As a small business owner I’ve encountered a wild and varied opinion of the whole “Made in America” thing. Most people are positive, they want their goods made by American hands on American soil so Americans get the money….but then when confronted with the cost of such a dream they pause.
The fact is, to have a garment manufactured entirely in America is a costly venture- and to have said garment made by actual Americans makes it an even bigger ticket. Now don’t get me wrong, many are still willing to pay for goods like this- but on the whole, unless a small fashion business undersells themselves or outsources overseas- they’re rarely going to make a profit, let alone a splash in the fashion industry because people don’t have disposable income or just don’t want to spend that kind of money.
Let’s reflect on our history for a moment- perhaps you’ve heard of the Triangle shirtwaist fire? That was a million billion years ago at this point, and it was good in the sense that it brought the plight of the underpaid and abused workers to the forefront of the news for at least a hot minute- but do you realize these sewers, primarily women were paid about $6 (often less) a week? The readers digest of the history is that the workers of New York at that time were striking (unpaid, mind you) in order to get a pay raise, safer and more sanitary working conditions and fewer working hours. I believe one account had the seamstress’ working close to 16 or 18 hour workdays. The girls even had to provide their own needles, thread and cutting equipment. Should a needle break, it’s out of your pocket, and when you make about $0.05 an hour that $0.02 needle is a big freaking deal.
We’ve since had good old Norma Rae and a few other standout times in history when we realized how much we truly wanted Americans to be paid a fair wage for their work- but on the whole, most everyday folk are going to go to Target or Kohl’s for their discount brand name goods that are made overseas because we can get an entire ensemble for less than $40.
The fact is, that most American’s simply can’t afford to buy locally, whether they want to or not. In an article written for the Huffington Post, Catherine New exemplifies the ‘classic’ made in America look:
Take the classic “Born in the USA” outfit: blue jeans, white T-shirt, work boots. The three items, all USA-made, cost $421: domestic-made Levi’s 501s ($178), American Apparel white T-shirt ($18) and classic Red Wing work boots ($225). The same outfit with imported goods is far cheaper: Brahma-brand work boots from Walmart ($33), a white Hanes T-shirt ($6) and Gap classic blue jeans ($60) add up to cost less than $100.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/made-in-america-the-luxury-label-will-cost-you_n_1891127.html, “Made in America is a Luxury Label That Will Cost You”
Most of us end up settling on goods made in the states of imported goods- often, that’s ‘good enough’, and until we’re all billionaires, it will have to be.