Tag Archives: made in the u.s.a.

The USA, Today

Although I was raised a Midwestern girl, until my recent 5-day trip to Colorado, I had spent almost no time in our country’s middle over the last several years. Recently, I got a little more than I bargained for at the Montrose, CO airport, so I went for a stroll outside. There, in a newspaper machine on the sidewalk: I saw this headline on USA Today:

“When the textile mill goes, so does a way of life.”

I found a dollar in change, and got the last copy from the dispenser. The story that followed traced massive job losses in Surry County, North Carolina, once a hub of the domestic textile industry.

Mount Airy, North Carolina

The story is a familiar one, of American manufacturing unable to compete with cheap goods from overseas, but reporter Paul Wiseman did a nice job of putting some faces on the story and looking towards the future. Some of that future, of course, is really bleak (BLS predicts the job market will lose 71,500 sewing machine operators between 2008 and 2018), but Wiseman managed to find a little bit of hope as well. He wrote about a government program called Trade Adjustment Assistance, that helps workers like Steve “Stump” Jenkins, who lost his job at Perry Manufacturing Mill in 2008, train for jobs in other fields. Jenkins chose law enforcement, his reasoning being that the police force couldn’t be displaced by foreign competition. He told the paper he loves his new job, but the fact remains he’s earning only $25,000 per year, less than a quarter of what he earned at Perry Manufacturing. Other workers are training in wine-making at Surry Community College, making use of land where fields of tobacco once grew.

I’ve sort of snubbed USA Today in the past (“Finches fight to death in blood sport” was, after all, the headline beside the one that caught my eye), in favor of fashion industry stories from The Financial Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But I’m glad I was stuck in Montrose for a moment, cause otherwise I might have missed this one.

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Malia Mills NYC Sample Sale

I know it’s hardly swimsuit season, but Malia Mills‘ are the absolute best, and usually quite pricey. Here’s my own favorite, bought for $20 at their sale last summer:

The suits are made in New York City’s Garment Center, right across the hall from the sale. Here’s a little window into Malia’s workspace I shot last year, where she talks about the importance of overseeing her supply chain. For more on Malia and the Garment District, read up here! And find the details for the sale below. 

Malia Mills is hosting the ultimate swimwear separates celebration!

For two days, find favorite styles from seasons past for $20 bucks a piece at our Studio Sale Extravaganza. It’s a new year, and we’ve got “newly vintage” Malia Mills mixers galore!

Tops 30A to 40DD, Bottoms 2 to 16


Add to your swimwear wardrobe and 10% of your purchase will go to The New York Women’s Foundation. http://www.nywf.org/

When? Wednesday, February 24th and Thursday, February 25th

10 am until 6 pm

Where? Malia Mills, 263 West 38th St, Floor 16, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Cash, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard Accepted

It might seem a world away today, but summertime is inevitable.

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Cathy Horyn, Behind the Scenes in the Garment Center

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you may be interested in Cathy Horyn’s most recent blogpost: a New York City pattern-maker’s observations of the changing American garment industry. It’s heartening to see the comments it’s already generating on The Times’ website.

Ari Magallanes Works a J Mendel Dress in his 38th Street Studio, Fall 2009

Those comments show readers are ready look behind the curtain, at what Ms. Horyn calls, “an industry in turmoil, the drastic loss of local factories and suppliers, the manufacturing dominance of China and other countries, the gradual decline of technical expertise in the face of apparent consumer indifference about fit and quality.”

Here’s another glimpse behind the scenes, in case you missed it the first time around, of New York City garmentos in their workplaces. You can also click here to read all the posts pertaining to the the garment district.

I’ll be reporting from the runways next week for Dossier, but I’ll do my best to get behind the scenes too. Maybe consumers aren’t so indifferent after all, they just might need more stories.

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The American Garmento: An Endangered Species in its Natural Habitat

If you are a New Yorker, or a regular reader of this website, you may already be aware that New York City’s Garment District is at risk of re-zoning. Maybe you:

You might be wondering what this all really means. What’s at stake? Who works in this Garment Center anyway? (To the layman, the neighborhood may just be home to peep shows, Port Authority, and The New York Times.) Today, I’ll try to give you a run-down of the issue at hand, and share some video-windows I made into a few businesses in the neighborhood.

Since 1987, Manhattan’s Garment District, which falls between 34th and 40th Streets east of 9th Avenue and west of Broadway, has been protected by a zoning regulation that requires landlords to devote a minimum area of their space to manufacturers. Now, after New York City lost 12,500 manufacturing jobs over the last year, local politicians feel the space can be put to better use, and that regulation is under re-negotiation.

