Designer Jean Makers Sued for False ‘Made in USA’ Labels

Designer Jean Makers Sued for False ‘Made in USA’ Labels

Many Americans buy products they believe to be made in the United States because they believe they are of higher quality and because they want to support the U.S. economy.

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‘Made in America’ High Fashion Easy to Find at Fashion Week


(NEW YORK) — Is “Made in America” clothing making a comeback at New York fashion week? Though designers from around the globe have gathered in the Big Apple to display their spring and summer collections for 2014, many say their clients still get a kick to learn their clothes are made in the U.S.

Though it means higher retail prices, several designers say they produced 100 percent of their collections in the U.S., including Joanna Mastroianni and Honor.

Even large design houses say they produce a majority, if not a large chunk, of their collections in the U.S.

Trina Turk, who presented for the second time at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City on Sunday, says about 40 to 60 percent of the clothing from her women’s label is produced in the U.S.

“There’s a customer segment that enjoys that things are made in the U.S.,” Turk said.

Turk has boutiques across the country and sells her clothing in department stores including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.

The design and production behind her summery “California Roadtrip”-themed collection available this spring took place in her headquarters in Southern California.

Even global jet-setting designer Vivienne Tam, whose clean, structured spring show was an “ode to modern Shanghai,” produces some of her clothing in the U.S.

Michelle Smith’s edgy and modern women’s spring ready-to-wear was presented on Wednesday for her brand, MILLY. Smith says that while retail prices are higher when she produces domestically, she believes better quality is delivered to customers.

“One of the greatest benefits of producing in the US is that I have a better handle on quality control,” she said. “My sampling room is located one floor below my studio in the heart of the Garment District.”

About 80 to 90 percent of MILLY is made in New York City, while the remaining percentage is fully fashioned knitwear, which cannot be produced in the U.S., her company says.

Without knits, it may be easier for designers to tout their American-produced clothing during fashion week’s spring collections than the winter presentations in February.

Lela Rose, whose brilliantly-colored women’s line was presented on Sunday, said knits are the last remaining puzzle of clothing items she does not yet make in the U.S.

She said 95 percent of her collection is produced domestically, and she is starting to develop and produce knits in the U.S.

“We’re not there yet,” Rose said.

But she is on her way, because the benefits outweigh the challenges of producing in the U.S.

Based in New York City, her factories are based within a 10-block radius of her headquarters.

“If they have a question, they send a representative with a sample,” she said. “And we have people constantly monitoring the factories.”

While it may cost less to produce abroad, Rose said overseas lead times “are so much longer than they are here made in [America].”

Many times, operations have ended up becoming more costly due to things lost in translation or having to revise clothing because things haven’t gone right.

Rose said she supports the preservation of New York’s garment district for “very self-serving” purposes. “If we didn’t have these factories, we wouldn’t have trend stores or last-minute things to add to our collection,” she explains.

And, Rose adds, her clients appreciate that her clothing is produced in the U.S.

“Women love that. I think customers are proud to wear things and are happy to spend money on supporting this economy, especially after all these years of seeing manufacturing diminish,” she said.

Lela Rose

Lela Rose

Designers like Nanette Lepore, whose spring presentation attracted hundreds of clamoring fans on Wednesday, have become politically active in lobbying to protect U.S. manufacturing jobs. Lepore has even helped organize rallies in support of New York’s Garment District.

Melissa Hall, who is behind the website, said new designers want to produce in the U.S. for several reasons, such as being close to the design process and control quality.

“Many designers are also keen on helping to stimulate their local economy and provide jobs to factory workers,” she said. “Plus, one consumer trend that is happening right now is their desire to learn about the designer’s back-story to feel a connection with the brand. That’s where Made in America comes in as a marketing vehicle along with being able to communicate the craftsmanship that goes into making their product.”

Emily Saunders of the up-and-coming label SAUNDER said she loves being able to support industry in her hometown of New York City.

“And it’s important to me to have a relationship with the people who help make the clothing for my line – SAUNDER is my baby and it’s nice knowing that my baby is in good hands,” she said.

Marlon Gobel, behind the men’s line Marlon Gobel, is another New York-based designer who takes pride in producing in the U.S. In his recent fashion show, his “We Built This City” collection was inspired by iron workers who built Manhattan in the early 20th century.

