In reaction to the uproar over Olympic Team uniforms fashion designer Ralph Lauren had made in China, a Darke County clothing manufacturer told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that you can make it in the U.S.A - and at a profit.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is pushing legislation to return offshored jobs back home, invited Lawson Nickol, owner of the All American Clothing Co., to Washington, D.C. to speak before the Senate Democratic Steering Committee.
Nickol’s All American Clothing Co. north of Arcanum opened 10 years ago and sells only items made in the U.S. All American has posted revenue growth every year since its inception and today has sales that exceed $1 million, Nickol said.
Nickol’s success is not typical. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. employment in the apparel manufacturing industry has declined by more than 80 percent from about 900,000 to 150,000 jobs over the past two decades. Apparel manufacturing in Ohio employed 1,514 through 2011. That’s half of what it was in 2001.
All American Clothing contracts cutting and sewing of its jeans, outerwear and shirts to other U.S. companies and employs seven workers locally. But the company has expansion plans and will Friday purchase a now-empty factory to begin a new cutting and sewing facility, Nickol said.
“You can do it 100 percent U.S.A.-made,” he said. “We compete on quality.”
Nickol said he founded All American Clothing after learning that his then employer was outsourcing work to Mexico. All American uses a method called “traceability” that allows consumers to trace the origin of the cotton products back to the original cotton field and farmer in the U.S.
Brown’s proposed Bring Jobs Home Act would cut tax breaks for companies that offshore and offer breaks to those bringing work back to the U.S.
Nickol was joined by Nanette Lepore, a native of Youngstown who began her multimillion-dollar fashion line in New York City in 1992. She said she taps underused domestic facilities to make her clothing line.
“It’s advantageous to work here,” she said. She called on domestic designers like Ralph Lauren to make clothing here. “It’s time to make them be responsible,” she said.
Brown said he wants a “Buy America” plan to ensure the federal government purchases apparel that’s 100-percent U.S. made. Current statutes require that only 51 percent of products purchased with taxpayer dollars be made here, Brown said.
Travis Considine, spokesman for Josh Mandel For U.S. Senate, said, “this is certainly an issue Treasurer Mandel and Sherrod Brown can agree on. Josh believes that the U.S. Olympic team uniforms should be 100% made in America.”
Nickol, Brown and Lapore said they hope the furor over Ralph Lauren’s outsourcing will spark a national dialogue to restore clothing manufacturing to the U.S., an industry devastated by offshoring. Since the uproar, Ralph Lauren has vowed to lead the industry discussion and make the 2014 Winter Olympics uniforms in the U.S.