Meet the women changing how and where U.S. companies manufacture goods

In July, a group of brands based out of Nashville got together to facilitate a conversation around the reshoring of American manufacturing.

It’s a conversation that’s happening around the country, with multiple women leading the way. In Nashville, the woman is Van Tucker, the CEO of the Nashville Fashion Alliance, and she partnered with Remodista, my retail business consultancy, to ignite the conversation around creating a sustainable retail manufacturing industry in Tennessee, the fifth-largest retail manufacturing state.

“The connection between the creative and their supply chain resources is a critical component to building successful brands,” Tucker says. “We have a mission is to create a shared supply chain resource portal. It is one of the ways we can develop needed resources as an industry trade group more effectively and efficiently than through individual efforts."


Reshoring manufacturing should be important from a brand perspective. Millennials care very much where and how their products are made, and their voice has strong buying power in the next decade. This , along with a general call to action for transparency with our supply chain and manufacturing partners , is pushing brands to figure out how they are going to own their brand messaging on this topic.


In our path to uncovering how to start the conversation, we came across some interesting women leading the way in reimagining apparel manufacturing in the U.S.:


  • Eileen Fisher: The CEO of Eileen Fisher has a 2020 No Excuses initiative: The first five years of the plan are to get to sustainability, and the initiative will create a truly responsible supply chain.
  • Mary Kate Love : The assistant manager of membership engagement at DMDII, a federally funded design manufacturing institute that is part of UI Labs in Chicago , is looking to attract millennials and makers to their manufacturing research community.
  • Tapasya Bali: The COO of Yogasmoga is building a conscious business. “No Loose Threads” is its motto, a philosophy the company adheres to literally and figuratively. And manufacturing in the U .. is a core component of that, allowing Yogasmoga to work closely with its supply chain to deliver the highest quality product while maintaining its core values.

Those women are addressing some of the basic misconceptions about manufacturing in the U.S.


Most notably, there’s the cost factor. Manufacturing abroad has historically meant lower costs, but Love, of DMDII, says manufacturing costs are increasing everywhere. She attributes the rise to three main reasons : Global labor rates are rising, obsolescence cycles (the rate at which products are becoming out-of-date or obsolete) are quickening, and customer preferences are requiring enhanced customization .

With costs going up overseas, she says, manufacturing in the U.S. is beginning to make a lot of sense from a financial perspective.


“The United States is uniquely suitedfor manufacturers to thrive given its highly competent labor force, supportive national infrastructure and access to an array of advanced technologies to digitize manufacturing to maximize the benefits for an array of key stakeholders,” Love explains. “Everyone is affected by manufacturing.”


And then there are the ethical costs of global manufacturing to consider, namely the vulnerability to human trafficking.


“Labor at times accounts for 50 percent of the cost of manufacturing apparel , and brands have made it their business to chase cheap labor globally,” says Bali, of Yogasmoga. “As we peeled back the layers of global supply chains, it is increasingly clear that the dependence on cheap labor actually seemed to come at a very heavy price .


And we all have a responsibility to manage the world we are building with our eyes wide open.


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27 Aug 2015

By Kelly Stickel