What happens when half a million garment manufacturing jobs disappear
A few days ago, I drove from Boston to Cape Cod to drop off new batches of fabric at Good Clothing Company, where they will be sewn into tallits(Jewish prayer shawls). Today I want to share with you a bit about the people who are responsible for the beautiful, careful sewing of each of ourtallits.
Good Clothing Company was founded last winter by Kathryn Hilderbrand, a master tailor, designer and business entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience working in the fashion industry.
Over the course of her career, Kathryn has watched more than half a million American garment manufacturing jobs vanish. From North Carolina to California to Massachusetts, company after company packed up and sent their production overseas, and the opportunities for skilled laborers—often unionized jobs—disappeared.
Many times these workers spent their last weeks on the job literally packing up the machinery in their factories and shipping it off to China, before the shuttering the factory doors. In almost all instances, those jobs were not replaced with other solidly middle class jobs.
Advah tallits in production at Good Clothing Company. You can see our full collection of tallits and chuppahs, all sewn in the USA, by clicking here.
Fast forward to today, and the Made in America movement is starting to see a revival, thanks to designers, manufacturers and consumers who value high quality, ethically-made products.
Kathryn founded Good Clothing Company earlier this year to create local jobs with ethical and sustainable production methods. The demand for her services continues to skyrocket, and her team has grown to 11 employees in less than one year.
That's very impressive, but here's the thing: Kathryn could be growing even faster if she could find more skilled workers to hire. She's tried everything to get the word out: posting on Craigslist, calling up unions that used to represent garment manufacturing workers, even running radio ads. What she's finding is that in a region that was once known worldwide for producing textiles, there are so few people around now who remember how to do the work of sewing our clothes.
It's a devastating thing to discover, a reminder of how much we lost when we packed up our factories and sent them overseas. But luckily we have people like Kathryn who see it as a call to action, instead of a reason to throw up her hands and give up.
Kathryn is currently developing a training program for young people, new immigrants, and unemployed folks looking for new career, where she will train them in the highly skilled work of creating patterns, cutting fabric, and sewing our clothes. And she'll have good jobs ready for them when they graduate, jobs with great working conditions and fair wages that you can support a family on.
I am grateful for people like Kathryn and the 11 women who work for her, doing the hard work each day of figuring out how to clean up the broken pieces of our textile manufacturing industry. They are what make it possible for people like myself to create products in this country.
And I'm grateful to each of you, for recognizing the value of ethically-made quality products, and for choosing to spend your money to support local families, local jobs and our local economy.