“It just makes more sense to make it here. You can control the timing of your product so much better.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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Woolrich counts on ‘Made in the USA’ product strategy


How refreshing.

How bold.

That’s our initial reaction to the announcement last week by Nicholas Brayton, president of Woolrich Inc., that the over 180-year-old company headquartered in the quaint village of Woolrich since 1830 plans to introduce a 100-percent, American-made apparel collection this coming fall.

Not that Woolrich hasn’t done this before.

But if ever there was a time when American consumers need to rally around a company that has decided to bring some of its overseas apparel manufacturing back home, it is now.

In a letter to all of Woolrich’s customers, vendors and employees, Brayton announced Woolrich also will:

– Increase the yardage of wool produced in the woolen mill in Woolrich by 50 percent this year.

– Increase the firm’s American-made product offerings by 2015, ensuring that more than 50 percent of Woolrich woolen garments “proudly include American made wool.”

“In the coming months, for Woolrich to set and accomplish these goals, it’s going to take more than a company commitment. It’s going to take support from our loyal customers as well,” he said.

Details, we’re told, will be forthcoming as The Express has asked for a direct sit-down with Mr. Brayton to discuss and then report Woolrich’s ambitious plans so far as the privately held company is willing to reveal them.

Dear readers, if you missed Mr. Brayton’s letter published here last week, his words should be revealing and, honestly, quite profound to you in an age when many U.S.-based manufacturing companies have their products made on foreign land to reduce costs.

That has, over the past several decades, taken jobs from Americans.

Woolrich has been no exception.

Faced with a tough sales environment and working to cut costs to remain (as Mr. Brayton said) “relevant, competitive and solvent,” Woolrich has, in recent months, reduced its employee numbers and moved its design team from its local headquarters to the fashion capital of New York City.

Licensing its brand and various products has been a lifeline created with its licensing partner, the Italian firm of WP Lavori. Federal contracts to provide apparel and blankets to the U.S. military also have played a key role.

It’s a darn shame Americans aren’t more loyal to “Made in the U.S.A.” products.

They profess they are, but when they walk into a store, well, the sale of imported products show otherwise.

“In today’s world, the hard reality is that making things here is hard to do,” Mr. Brayton said.

Bringing more wool to the local mill should breathe new life into the longest, continuously running woolen mill in the U.S., which has been operating with a skeleton crew.

Among other things, Woolrich must ramp up marketing of its American-made apparel line of men’s and women’s outerwear and, perhaps, sportswear – something that can be very costly.

It should be a risk worth taking.

The “Original Outdoor Clothing Company” has among the most famous brands in the world, born when John Rich traveled from camp to camp in a mule cart during the great logging era of Central Pennsylvania to sell woolen fabric to loggers and their wives to make clothing.

Woolrich Inc, the “iconic American institution with a heritage that spans over 180 years,” is proudly “eager to begin writing the next chapter of the American manufacturing story.”


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Manufacturing areas lead surprise job comeback

Associated Press Logo

MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer

CONOVER, N.C. – As record numbers of orders flow through Legacy Furniture Group’s manufacturing plant, workers toil between towers of piled foam and incomplete end tables precariously stacked five pieces high.

With a 10 percent sales growth this year, Legacy has quickly forgotten the recession’s low point in March, when weak order volumes forced the company to implement four-day work weeks.

In November alone, the company that specializes in furniture for the medical industry added a half-dozen employees to its staff of 35. These days, everyone is clocking overtime and the 40,000-square-foot factory is starting to feel awfully cramped.

“We’re starting to stack people instead of stacking furniture,” jokes co-founder Todd Norris as he navigates rows of hand-sanded chair frames.

Legacy’s recent success highlights a trend: Counties with the heaviest reliance on manufacturing income are posting some of the biggest employment gains of the nation’s early economic recovery. This is a big change from just half a year ago, when some economists worried that widespread layoffs by U.S. manufacturers might be part of an irreversible trend in that sector.

The Associated Press Economic Stress Index, a monthly analysis of the economic state of more than 3,100 U.S. counties, found that manufacturing counties have outperformed the national average since March. The Stress Index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on a county’s unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. The higher the number, the greater the county’s level of economic stress.

