Over the last week, I have introduced you to a number of great American firms making apparel in this country: Montauk Tackle Company, American Giant and Game Gear. Yet the production of apparel by firms like this is a pittance when measured against the tidal wave of apparel that we import each year from abroad. In 2010, we imported about $75 billion worth of apparel from other countries. China exported $111 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the world last year and a bunch of that landed on our shores. But, as you may have heard, China is becoming a more expensive place to manufacture clothing these days. This stems from a couple of factors: rising wages, diminishing governmental support for clothing manufacturing, and increased transportation costs. What is a firm to do that wants to design its apparel in this country, manufacture it overseas and then reimport it into this country to sell? Start sourcing your shirts, pants and coats from manufacturers located in a country where the wages are even lower than China, that’s what.
In a recent story, a fashion trade publication reported that Bangladesh may be the next clothing manufacturing hub. According to the CIA, China’s estimated per capita annual income for 2010 was $7,600, while Bangladesh’s was only $1,700. So it isn’t surprising that clothing manufacturing production would migrate to Bangladesh. But why stop with Bangladesh? There are plenty of countries where you could probably have your polos and casual pants made cheaper than in Bangladesh since their annual per capita income is way lower than Bangladesh’s. Here are a few countries that the CEOs of “American” apparel companies could check out as manufacturing locations if they consider Bangladesh just too expensive a place to make shirts, pants and suits.
Positives: Very motivated workers since Somalia’s estimated annual per capita income is around $600 a year. Lots of port facilities. Good cell phone and Internet services.
Negatives: Complete lack of a central government. Your manufacturing site managers will have to learn to get along with the Islamist Al-Shabaab group. Lots of Pirates.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Positives: Very very motivated workers since the Democratic Republic of Congo’s estimated annual per capita income is around $300 a year. Big labor pool as the Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of over 71 million people. Ability to order your workers around in French if you want since lots of people there speak French.
Negatives: Well established history of corruption. Daily production meetings can take a long time since 242 languages are spoken in the country. Lots of diseases and snakes.
Positives: Very motivated workers since Afghanistan’s estimated annual per capita income is around $900 a year. Everyone has heard of Afghanistan, especially us, the former Soviet Union and the English. Given long history of exporting opium, exporting clothing should be a snap.
Negatives: Managing Pashtuns can be tricky. Very hot climate but no nice beaches. Finding female workers will not be that easy within the next few years I would guess.
Positives: Motivated workers since Comoros’ estimated annual per capita income is around $1000 a year. Since the whole country is an island, you might be able to trick your managers into believing that they are actually working in Hawaii. Good scuba diving for you and your family during your annual production visit.
Negatives: More than 20 coups in the last 35 years. Lots of volcanos. The whole country is an island.
One last point. If you are going to manufacture your clothing overseas and then import it back into this country for sale I have a couple of tips. First, always include the word “American” in the brand name. “American Style”. “American Attitude”. “American Badass”. You get the picture. Second, put lots of American flags on your imported clothing. Finally, don’t forget to also put lots of Bald Eagles on your imported clothing. If you decide to relocate your apparel manufacturing facility to any of the four countries described above, there is no way you should consider selling the shirt or pants in this country with anything less than at least two American flags and two Bald Eagles. Trust me on this one.
Of course, rather than going through all the trouble of making apparel in some third world country and then importing into this country, you could just make it here and sell it here. Like Jeff Fletcher, Greg Donnelly, Zac Painter and John McMillan do. The beauty of making your clothing in this country is you don’t have to cover it in American flags or Bald Eagles to let people know it is clothing made by members of our extended American family. All you need are three words on the tag at the collar of the shirt or coat or the waist band of the pants: Made in America. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?