Sep 21, 2006

It's all in the jeans

Interesting story about a family-run business that created a niche for itself in the jeans market by making denim for older women.

One aspect that's fascinating is the recent rise of US-based garment manufacturers who saw that clothing companies that need to stay on top of trends can't always afford to go overseas for "cheaper" labor.
It is a surprisingly vibrant complex of businesses for an industry that many people think went overseas a long time ago. There are 11,529 companies in the Los Angeles and Southern California textile and apparel industry, a larger garment industry than in any other American city, according to Ilse Metchek, head of the California Fashion Association, an industry group. They employ 122,362 workers.


Karl Nusser, a garment industry entrepreneur from South Africa who came to Los Angeles three months ago and purchased California Sewing Services, a contractor with 160 industrial sewing machines. Mr. Nusser plans to offer garment makers and retailers more than sewing services by acquiring other contractors. “It could be cheaper to have a one-stop shop from pattern making to finished garment,” he said.

On the other hand, specialization and decentralization are age-old in the business. Todd Rutkin Inc., for example, is a cutting service dating to 1966. The company now has six computerized cutting machines slicing fabric precisely in a high-ceilinged room resembling an airplane hangar at its south Los Angeles factory.

The factory is run by Jan Rutkin, president and daughter of the founder. Cutting is a tough business, Ms. Rutkin said. “In a $20 garment, 50 cents is the cutting,” she said. “You need a lot of volume.”

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