The top 100 manufacturing counties with populations of more than 25,000 saw their Stress score drop slightly over the spring and summer quarters, largely due to improvements in the unemployment rate. By comparison, the national average of similar counties saw county Stress score increases of about 7 percent over the same time.

Economists say these counties may always have high rates of idled workers as technology replaces workers on the assembly line and companies find cheaper labor elsewhere. And manufacturing counties did have an average Stress score of 11.9 in September, while the top counties dedicated to hospitality were at 9.2.

But the early improvements in unemployment rates and manufacturing activity illustrate that there are, at the very least, signs of stability. U.S. manufacturers increased production by an average of 1.1 percent each month through July, August and September, before falling slightly, by 0.1 percent, in October, according to federal data.

Economists cite a range of potential explanations for the early resurgence, including the “Cash for Clunkers” program to stimulate car buying, a weak U.S. dollar to aid exports, the use of temporary workers, the need to replace depleted inventories, and stimulus money that is taking root. All of which raises the question of whether the trend will last.

Here in Catawba County, where native hardwoods and access to power have made the region a historical hub for furniture manufacturing, the unemployment rate dropped from a peak of 15.6 in March to 13.6 percent in September.

Elkhart County, Ind., meanwhile, saw such a startling surge in layoffs one year ago that President Barack Obama made a stop there in the opening weeks of his presidency. The unemployment rate there, driven by job cuts at RV manufacturers, spiked in March at 18.9 percent, but has fallen steadily ever since — to 15 percent in September.

The nation’s overall jobless rate has been going the other way, climbing from 8.5 percent to 10.2 percent.

“Manufacturing jobs are here to stay, and they’re coming back,” said Derald Bontrager, president and chief operating officer of Middlebury, Ind.-based RV maker Jayco Inc., which recalled or hired 200 laid-off workers over the summer to help ramp up production after an unexpected sales boom overwhelmed all-time-low inventories and left the producer unable to meet demand. They’re still trying to catch up.

The Carolina furniture makers who have been hiring since June may also have cut too many jobs at the base of the recession, says Scott Volz, a consultant who helps the companies recruit managers. Some of those businesses have also successfully refocused on specialties — such as high-end upholstery or quick turnarounds on custom furniture — instead of trying to compete directly with cheap Chinese imports.

Heath Cushman, 32, of Taylorsville, lost his job at a sock plant in 2008 and was out of work for nine months. His unemployment check was worth more than the low-paying jobs available back then to a graphic designer with a decade of experience.

“I have a house, a son, a wife, a car payment like everybody else,” he said. “Nine dollars an hour, even if it was 60 hours a week, probably wouldn’t have cut it.”

He was considering a long commute, or a move to a city like Charlotte, then he landed a job at Legacy making what he called a “generous” wage. Any doubts he had about a future in the manufacturing industry vanished as company executives excitedly described their future plans. Executives are now moving operations to a larger facility nearby and plan to add some 50 employees.

Mike Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, said manufacturing tends to be one of the sectors that leads the way out of recession, as factories ramp-up to meet pent-up demand. But he questioned whether the new jobs would stick around for long.

“As we’ve seen this spurt in manufacturing production over the last six months, those factories have to go out and bring back some laid-off workers,” Walden said. “In five years, however, those same workers may be back out the door.”

Not all manufacturing workers are going back to similar jobs: Other industries that frequently seek cheap labor overseas, such as customer service, are also sponging up bargain employees where layoffs have occurred.

In western North Carolina, widespread manufacturing layoffs were a theme that predated the recession — largely due to foreign competition. Yet Catawba County has been able to find some new employers eager to tap the available work force: Target Corp. opened a distribution hub in August, Apple Inc. is building an East Coast data center just 30 miles down the road from a similar Google Inc. server farm that opened last year as county recruiters brand the region as a “data corridor.”

Justin Pennell worked through the early part of the recession building equipment used by the furniture makers. But the 26-year-old’s job in Lenoir was so unstable that he would frequently go weeks without work and have to draw unemployment. In January, with the industry idling, he started searching elsewhere and soon took a job at Target, where he now maintains trucks and machines, with a steady 40-hour work schedule.

“It’s a lot better,” Pennell said, “knowing that I’m going to make a certain amount per week, versus wondering where it’s coming from the next.”


Associated Press Writer Mike Schneider contributed to this report from Orlando, Fla.

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