The US sewn products sector is struggling. The industry experienced substantial blow as engineering, operating and mechanical jobs were moved overseas. The past 30 years continued to see a downward trajectory for domestic manufacturing in the apparel and sewn products industry, and by 2010 only two per cent of the world’s apparel was made in the United States.
In the 1960s, the average household spent more than 10 per cent of their annual income on apparels. This total represented a low number of high-quality goods, 95 per cent of which were manufactured and sold in the United States. By the 1980s and ’90s, the pendulum swung, and the desire for high-quality products was trumped by a need for more—more clothes, more shoes, more things—at a lower cost.
When the industry packed its bags and moved abroad years ago, it left behind the notion that a career in domestic manufacturing was a thing of the past. As years went by, a generational gap in skill sets grew. Training programs and technical education diminished and a career in manufacturing came with a tarnished reputation. The introduction of automation, though effective, presented another challenge as machines began to replace people along the assembly line.