After watching my clothing company try to grow into something marvelous, and fail. I am still thinking about how I could have made it work. I haven’t taken down the Nayeli website, even after we moved out of the Sewing Studio and ceased operations over a year ago. I still check my @nayeli.com email address every few days, sometimes getting emails from solicitors offering great deals on sewn garments made in China for cheap. Like this one:
“We reach out to you about NO MOQ garment production.”
I had to look that acronym up. Turns out it means, there is no minimum quantity on order.
And I can’t help but be tempted. No matter how great my clothing designs are, the best way to make quality clothing at affordable prices was to manufacture. But that was the hang up. When I tried to hire the only local sewing company in Spokane called K&L, I was turned down repeatedly. I couldn’t meet their minimums. The only alternative was creating my own local sewing manufacturing business and that would require a large upfront investment in inventory.
I talked to another local business owner who had a large clothing inventory a trade show. He finally admitted he had taken the one other route – hiring foreign refugees for cash to do the work in Spokane. I didn’t think this method was ethical either. Basically he was taking advantage of cheap labor imported into Spokane. Using people who were already getting government or non-profit aid for housing, food, and healthcare to do his sewing for him because it was easier than actually hiring a legal resident and paying the taxes and doing the paperwork required to bring on real resident employees.
I tried to set up my own small sewing shop, cutting out the middle man to sew and sell directly to my customers. I tried to start lean, but the reality once attempting to go down that road was it too was going to require lots of upfront costs.? Manufacturing clothing requires substantial machinery, work space and labor. All expensive items. On the flip side, manufacturing here could yield a fresh infusion of jobs into the local economy. And I still had the training manual from the trial run with the Native American Sewing Company.
There it was again. That sparkling dream of creating a new workforce of happy sewers. A cool clothing company to revitalize the gloomy economy in Spokane.
I had so many idyllic ideas for how to run the business. Dividing the shits into four-hour blocks. Offering cross-occupational time swaps. Allowing women to make money while still having time to raise their children themselves. There would be jobs for men too, fabric cutters usually required more upper body strength to operate the large industrial cutting machine. And every sewing shop needs a repairman on staff.? Shit I dont care what sexual orientation you are, I just want to make sewing jobs cool, and have them replace minimum wage jobs where so many people are stuck working at corporate franchises.
The difference is we would be making and selling a product, not selling a service. Making products brings income into a community, while services recirculate money that is already there.
There was the problem that needed to be solved. How to make inventory locally without a large budget to start with? How to compete with businesses that outsourced to China, India or Mexico where the minimum wage was drastically lower than our own American cost of living.
Manufacturing in China
Why has China gotten so good at manufacturing? Back in 2001 our US sewing operations got up and moved there.
“President Bill Clinton, after hinting at a rejection of globalized trade policy during his campaign, fought hard for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. While NAFTA may seem like a battle in antiquity, it introduced a new corporatist trade model and marked a turning point for America?s trade relationships with Canada and Mexico, as well as other countries where the NAFTA model was subsequently implemented.
The U.S. ran a $10.3 billion goods trade deficit with Canada in 1993, but that number climbed to a high of $78.5 in 2005 before settling to a still significant $35.4 billion in 2014. With Mexico, the result has also been severe: A pre-NAFTA trade surplus of $1.7 billion was wiped out and soared to a deficit as high as $74.8 billion in 2007 before settling back to a hefty negative $53.8 billion in 2014.
Yet the damage wrought by Bill Clinton?s NAFTA pales in comparison to the economic carnage that followed, thanks to his abysmal legacy trade deal with China. Yes, Democratic president Bill Clinton won a showdown in Congress in 2000 that granted Most Favored Nation status to the People?s Republic, which entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) a year later.
The result? In 2001, America?s trade deficit with China clocked in at an already substantial $83 billion. In 2014, it reached a stunning $343 billion. For 2015, that trade gap is projected to reach yet another new record? $366 billion.”
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The biggest categories of U.S. imports from China were computers and accessories, cell phones, and apparel and footwear. A lot of these imports are from U.S. manufacturers that send raw materials to China for low-cost assembly. Once shipped back to the United States, they are considered imports.
Made in America is trying to make a comeback
But the times are a’changin’ again. Made in America is making a comeback.
Wages in China are rising, and shipping goods from Asia is costly and takes considerable time, the Boston Consulting Group found in a September 2012 report. At the same time, natural gas is currently cheap and plentiful in the United States, and advancements in robotics let U.S. factories produce as much as a veritable army of assembly line workers.
In a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted for Industry Edge by market research firm YouGov, a whopping 81 percent of respondents said they would buy something made in the U.S. because they believe it will help support our economy.
?They understand,? Reiser says. ?They know their brother, uncle or sister is out of a job. Every little thing that they?re looking at now, they?re making a strategic purchase.?
Yes, it is time to have some pride and do what it takes to support USA made clothing again!
Of course, we are up against some of the most powerful agencies who have gotten rich off the global economy. And they are very loud in the media and in politics. We face a lot of challenges today as Americans, and we need to help each other out. The American dream is about being able to start your own business, and clothing should not only be accessible to the elites and the unethical.
Unfortunately for this American, clothing business is off the table for now. I am lucky to buy used clothing for myself and my family. They say you have to try and try again, no matter how many times you fail. That’s what makes the American success story now, but the truth is if you try and fail, you might loose everything.