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Is it the Swan Song of American denim industry?

Since the early 90’s when NAFTA and the WTO came into existence, the apparel industry in the US has been one of the hardest hit losing about 85 per cent jobs to competition abroad. Denim and jeans, as inseparable as a horse and carriage, have been an American icon for more than a century. Earlier, there were hundreds of mills manufacturing denim and now there are just two denim plants and, what is worse, 98 per cent of the apparel purchased in the US is manufactured abroad.

The unkindest cut of all is that the iconic Cone Denim White Oak plant in Greensboro, NC which will be closing by the end of this year. One is sure that the US President will not be happy to hear this news. The plant opened in 1905 and quickly became the world’s largest producer of selvedge denim manufacturing 1.6 million square feet during its heyday. And Michael Williams of men’s wear site ‘A Continuous Lean’ says it’s a national tragedy. The mill represents tradition, pride and the expertise that gets woven into some of the world’s most revered fabrics. History can’t be rewritten, and when the plant closes Americans will have lost yet another piece of our national identity.

It’s not that the US can’t compete with other countries when it comes to quality and productivity, what the country is competing against is cheap slave labour (sweatshops); poor environmental regulations; countries that just dump their waste into drinking water supplies; and countries like Bangladesh that pays its employees $68 a month. It’s distressing to note that now ‘Made in America’ is going to cost more.

 
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