Friday, July 17, 2009

Sewing in America (a 5-part series)

This is the first in an ongoing series of observations about the state of sewing in America. As many of you know, the Car Seat Poncho is manufactured right here in the USA, and I hope that I will always be able to say that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that will still be possible 5, 10 or 20 years from now.

Fifty years ago, there were millions of factory jobs in this country -- skilled labor that built the middle class. And thirty years ago, middle and high school kids were learning how to make things, in wood shop or in home ec. Those classes were terrific laboratories for math, geometry, and creativity. Where are they now -- those jobs, those classes? Is it even possible to bring them back? And what will we do when/if they're gone?

PART 1: Keeping An American Brand in America

I breathed a big sigh of relief when I read that Hartmarx had received approval to sell itself to two American and British investor groups (link).

Britain's Emerisque Brands and SKNL North America have vowed to keep the company intact as a leading manufacturer of men's and women's suits. Hartmarx, the 120-year-old maker of Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx brands, has outfitted generations of men in their "first day of work" suits, wedding tuxedos and retirement dinner jackets. Based in Illinois, they have made several suits for President Obama, including the one he wore at his inauguration.

This vow means that over 4,000 employees in Illinois, New York and Alabama get to keep their jobs, their homes, their healthcare (hopefully), their security. It also means that the art and craft of apparel manufacturing stays alive a little while longer in this country.

(Wells Fargo, HM's creditor, had wanted to liquidate its assets, dismiss its employees, and license the esteemed brand name to offshore manufacturers. Hmmm. That's not a very nice "thank you" to the American people for shelling out the $25 billion in federal aid that kept the bank afloat, is it? Quite arrogant, I'd say.)

What do you think?

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