Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Here’s How to Restore American Fashion Manufacturing

February 19, 2014
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Here’s How to Restore American Fashion Manufacturing
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Domestically produced knitwear is making a comeback in Cleveland.

In case you haven’t heard, American manufacturing is making a comeback, and the fashion industry is no exception. For more than 75 years, Ohio Knitting Mills was one of the largest knitwear manufacturers in the U.S., producing private-label garments for stores such as Sears and Saks Fifth Avenue, and designer labels like Van Heusen and Jack Winter. At its peak, this business, owned and operated by the Stone-Rand family, employed more than 1,000 workers — an economic beacon for Cleveland. But amid the rise of garment outsourcing in the U.S., the factory closed its doors at the turn of the century, ending a well-known mainstay in American fashion manufacturing. But Steven Tater, a designer who met the family in 2005, wasn’t about to add Ohio Knitting Mills to the history books, alongside many other factories that have been shuttered across the U.S. Armed with a trove of creative works bequeathed to him from the Stone-Rand family, Tater has revived Ohio Knitting Mills and its brand.

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Over the past few years, Tater and his team have put together a small sewing factory in Cleveland, where they have used patterns from the Ohio Knitting Mills archive to create their own knitwear line. These garments are produced completely in their Ohio factory. From developing and dying yarns to designing styles and patterns; and from knitting the fabric to cutting, sewing and finishing the garments, the Ohio Knitting Mills is an all-in-one design and manufacturing company. Last year, the business created its first collection of men’s sweaters, and it already has retail accounts at stores in big cities across the U.S., as well as in Tokyo. Now Tater and his employees are looking toward the future. “One of the most important lessons we’ve learned on this journey is manufacturing makes communities,” Tater says. With that in mind, he’s turning to their community for help. “In order for us to become a fully operating knitwear factory, and to produce our new collection, we have to buy yarns and other raw materials to fill our orders, as well as add some special sewing machines and hire some folks to help us make our sweaters.”

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Tater has created an Indiegogo campaign to raise $33,400 in order to help Ohio Knitting Mills cement its place in American fashion manufacturing once again. With these funds, the business will not only grow its own eponymous knitwear brand, but Tater hopes they can also help produce knit-based designs for other labels, which until now have almost exclusively produced knitwear overseas simply because the resources didn’t exist in the U.S.. “Today, there is a large need for domestic knitting production,” Tater writes on the Indiegogo campaign. “Supporting this campaign not only helps our company, it also can help other designers to create their knitwear products with us.” If that doesn’t have you convinced, check out the awesome rewards the brand is offering. A vintage houndstooth knitted beanie? Count us in.

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