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Season 7 Episode 2 - The Evolution of Apparel Manufacturing

Posted by Rachel Miller

Episode Show Notes

Episode 2 features California Fashion Association President Ilse Metchek. Ilse discusses the current landscape of the apparel industry in California, the opportunities and challenges apparel manufacturers face, and the role technology has played in the industry. Ilse also covers regulatory and compliance changes, the impact of “fast” and “slow” fashion, and her predictions for the future of apparel in California.

Ilse Metchek is President of the California Fashion Association. With cooperation from major financial, service, and manufacturing participants, the CFA provides leaders of California’s manufacturing and textile community with the opportunity to share information about the business of conducting business in the current global economy. Prior to the formation of the CFA, Ilse was Executive Director of the California Market Center (then called the California Mart) – and, before that, she was President of White Stag Inc., a division of Warnaco Industries. As a manufacturer, Ilse was Owner and President of Ilse M. Inc., which she purchased from the Anjac Corporation in 1984. Ilse’s career at Anjac began as the company’s designer in 1967; and 17 years later, she owned the company. Ilse’s professional affiliations include Board Membership of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, Advisory Council of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and President of Image Makers L.A. – a consulting group to apparel industry businesses. Ilse has been a keynote speaker on fashion industry issues for the State of California’s Home Economics Careers and Technology Board; and she has been included in the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles” every year since 2016.


00:00:00 - Introductions

00:01:30 - Size of the apparel industry in California in terms of number of companies, people directly and indirectly employed, and revenues

00:03:57 - Changes in the industry over the past 30 years

00:05:49 - Current opportunities and challenges facing the apparel industry

00:07:36 - Technology tools utilized

00:12:15 - What SMMs can do to prepare for the short-term and long-term future

00:16:24 - Reason for proper accounting of inventory, changing website, and knowing sources of materials

00:18:34 - Discussion of “fast” and “slow” fashion and how they have impacted U.S. apparel manufacturers

00:21:44 - How to gain a competitive advantage with knowledge about “fast” and “slow” fashion

00:23:54 - Outlook for shop craft personnel

00:26:42 - Predictions for the California apparel industry in the next one to five years


Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing, change is the only constant. How are small and medium-sized manufacturers, SMMs, to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts, let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC, highlights leaders from the modern world of manufacturing, from SMMs to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter, we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sectors’ latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I’m Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I’d like to welcome you.

In this episode I'm joined by California Fashion Association President Ilse Metchek. Ilse discusses the current landscape of the apparel industry in California, the opportunities and challenges apparel manufacturers face, and the role technology has played in the industry. Ilse also covers regulatory and compliance changes, the impact of “fast” and “slow” fashion, and her predictions for the future of apparel in California.

Welcome, Ilse. It’s great to have you here today.

Ilse Metchek [00:01:17] Well, it’s a delight to be here. The garment center and the apparel industry and fashion has been the bulwark of California and Los Angeles for over 100 years. It’s nice to get our voices heard. Thank you for inviting me.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:30] Absolutely. It’s a very interesting topic, and I’m really looking forward to our conversation. As you mentioned, we’re here to talk about the apparel industry in California. Let’s get into it. Ilse, for context and for our listeners, a lot of people think that apparel has moved overseas, textiles are gone, everything happens somewhere in Southeast Asia or somewhere else around the world. How big is the apparel industry in California in terms of number of companies, people directly employed, and revenues?

Ilse Metchek [00:01:54] Well, the statistics belie the fact that—you’re absolutely right—it has moved overseas. Only 15% of anything that anyone is wearing in the United States is made in the United States. However, the industry employs over 200,000 people directly and indirectly. We’re working on the actual statistics. We have shipped as a cost of sales over $63 billion in the year 2021 which, as we all know, has been a difficult year, the COVID year. That is the interaction between textiles and apparel and the incoming merchandise that is being designed here. The corporate headquarters are here of fashion brands. How many fashion brands? Over 3,000 in the state of California. That’s not contractors. We’re not talking about factories, because most brands do not have a factory. I would say the majority of brands do not have a factory. Brands are over 3,000 in the state of California. We know this because we must be registered with the state. It’s a very big industry, but it’s very hard to count.

Gregg Profozich [00:03:08] Got it. Seems it’s design more than manufacturing. Is that what you’re saying?

