A few book reviews to do.
The first will appeal only to the super-geeks like myself. Published in 1916, The Men’s Factory-Made Clothing Industry is a report on the cost of producing men’s clothing produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and can be found on Google Books.
Buried within a lot of dry financial statistics is an interesting history of ready-to-wear clothing in the U.S., as well as some very interesting descriptions of the manufacturing process, some of the machines already in use at that time, and some startling passages such as the following:
“The imports of clothing into the United States are almost negligible and are generally English overcoats, novelty garments like the Balmacaan, and golfing and motoring clothes. No sack suits are imported.
English ready-made clothing is not comparable with the American. The English hand tailoring is poor, except in the finest custom work. Very conservative styles of men’s clothing are worn in England; the models do not change from one season to another as they do in this country. High-salaried designers [ahem] are employed by the larger clothing factories in the United States, who are constantly introducing attractive styles.
American people believe not only that the styles of clothing for men that are originated in the United States are superior to those that come from other countries, but also that the workmanship of the domestic product is superior to the workmanship on ready-made clothing produced in foreign countries. This belief accounts, in a measure, for the tremendous increase in the production of factory-made clothing in the United States during the last 20 years.
While the manufacture of ready-made clothing is one of the large industries in the United States, this industry is of comparatively small importance in other countries. The completeness of the factory equipment, the thoroughness of the factory organization, and the efficiency of the working force, which are noticeable in many establishments for making men’s clothing in this country, are not even approached in other countries. Nearly all the ready-made clothing manufactured in Europe is of low-grade, cheap varieties, and is almost invariably manufactured in small factories, in shops, or in the homes of the workers.”
I knew that the method of manufacturing by breaking down the process into minute operations had originated in the U.S. and had been exported to Europe, but was a bit startled by the assertions about the level of quality, mainly because the reverse is often true today. In retrospect, however, it makes perfect sense. But taking it into a larger context, we can trace the progression of the source of quality goods from the U.S., then to Italy who has held the crown since Brioni started to push the “Made in Italy” brand back in the fifties, and now it’s moving to China. Many people still associate Chinese-made product with inferior quality, just as Japanese electronics were once considered junk, but those of us who have actually visited facilities in China know that they are not far off from the potential of eclipsing Italy in terms of production of quality garments.
I hope I’m still around in 50 years so I can witness for myself how the manufacturing landscape will have evolved.