The 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, now under way in New York, brings attention to the best in American fashion -- and some it designed and made in the U.S.
That the United States imported $80 billion of clothing in the 12 months leading up to February 2014, the Office of Textiles and Apparel reports, and it exported $5.8 billion in clothing at the same time. But there are signs of more production in America.
Manhattan's famous Fashion District just released news that New York City is tripling its investment into Made in New York fashion. Across the country, the movement for locally hand-manufactured fashion -- or "slow fashion" -- has caught on since its inception in 2007. These designers and brands are just a few notable names growing American production and manufacturing.
New Bedford, Massachusetts, is the starting point for all of Abboud's suits. He was born in Massachusetts to a blue collar Catholic Lebanese family that inspired him to work since he was 16. In 1986, his namesake brand launched, and he has since partnered with major chains like J.C. Penney (JCP), Macy's (M) and Lord & Taylor. Since then, the brand has evolved to champion the slow fashion movement.
Abboud takes pride in being "the only remaining American designer with a significant U.S. manufacturing operation whose heritage is genuinely made in America." In 2013, his line was named as the official wardrobe supplier to the National Basketball Coaches Association -- a huge deal for rabid sports fan Abboud.
A champion of American manufacturing, Nanette Lepore says 85 percent of its young, feminine inspired designs come from American production. The brand cites the lack of U.S. knitting mills and heavy costs to embellish and bead certain clothing as the reason it is not entirely manufactured stateside. Though the line has grown since its founding in 1992, the brand is proud to maintain relationships with its earliest East Village partners.
Lepore credits her desire to manufacture locally to the early years when she and husband Bob Savage started working in New York. "After weeks of shuttling [fabric] back and forth, we realized how vital it was for our work space to be close to our factories." Soon after, they had an office space in the Fashion District with a small team of employees. Since then, the brand has expanded to eight floors of the building, while employing many more.
Oscar de la Renta
Oscar de la Renta's namesake line has been an influential figure in women's fashion since its founding in 1966. Although some of the apparel is made in Italy, the line has held on to American manufacturing as well -- including a lengthy reign for de la Renta himself as the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Most of the line's products have a clear "Made in USA" for shoppers looking to shop domestically. An intersection in the Bronx will be named in honor of the designer, who died last year. He "brought such joy in all he did," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "He will be forever ingrained in the fabric of this city."
Nicole Miller has been a sign of the American waning and reemerging fashion industry. In the 1970s, the then-P.J. Walsh brand became one of the first lines to move production to Hong Kong. In 1982, the brand had a change of heart to maintain a better quality control. "It wasn't patriotism," explains CEO Bud Konheim, who was with the company during production moves. "It was just good business sense. Production became very efficient here, and we ended up with a better net profit." Today, 80 percent of Nicole Miller's line comes from New York City. As with Oscar de la Renta, the high-end women's line also clearly states the origins of each product.
First Lady Michelle Obama helped propel Jason Wu, as she has done for fellow emerging designers, when she chose Wu's gowns for both inaugural balls. Wu, 32, now sells his creations in more than 170 retailers. Wu has created items since 2007, with 90 percent of manufactured in New York's fashion district. His handbags and shoes are crafted in Italy.