Ilse Metchek [00:03:12] It was. In the dark ages when I started, it was all about design. Now it’s about technology, it’s about data analytics, it’s about direct to consumer. There’s a very, very thin gray line between design and the consumer now. Is it bought in the store? Is it bought online? But the corporate entity is design, distribution, and marketing and, of course, accounting. That’s what’s happening in the home office. Now, that begs the question of needing 10,000 square feet of sewing and cutting. But the corporate entities of brands are here.

Gregg Profozich [00:03:57] From a high level, it sounds like it has changed with technology. Technology has really evolved over the past 10, 20, 30 years. What did the apparel industry look like, high-level snapshot, 30 years ago? What did it look like 10 years ago? What does it look like now? Any major changes you can denote across that time? I’m sure there are lots.

Ilse Metchek [00:04:13] Well, that’s my history. I was a designer for a company for 17 years. You designed it. You made the pattern. You took it to a factory. The factory made the cutting tickets, shipped it back to the owner, and we shipped it from the same spot that I designed it from. That doesn’t happen at all anymore. As a small company in 1979 or so, we had perhaps 40 employees, and that company did $10 million and was one of the largest companies in California at $10 million. Now you can do $50 million with 10 employees. Technology has made a huge difference. Patterns are made with technology. Markers are made with technology. Even cutting is done with laser equipment. It is a totally different business. The designer who led a company is now maybe fourth or fifth on the totem pole of executives.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:16] It sounds like 30 years ago when you did the design, made the pattern, and you took it to a manufacturer, more contracts, sewing shops back in the day? Is that what you’re saying?

Ilse Metchek [00:05:24] Oh, yeah. You even had some contract sewing shops on your premises, and they were union.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:29] And then, product got shipped back to the designer who handled shipping, distribution, fulfillment, all that stuff. Today it’s a completely different model. You have design, distribution, marketing, and accounting.

Ilse Metchek [00:05:39] Well, even distribution is in a distribution warehouse. It’s called tri-party system. You don’t even have a distribution system in your premises anymore. It’s a totally different business.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:49] Interesting. What are the current opportunities and challenges facing the apparel industry?

Ilse Metchek [00:05:55] The opportunities as an industry, it is open to anyone. It is the easiest industry for entry. Yes, you need money and yes, you need talent and yes, you need a team. However, a good idea is a good idea. Every month or two we have brand-new names that have entered the industry, whether they are influencers, or sons of a famous person, or third generation apparel people starting a business is the easiest thing to do. It is gender neutral. It is ethnicity neutral. I have never had a problem as a woman in this business. It is absolutely neutral to who you are, where you came from, what school you went to. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are so many barriers to the ultimate success. The ultimate success is making your merchandise, making a profit.

Gregg Profozich [00:06:54] It’s changed an awful lot. The opportunity is there, being the easiest to enter. That’s also a set of challenges. Because there’s a whole lot more competition, it’s a whole lot more dispersed.

Ilse Metchek [00:07:04] And the consumer is the biggest variable. Particularly in California, there is no “the consumer,” there’s no model. If you’re in New York, you would start with basic black. If you were in Chicago, you would start with a boot and a puffer coat. There is no model for success in terms of the consumer. We are so diverse. We are so varied that unless there is a statistical analysis of who is your customer, you probably will fail.

Gregg Profozich [00:07:36] Are there technology tools that the apparel industry has been using to help get to that identification of a customer? My next question was about technology and how it’s impacted the industry. It sounds like there’s a niche there that technology needs to help define that customer, or can technology help define that customer and come up with a more successful business model?

Ilse Metchek [00:07:55] Let me say that without it you will fail. There is ERP, enterprise management, which is how much is the fabric and what does it take to get the product made? There’s POS, point of sale, which a retailer must know. Then there’s PLM, Product Lifecycle Management for sustainability. You really have to know what field of cotton your cotton is coming from in order to get it past customs. Yes, there are technologies without which you cannot sustain growth. You can’t manage where is your customer, where is it selling, how am I getting it made, what are the transportation costs, which vary. Free shipping is not free, not for anyone. All of this is an issue that people do not realize that is primary in front of design.

Gregg Profozich [00:08:51] With those technology tools, it sounds like those are all existing ones—ERP, enterprise resource management, PLM, POS systems, et cetera. Those are all terms a lot of folks are familiar with. The defining of the customer. Is there any use of technology to help define the customer for the LA market or for other markets other than the ones where there’s a recipe for success?