Andrew Ward, Executive Director of the Garment Industry Development Corporation, said his organization, which represents the fashion faction, is in discussions with developers, landlords, and union workers about how best to proceed. He wasn’t at liberty to discuss the next steps just yet, but he did note that although only 5% of the clothing Americans buy is made in the USA, 1.3 million square feet of the Garment Center–about 1/6 of the commercially zoned area, are still occupied by manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers, and designers–that rare breed of New Yorker we affectionately know as garmentos.

As I said in this previous post, when I ran around the Garment District years ago as a design and production assistant, I took the industry’s grittiness, diversity, and camaraderie for granted, as part of New York City. Watching Schmatta helped me put my experience in historic context, but here’s the thing–it’s not just history.

Although according to Wikipedia’s definition, the American garmento is an endangered species, (threatened by changing environmental parameters) they’re still very much alive here in Midtown Manhattan. Here, have a peek into the work-spaces of a belt manufacturer, a bathing suit designer, and a button wholesaler, and let them tell you what the Garment District has meant to them throughout their careers.

Terry Schwartz, 58 years old, Sherry Accessories, 23 years in business. If my landlord wants me out, I’m out of business because I can’t afford to move anymore.

Malia Mills, 43 years old, Malia Mills Swimwear, 18 years in business. The closer your team is, the more you can supervise it. The garment center is absolutely vital to what we do.

Teddy Haft, 54 years old, Buttonology, 5 years in business, a “whole adult life” in buttons. The companies are still here and they do their sourcing here. And then everything gets produced overseas. It’s become very, very difficult.

Andrew Ward couldn’t say what will happen next. The city has scrapped one plan to consolidate the Garment Center’s protected area into a single building, and the negotiations continue.

“It would be a shame if we lost what’s here,” he said. “What’s left.”

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CLOSETTOUR, California Style

I did a pretty good job packing for a California Christmas, with one major exception: I forgot my sunglasses.

Flea Market Sunnies in Rio

I have a couple of great vintage pairs at home,  from Eu Amo Vintage in Rio de Janeiro, including the ones pictured below, but none made it into my suitcase.

My Stripey Blue Ones, pre-purchase at Eu Amo Vintage, 2008

I hate the thought of buying another pair when I’ve got these great ones at home. Borrowing isn’t really an option, since my host is a guy of formidable stature (a bonus when it comes to loaner sweatshirts, but not so much for sunnies.) But while I was taking a little morning walk around San Clemente today, cooling off after a hot yoga class (it seems I always end up closing my practice with second-hand shopping), I came across the Casa de Kathy Thrift Shop. California thrift shops are the greatest, as I’ve mentioned in my reminiscence of Ventura, and Kathy’s was no exception.There were only a couple pairs of sunnies, but I scored these for a grand total of 50 cents.

The Case de Kathy had some other great pieces too, like a pair of high-waisted, pleated, peg-legged Ralph Lauren Country khakis that would be muy cute with wedge espadrilles and a black tank top in New York, were it not 35 degrees farenheit there. They were made in the U.S.A., and the boy working said although they were marked $6, he could sell them for $3.50. It’s something to think about. Maybe after yoga tomorrow. For now I’m kicking back behind my new shades.

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The Alligator Industry Bites

“How can this industry fall out so quickly?” Stephen Bonnecarrere asked while tossing live alligators into bins at his father-in-law’s farm outside Houma. “It happened too fast.”

https://i1.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/photo/2009/11/29/1129GATOR/31213783.JPG

photo by Lee Celano for The New York Times

That, and more from this story in today’s New York Times about the market for alligator skins.

I wonder if an increase in alligator bites in the bayou will follow?

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Party Dresses

More than even the average occasion, weddings really beg the question of what to wear. They’re a special excuse to get dressed up, and see lots of people I rarely do, so I want to make it count! A few years ago–no, five years ago, my dear friend Mike asked me to be his last-minute date for a wedding in St. Louis–my hometown. I was visiting from California at the time, and didn’t have much with me. I wanted to go, but what to wear?

Mom? She descended the basement steps, dove into the archives, and emerged with this.

Remember Laura Ashley?

The British brand is not really what it used to be in the ’80s, which I imagine is when mom (pictured below) bought this.

She had kept it in beautiful condition, and it was the perfect fit for an August afternoon wedding, sipping Seabreezes at the St. Louis Country Club (seriously!) A good family friend, Mike had helped mom move years earlier, and probably carried the box that contained this dress–and many others, downstairs.

So it was nice that he appreciated it, and looked lovely himself in seersucker. But this weekend, he’ll likely be wearing a tux, as he will be the groom!

Tomorrow I’ll go from Vanity Fair, to an airplane, to the rehearsal dinner. (What to wear for that marathon? I haven’t the foggiest just yet.) But more importantly…what to wear to the wedding this Saturday?

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