A Blow to the Dallas Garment Business, Ctd.

It's the costs, not the skills, that prevent a renaissance in the local clothing business.

A FrontBurnervian who read last week’s post about Dallas-based fashion company Foremost moving its manufacturing to Los Angeles wrote in to encourage us not to retract our June 2015 D Magazine story (as I’d jokingly suggested we might) that had given Foremost positive press for its decision to make its clothes in Dallas in the first place.

She’d previously launched (and parted ways with) her own clothing line produced here and wanted to emphasize that the skills to make great garments still exist in our city:

They all have an incredible knowledge base and worked on large-scale accounts and for big designers (at the time) and the sewing rooms off Harry Hines that existed 40-50 years ago produced many, many well-known ready-to-wear lines. In addition to manufacturing, everything was sourced out of here — fabric, buttons, zippers, labeling, etc. The people the article referenced are the same people I’d met — they were the ones in management then and lost their jobs when companies like Haggar and JCPenney went to manufacturing overseas. Those people are now in their 60s and 70s trying to do their own things, but not for big names or fancy accounts. An incredibly talented patternmaker does work out of her garage studio at her house near White Rock. Items are still very much made in darkened, hot backrooms off Harry Hines by talented people who can cut and sew, but the items they make are sheets, camera straps and garments that don’t require costly skills to produce things like tricky pockets and zippers …

The sewing rooms still sort of exist and there’s a joke that there are warehouses with old machines sitting there as ghosts of an era gone by, almost as if they wait for a resurgence. I’d realized that one of the reasons no one thinks to produce anything here in Dallas is that it’s nearly impossible to find the people. Let me tell you how many back-room warehouses I had to wander through and had to use my reporter’s hustle to talk to people to get them to divulge who else could make my clothes. …

It was also the costs … they can’t compete with overseas, or even Los Angeles. (Dallas-based Mizzen + Main is a success story, but I don’t think they manufacture here) Here, to produce a pair of pants like we made cost about $16, all in … so that’s fabric, trim, grading the sizes, cutting, sewing, labeling and packaging. We’d sell our close for around $100 … so the margins seemed incredible and having no clothing business knowledge, being able to walk into the production facility was helpful to us. But in China, those same pants could be made for $5. Everything is offshore now. Even the cotton grown in Texas gets shipped it Italy to be made into … you guessed it, Italian cotton.

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