has given, discussing how the fashion industry can reduce its ecological footprint. Some potential solutions are to make clothing more durable and longer lasting. However, a consequence would be a reduction of consumer spending. If we started a movement encouraging people to buy sustainable clothing that will last longer, I have a feeling that the AAFA might not be so pleased.

    1. 🙂 The follow up question to ask is if the US consumers stop buying, how can those millions of garment workers in the developing countries survive? My personal view is the corporate world won’t embrace the concept of “sustainability” if there is no return of commercial interests. For example, isn’t those clothing with “organic cotton” labels usually are sold at higher price? PS: I think the AAFA does have a “position” on sustainability: https://www.wewear.org/aafa-on-the-issues/category/?CategoryId=19. But I will be happy to raise the question to them–I am working on the next interview with the AAFA leadership.

  18. I agree with this article in many ways. I believe that moving production to the united states would create huge job opportunities in not just the fashion industry, but in the political and environmental industry. We would have to create jobs for people to monitor these factories and people who regulate the trade around the world and in the United States. I wish production would move to the US because it would provide so many opportunities for economic growth in our country.

  19. This video supports the fact that the textile and apparel industry is more than just apparel and fabrics. I found it very interesting that apparel products in the U.S. contribute to more economic growth than any other retail product. This video shows how important the textile and apparel industry is in our life and economy. After taking this course I have realized that this industry is not very recognized and most people think that is nonexistent. This video really shows how the apparel industry is more than a piece of clothing and how there is so much behind a piece of clothing and in the supply chain.

  20. This video could really act well as an introduction to this course for anyone who is unfamiliar with the nature of the US textile and apparel industries. It brings us back to one of our first assignments, in which we interviewed students about their knowledge of textiles and apparel. I know that for me, both of the people I interviewed not only misunderstand the importance of these industries, but have outdated views of their true nature. It’s because of this that I think a major part of improving these industries domestically is to offer education to the public about how these industries really work. They not only affect our own political interests, but the nature of other economies. As the video shows, the US acts as a massive consumer-driven economy, and our hold on such a large stake of this global industry means we have a lot of influence. Educating consumers can help them to make better political and ethical choices when participating in elections, or even making purchases.

  21. I wish that more people outside of our TMD 433 class here at URI, outside of our major in general, would watch this video to understand that there is more to our industry than runways and pretty clothes. I always knew that textiles and apparel played a key role in the world marketplace, but it was not until taking this course that I realized how truly important our industry is, and after watching this video it becomes even more clear. Most people don’t think too much about all the hard work that went into the clothes that they put on their bodies every morning- all the social/political/ethical issues, the way the textile and apparel industry effects our economy and the world economy, or even how much the industry supplies jobs to millions of people all over the world. If more people knew this, I believe that our industry wouldn’t be so overlooked and misunderstood. It is our job now after taking this class to educate others on how important our industry really is. I’m showing this video to anyone who decides to poke fun at our major!

  22. I really enjoyed watching this video and realizing how important the Textile and Apparel industry is; many people who do not know about the industry also do not realize how important it really is. I can relate to some of the above comments. When having to do our first class assignment and asking others in the URI community about the Textile and Apparel industry, I got different responses from both people I interviewed. While one said she did believe it was important, the second person did not see the importance because “its mostly just designing and coming up with new clothes.” But, I was glad to tell her it was more than that. Taking classes at URI such as Economics and Textile Markets helped me understand some aspects of Economics as well as the other important parts of the Textile industry that I was not aware of, even as a TMD major. I really hope more people get to see this video and gain some insight on what this industry really is and see it as more than just designing, and see how important it really is the economy.

  23. I find this video to be very interesting but I wonder if the message is strong enough to understand and I wonder what the video is promoting. I understand that the video is trying to build awareness in people and have people question what are they wearing and how does it contribute to the market. Its good to learn that T&A is the the leading contribution to the American economy but I feel as if the information given is a little misconstrued. In the beginning of the video the speaker says that the T&A market employs 4 million people in America but towards the end of the video the speaker says that the market employs 4 million people around the world. After watching the video I wonder if the video is supposed to promote American Made clothing or just clothing made around the world? Is this video telling us to keep shopping because it is helping build the American economy and telling us that we should be aware of what we wear? And in being aware of what we wear what are we to do next with that information. I understand that our clothing come from around the world and that one should be educated in where I clothing comes from but after knowing this information what am I supposed to do next?

    1. You raised a very interesting question and I am glad to see students think critically! My personal view: first, this video reminded us of one often-ignored fact that American spent MORE on clothing than some other sectors deemed very large and important to the US economy. As you’ve learnt from ECN 202, the US economy is based on consumption (Y=C+G+I+NE). There being said, the apparel industry plays a critical role in the prosperity of the US economy, although such a role needs to get more recognition. Second, compared with the fancy IT products, people may think a piece of clothing is such a “simple” and “easily get” product. However, quite the opposite, as the video indicates (and as you’ve learnt from TMD433), to make the safe, affordable and fashionable clothing available to consumers, not only the process is technically so long and complex but also the various critical economic, social and political issues associated with/created by such a process is far beyond people’s imagination. Additionally, the apparel industry attaches great importance to the concept of “sustainability”. This is another manifest that our textile and apparel field is as critical, important, serious and complicated as any other sector in the 21st century.

  24. This video was very interesting to me. I was very shocked and interested by the information that came from this video. I did not know how important the footwear industry was. As a TMD student i felt very proud watching this video because I think that as a general consensus most people in this world do not know the importance of the textile and apparel industry in the United States. Even as a TMD student sometimes I do not know where my money is going to when I purchase products, and similarly to me neither do most people in this world. I think that it is very important to keep people aware of who their money is going to and from this video my oppinions heightened.I think that by educating consumers it can help them make better educational and political decisions.

  25. I agree with my classmates above. It is extremely frustrating to know that people think of TMD as an easy, uncomplicated major. It couldn’t be farther from the truth! The fact of the matter is that the textile industry creates millions of jobs across the globe. As the video states, Americans spend more money on apparel and footwear than video games, fast food, and even new cars. That is incredible! The problem is that the textile industry is misunderstood. We are not just about designing, sewing, and watching fashion shows. We are constantly concerning ourselves with our impact on the environment, safety compliances, market trends, and much much more. Like the video states, our clothes are more than just fashion statements, they represent an industry that is always evolving and improving.

  26. Americans are consumers, and we contribute to economic growth in almost every sector including textiles and apparel. We are wearing economic issues, corporate social responsibilities and more. The AAFA provides an important role in facilitating policy and promoting their concerns and comments. The general American public needs to care about T&A if we are consuming 25% of the textiles and apparel produced globally, and ‘we all wear clothes’ and use textile products weather we acknowledge it or not and I don’t believe there is anything dignified about being an uniformed consumer especially in the digital age when information is plentiful and readily available.

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