Support for domestic apparel manufacturing in the US was growing even before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, with COVID-19 disrupting most supply chains, manufacturers are quickly shifting to local PPE manufacturing. SEAMS, the representative of manufacturers of sewn products in the US notes a growing desire amongst members to make and access PPE for healthcare workers and government organizations. Within a week, these manufacturers shifted their production to making face masks, gowns, etc.
One such manufacturer, Macquin supported clients in the US by helping them reorganize their production model to PPE making within a short span of time. Los Angeles technology company Tukatech, shifted its staff to guide businesses on how to make PPE equipment. The company started by creating patterns for HAZMAT suits, caps, masks, gloves, boot covers and gowns. Being a technology company, Tukatech was able to make a digital 3-D sample and create sewing instructions to hand over to anyone.
Similarly, performance activewear manufacturer, 99Degrees was able to find its place within the PPE industry by producing isolation gowns. Also shifting to isolation gowns, LACorp, a Virginia-based cut and sew plant, was able to secure contracts for making ace coverings for the Department of Health and Human Services, which eventually expanded to include isolation gowns.
Call for a new collaborative model
According to Michael McDonald, President of the Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas investing in modern equipment will help brands remain competitive with their Asian counterparts. A case in point is 99Degrees, which was able to secure contracts for more than two million level one and two gowns. They were able to protect employees by implementing social-distancing practices in factory.
However, there needs to be more collaboration between manufacturers, industry organizations and the government. The government needs to launch an initiative for PPE similar to the Department of Defense’s Berry Amendment, which calls for more funds to be spent on the purchase of many products—including clothing, fabrics and yarns.
As every adversity brings an opportunity, the pandemic has created a greater support for domestic products in the US. There is also greater sense of community across the country with brands, manufacturers and consumers supporting each other.