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Detroit aims to be a textile manufacturing hub

A few years ago, Steve Mazur and Eric Huang, co-founders of Detroit-based Ash & Erie, makers of shirts for shorter men, were sourcing suppliers to produce their classic woven, button-down shirts in Detroit; unable to find any, they are outsourcing manufacturing abroad. They are not alone, many fashion entrepreneurs in Detroit are not able to find infrastructure needed to grow locally. Owners say they face difficulties finding skilled, experienced professionals to sew, cut, and make patterns, as well as local manufacturers able to affordably produce smaller product batches.

It's a national problem. The industry has been sinking since the last three decades after factories started closing. Not having trained workers has an enormous effect on a company's bottom line as it takes much longer to become profitable and what’s more it hurts the company’s margins. Given this predicament, efforts are on to create a vibrant textile industry in Detroit. Important players in the city's design and manufacturing fields are working to boost local skilled labour and bring production back to their city. A new model for the $2.5 trillion fashion industry is expected to be created in Detroit.

The Director of Business Programs for Detroit Creative Corridor Center managed to get Detroit included in an Urban Manufacturing Alliance study which is analysing manufacturing needs, assets, gaps, and opportunities such as job creation and neighbourhood development for small to mid-size companies in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Portland. For the assessment, four manufacturing focus groups were conducted in August, one of which targeted the fashion and textile industries.

These measures are expected to make companies such as Ash & Erie start manufacturing in Detroit. Steve Mazur, whose shirt company was featured on ABCs ‘Shark Tank,’ received a $1,50,000 investment from billionaire Mark Cuban. He and his partner are sourcing local production partners.