Manufacturing is big business in Los Angeles. In 2009, over 669,000 people were employed in the manufacturing sector in the five county LA metropolitan area. A significant part of that manufacturing sector in LA is apparel. One LA apparel firm is actually making more of its wonderful women’s apparel in LA today then it did ten years ago. That firm is Karen Kane. And there is a living, breathing Karen Kane, who both works and lives in LA.
Karen Kane’s story is the story of many Americans who worked hard to realize her ambitions and in the process created jobs for members of our extended American family. Born in Santa Barbara, Ms. Kane moved to Los Angeles where she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and graduated two years later with a degree in fashion. She and her husband Lonnie Kane founded Karen Kane in rather modest digs in 1979, to wit, their garage in Studio City. Buoyed by early demand for their clothes, the Kanes soon moved to a facility in Downtown LA. In the early days, the Kanes did all of their own sewing and manufacturing.
Fast forward to today. Karen Kane is one of the most successful and well-recognized women’s apparel firms in the Country. Ms. Kane has won many design awards over the years. The company has a 130,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Vernon, California. The company’s apparel design, silk screening, research, pattern making, grading and cutting are all carried out at the Vernon facility. Karen Kane apparel is featured at top end retailers such as Nordstrom.
But what really made me excited about Karen Kane was the manufacturing jobs they have always provided in the LA area, and the manufacturing jobs they have recently been adding. A particularly welcome trend over the last few years has been the return of manufacturing jobs to this Country from overseas. Variously known as “onsourcing”, “insourcing” or “reshoring”, this trend is forecast to grow significantly in the next five years for a variety of reasons. The Boston Consulting Group has recently published an interesting report on the subject. Karen Kane is at the forefront of this trend.
Karen Kane traditionally produced 50% of its apparel in LA and 50% overseas. The Kanes recently made the decision to change that mix to 80% in LA and 20% overseas. In an article in Reuters in July of this year, Michael Kane, the Kane’s eldest son and director of marketing for Karen Kane, put it this way. “The attitude toward American production has changed. We looked at the cost of doing manufacturing here domestically, and the cost is not that different.” Mr. Kane cited declining production quality, increasingly unreliable shipping times and higher fabric prices that seem to have affected China “much more greatly” as additional factors influencing the company’s decision. “The quality of goods made overseas, and in China specifically, is not as high as the standards of the past.”
Karen Kane clothes are fashionable and manufactured of the highest quality materials. Those are the reasons that Karen Kane is such a succesful firm. But for me, and I hope for you, Ms. Kane’s fashions are attractive for another reason as well. They are carefully made by members of our extended American family in the city of my birth, Los Angeles. I urge you to visit Karen Kane’s website and then purchase Karen Kane clothing. In doing so you will receive a high quality, beautiful dress, sweater or blouse. And at the same time, you will be providing meaningful jobs for people in this Country. How can you go wrong with that combination!