Trump pushing for U.S. manufacturing, is causing Made in America to lose its luster in the fashion world

To what extent is Trump’s policy threatening (or not) the American fashion industry ?

I. Facts!

  •  The US’ 45th president, Donald Trump, declared during his inaugurational speech “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American”, to keep the apparel production in the U.S.
  • Some companies are wondering what the “Made in USA” label will mean under the new administration. Will it continue to stand for craftsmanship and style, or amount to an endorsement of Trump’s policies — or even the president himself?
  • The share of domestically produced clothing in the U.S. in 2015 was 2.7%, down from 10.2% in 2005 and 46.2% in 1995, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Assn. Over the same period, apparel consumption has grown more than 60%.
  • From the Fashion Industry Experts point of view, it’s unclear precisely what Trump’s administration will do to bring jobs back, other than to renegotiate trade deals or raise tariffs on imports.
Domestically_Manufactured_Apparel_USA

Domestically_Manufactured_Apparel_USA

II. Potential Causes!

  • A backlash against American brands would be a painful and ironic twist for the apparel and footwear companies that have fought to keep production stateside.
  • U.S. apparel makers could benefit from an administration that favors local producers and makes domestic manufacturing more cost effective. On the other, these brands could lose their cool among their prime demographic if Trump turns “Made in America” into a political slogan, said Jonathan Wilde, editor of GQ.com.
  •  “Brands don’t tend to do well when they involve themselves with ideologies” said Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, a marketing research firm that has studied Trump’s brand power for the past 25 years.
  • “The reality is that there are serious repercussions for a company’s brand and bottom line when consumers learn it does business with the Trump family or helped to fund Donald’s rise to political power” said Shannan Coulter, co-founder of #GrabYourWallet (Anti-Trump movement which call people to boycott retailers that sell or support Trump family)

III. Potential Consequences!

  • “It’s possible for ‘Made in America’ to come back, but it will require more of this source material manufacturing to also return to the U.S. and be profitable,” said Geoff Clawson, president of Birdwell. “Politics aside, it seems like that’s what the president is pointing to. For U.S. to be ‘Great Again,’ they need to reclaim these disciplines”, he added.
  • Fashion industry experts say that bringing jobs back to U.S. would be devastating for a lot of American apparel brands that either manufacture or source materials from overseas (including Trump – and Ivanka Trump-branded apparel). It would, however, shrink the gap between the cost of clothes made in the U.S. and those made overseas.

About Ivanka Trump’s brand:

Ivanka_Trump

Ivanka Trump’s company has partnered with multiple manufacturers. Almost all of her goods are made overseas, according to a New York Times review of shipments compiled separately by Panjiva and ImportGenius, two trade databases. ImportGenius tallied 193 shipments for imported goods associated with Ivanka for the year through December 5, mostly Chinese-made shoes and handbags. Her dresses and blouses are made in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to a review of hundreds of clothing tags and financial documents files by G-III.

She tried to manufacturing some items in-house but the plan was scrapped due to being costly and impractical. “There is a definitely lack of infrastructure and skilled labor when it comes to mass manufacturing clothing.” – Esquire.com

IV. Conclusions

  • As Bjorn Bengtsson, a professor at Parsons School for Design in New York stated, there’s absolutely no possibility of fashion making a reentry to the U.S. The reason is LABOR. Most U.S. manufacturers are having tremendous difficulty finding skilled labor. US companies will have to train people. But even then, salaries are not going to be as low as in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • Finding qualified workers to man sewing machines has been so challenging that companies such as Brooks Bros. have turned to refugees to fill out its ranks. If Trump will limit the immigrant workforce, things will get pretty hard for local companies to produce internally.
  • According to Well Spent founder, Brad Bennett, (a website that highlights up-and-coming brands and ethically sourced clothing from America and around the world), “Even if policies are enacted to bring American manufacturing jobs back, that doesn’t mean there will be a demand for American-made goods”.

 

Higher wages means higher price tags, and Americans have shown an unwillingness to pay more for their shoes and threads. A recent NDP Group survey found that 80% of Americans considered “Made in USA” labels important to some degree, yet only 23% said they would pay more for it.

While it would be great to see more clothing made in the U.S., the fact remains that fashion is a global industry, and simply barring the gates on foreign trade is not the answer, especially if it pisses everyone off abroad, causing a worldwide boycott of our goods.

While mega brands like Nike or Calvin Klein might potentially survive that scenario, small brands, which is to say almost all brands that manufacture in the U.S., would likely go under.


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Alina Blaga

Fashion | Marketing | Personal Shopping

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