US Textile Industry and the outsourcing of US Olympic team uniforms by Ralph Lauren

The outsourcing of US Olympic team uniforms by Ralph Lauren to China seems to cause a great deal of angst among US politicians as you can see in the Wall Street Journal video alongside.

The reality is that if you checked out any clothing or home furnishing at the apparel section of Walmart, JCPenney or Macy's it will be hard to find a garment, or for that matter undergarment, made in the USA. Only perhaps  the design and certainly the marketing is  done from the USA. Much of the rest of the value/supply chain for textiles is either overseas or taken over by technology.

Take the cotton example. USA  is the second largest grower of cotton.It exports half of its product overseas and the rest is converted to yarn or thread and then exported after value add. Weaving mills are overseas because of labor costs. In any case agriculture,spinning and weaving have become highly developed and automated industries and therefore employ less people who are more technically skilled.There is literally no low skill job like  watching over the spinning machine because computers do so.

The US Textile industry overall has declined every year since the 1950's when the textile and apparel industry was 2.8%  of the economy to merely 0,45% of the economy in 2001. The US textile industry has tried to go up the value chain and manufacture high tech/high end products like space suits. Here again the demand is obviously not booming as the middle markets of Asia and in any case employs very few  folks who are highly skilled and qualified.

It is however possible to export value added yarn from the USA instead of just shipping the cotton in bales. For example, by locating the spinning mill near the cotton growing farms,  Zagis was expected in 2010 to create 160 jobs and 645 indirect jobs by 2012 in Lousiana. Mere outrage at Ralph Lauren getting the US Olympic uniforms made in China is not the answer.Contact StratoServe.

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