Was Levi Strauss the founder of the California Look? For generations, clothiers who design with durable work, sports and leisure in mind have called California home. Ocean waves and mountain trails run through the California lifestyle, and local designers have formed a powerhouse brand cachet, for clothing and cars, too. Did you know that Nissan’s research and design beachhead in La Jolla designed the Altima, Maxima, Xterra, and Frontier, among others?
Some California-based activewear manufacturers are reviewing costs, time-to-market pressures and the need for skilled craftsmanship and deciding to “in-source” operations back to greater southern California. Rising wages and a strong yuan make China a less attractive production center, while infrastructure and quality issues make emerging Asian centers such as Vietnam less reliable in a quick-turn, trend-driven industry. Reuters recently reported on this trend, and noted a 6.5% increase in sector employment in the Los Angeles area alone. A sign that a home-grown industry’s manufacturing sector that long ago went East to lower costs, will head back home. Despite California’s draconian tax and employment policies, the California Cachet and the state’s proven expertise in efficient and timely manufacturing are key competitive advantages.
At a family wedding last weekend, my old friend — a tireless entrepreneur — shared her plans to design, make and ship a new line of activewear from San Diego. She knows that her affordable, stylish and durable products’ hang tags reading “Designed and Made in California, USA” will draw the attention of retail partners and savvy shoppers. She’s channeling the guts and foresight of Levi Strauss.