Return of Apparel Manufacturing to the USA - fact or fiction?

Is the return of apparel manufacturing real or is it just PPE? Are apparel manufacturers ready to invest in digital systems to optimize the supply chain from design to delivery?

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Tees, fleece and maybe hats for sure. LA already offers a lot for these categories, prices are competitive and development/production times are much faster than overseas, indeed.
Regarding cut n’ sew it’s a different story. In my experience, India, China, Vietnam, Portugal, Mexico, Turkey etc. offer unbeatable prices and quality. Lead times are also acceptable, so product categories such as woven shirts or more complex garments are hardly coming to the US imo.


Maybe knitting, since a lot of that can be done now on one machine. Obviously not beautifully done fully fashioned sweaters, but, cheaper sweaters/ cold weather accessories. The machines are expensive, but you don’t need that many people to run them.

Theoretically, yes- but there are not many people who know how to program & operate the knitting machines- the vast majority of those people are in China. Companies like Stoll aren’t interested in training people on the job, and few schools in the USA teach them.

I’ve worked with domestic sweater factories- most of them can only do sweaters with serged seams. There are some in Brooklyn/Queens but they make junior level stuff, run by super garmento people.

I’ve worked with a place in California who can do the whole thing, but yes, there aren’t many places that currently do a lot of fully fashioned or sport knitwear.

Although, as is the case for time immemorial, if you have enough money, you can always bring skilled people over to train the local population…


Check out American Giant. Doing good things.


I love Suay Sew Shop not just because they’re a great development, cut & sew shop, but because they specialize in upcycling! This is a skill that’s hard to do efficiently and profitably, and they’ve mastered it. See the proof in Patagonia’s Worn Wear Recrafted line, which they manufactured.

AWESOME for high MOQ sustainable knit basics is

9th St Production? I don’t think I’ve worked with them, though. There are still quite a good number of factories in LA, making everything from swimwear to couture. Yes, it’s a lot easier to find someone to sew you a t-shirt than a suit or a gown, but these factories do still exist in LA. They’re only small thanks to reduced demand thanks to NAFTA and continued loss of orders thanks to retailers (and their customers) who refuse to pay the true cost for Made in USA.

What’s sad though is that too many US factories still take advantage of workers. California TRIED to pass a law to make piece work illegal. Oh, you thought it already was? Trust me, so did I! Possibly due to the factory owners having more $$$ to lobby than the workers do. Oh, you thought Newsom was liberal? Yeah right. He’s about as liberal as Tommy Hilfiger is a fashion designer.


love them!

I’ve been working in LA for the past 20+ years, and yes I agree with what you are saying. Cut and sew Knits is definitely an area where LA may have some advantage. However, the increase in CA minimum wage has put a lot of smaller factories out of business. This and the pandemic will surely affect any growth potential for now.

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I have been working with a small active wear production company, helping them bring their manufacturing back to the US (small factory in the south). I think that there are some small companies here and there who are willing and able to invest in domestic production. There are all sorts of cool technologies that make the process much more affordable and sustainable, and easier to pivot between garment types, but I’m not sure how many large companies are really looking into these sorts of technologies. The larger multinational apparel producers I have worked with in the past never seemed to have this sort of production capability on their radar, and weren’t interested in the huge investment that it would take to do this.
My take away from my experience: yeah, mostly PPE, with maybe a few smaller active wear producers getting in on the technological action. Although as with everything, the pandemic has definitely made it harder to find and train production sewers.


Good points MuuMuu!

Regarding apparel production in the US, I see mainly military contractors, first responder - EMT, Fire, police etc and a wide variety of other niche apparel.

My company,, offers technology solutions to help Sewn Products manufacturers optimize production to reduce costs, improve productivity and quality while reducing lead times.


There is still quite a bit of domestic manufacturing for knits- especially garment dye/tie dye- in LA. There also used to be quite a lot of denim- back in the early 2000’s, a lot of the premium denim was sewn here- but sadly I think a lot of that has gone offshore.

I think in LA it’s a mix of good & bad- some places pay ok, and there are lots more that are sketchy and pay by piece or poverty pages. Unfortunately, labor is one of the few places where the price can be negotiated, and so sewing factories have to accept low rates to even be in the running.

Garment dye and tie dye are still here because design can be a lot more “hands on” and can quickly make color/dye detail decisions, and results can be achieved in days, not weeks.

Anyone aware of any apparel factories using robotics and additive manufacturing?

what do you mean by “additive manufacturing”?
And yes to the robotics - it is coming.

3D Printing. Robotic in the US?

yes - there are a couple small startups that are looking at adding more automation to the factory/manufacturing process

No. If the goal of apparel manufacturing was a better make then it would happen, but that’s not the goal, The goal is the best margin and people in undeveloped economies are always cheaper than robotics and the bottom line always wins.

3d printing/additive manufacturing is helpful for replacing some trims at a specific scale and definitely helpful in the trims prototyping process but nothing beyond that yet. Again, prison labor in a button manufacturing plant is going to stay cheaper than all the 3d printers in the world.