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'Made in America' trend hits LA apparel maker

March 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Karen Kane, Inc. in Vernon has been manufacturing women's clothing for more than 30 years and employs 165 workers. Michael Kane, one of the company's owners, said for most of those years at least 50 percent of his clothing has been manufactured in China.

"It was an opportunity to expand our product mix and be competitive price wise in the market place," he said.

Because of sky-rocketing fuel costs and delays getting products imported through customs due to terrorism concerns, Kane has recently found it more cost effective and productive to manufacture roughly 90 percent of his clothing in L.A. He used the product rayon as an example.

"Rayon has a high duty rate. Now with the high duty rate, high cost of shipping out of Asia, it's more effective to make rayon knit products in the United States than what we were paying to have rayon knit products made in China."

According to economists, Kane's company is not the only local or national business deciding to manufacture more of its products in the United States.

"We don't have a great deal of data to support the whole concept of in sourcing, which is bringing manufacturing back to the United States, but anecdotally we are hearing a lot more companies making this decision," said economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez.

Economists said those companies include the apparel industry.

"We have seen an uptick in apparel manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles," Ritter-Martinez said.

Kane feels that one of greatest joys in being able to manufacture most of his clothing in Los Angeles is that when consumers buy his products they will see "Made in Los Angeles, USA" on the label.

"You have very high-end items, think your $200 jeans," said Martinez-Ritter. "There's a certain cache to being able to put 'Made in America' or 'Made in Los Angeles' on those jeans. People want to put that 'Made in America' label on it and people are willing to pay the premium for having it made here."