Ilse Metchek [00: 09:10] The online systems—Comcast, Google—there is a multiplex of technology that helps you define your customer. I speak to 12 different colleges. We have, if you don’t know, more colleges and universities with design and fashion components than anywhere on the planet in this region on the west coast, anywhere from the community colleges to the four-year universities. The biggest problem that I have personally is that the curriculums haven’t changed ever. The curriculums of the schools are still the same curriculums that were in the 1980s, with a focus on design and a focus on how way out the student can make the design, and not enough focus on the consumer. For example, the Coachella Valley, where Palm Springs is, the number one industry in the Coachella Valley is retailing. In the three universities and colleges that are serving everything from Riverside to Indio, there is not a single course on retailing, on customer service, on inventory management, on who is identity, not a single course study in any of the colleges. We have this schism between an industry that welcomes everybody and the knowledge base that they need to succeed. Then, of course, there’s the labor issue. The labor issue is a constant in the public realm. Well, we are a sanctuary state, but the law is very clear. If you are in the apparel business—it’s called AB633—you cannot hire anyone without a Social Security number. Although we welcome all kinds of people who could be our labor force—because our current labor force is aging out, we need them—there is no industrial training. EDD does not allow training for anyone that is not a citizen, and I cannot as a factory hire anyone that doesn’t have a Social Security number. The whole consumer products industry, whether it’s cosmetics, home furnishings, apparel, in order to make it here, we need people to know how to make it. There’s not a single industrial training course for the consumer products industry including apparel, cosmetics, textiles, and home furnishings. No industrial training, and yet we have a willing and ready workforce that would pay taxes.

Gregg Profozich [00:11:50] Ilse, you bring up a lot of interesting points of view, and concerns, and challenges to the industry, obviously, from political, and workforce, and technology, and education, and infrastructure, and all those things. Pretend for a moment that I am a small manufacturer in the apparel industry. What are some of the things I can do, and what are some of the things that technology trends, or economic trends, societal trends that I need to be aware of to make sure that I don’t get caught blindsided, to make sure I’m prepared for the near future and the distant future?

Ilse Metchek [00:12:21] Two things, to be brief. One is definitely inventory control. Unlike any other industry, inventory is not an asset. If your accountant is putting your inventory in the asset column, he or she is not the right accountant. Inventory is not an asset. Lean and mean. Change your style, your product. You’re thinking about seasons from the whole idea of 3 months to 10 weeks. Change, change, change. If you have a website, move it around. If you have a picture up front, change the picture all the time. The customer, the retail customer and your buyer, has a very short attention span. Change constantly. Move it around. Change your colors around. Your inventory. If you’re a retailer, your inventory. If you’re a manufacturer, it’s the most important thing that you should be looking at.

Gregg Profozich [00:13:19] It sounds like I hear you saying you need to continuously be, from a marketing and imaging perspective, keeping it fresh.

Ilse Metchek [00:13:26] Exactly.

Gregg Profozich [00:13:26] You can’t set up a web page and let it go stagnant for six months, or a year, or three years. It’s got to be every couple of weeks there’s something new. There’s a new picture, there’s something fresh that keeps people’s interest and grabs their attention. That’s number one?

Ilse Metchek [00:13:37] Number one is make that website better. Your website that you created five years ago is stale. It’s stale. There are more things to look at, and there are more legal things you need on your website, all kinds of things that you need on your website that could get you in trouble with the government. But your website, take a hard look at it. If it’s five years old, it’s boring. You’re absolutely right, Gregg, change it constantly.

Gregg Profozich [00:14:04] The other thing you mentioned there was inventory. I want to make sure we’re clear so our listeners are clear. I come from a LEAN background. I cut my teeth on LEAN manufacturing, Toyota production system. Inventory is the enemy. We want to minimize it. It’s waste.

Ilse Metchek [00:14:26] Exactly.

Gregg Profozich [00:14:26] When accountants start counting it as an asset, you get in trouble when you start doing a LEAN job, because you start chipping away at that asset. The balance sheet suddenly gets out of control, because you ran inventory down as close to zero as you can get it. They were using that as financing in the past, and that’s not good. From my perspective it’s always been try to minimize inventory. But what are you saying about inventory that it’s not an asset?

Ilse Metchek [00:14:36] Take a look at your inventory. If your inventory is basic… If you’re making product—you’re making a T-shirt, and your background of the T-shirt is black, brown, navy, and white—that inventory does not grow old. It does not get stale. If it’s purple, or orange, or pink, it may get stale. It depends on what your inventory is, which is why fashion is becoming much more about the add-ons—the sequins, the embroidery, the print. But the basic fabric is very valuable inventory. Then you must know where it comes from. You have to know where it comes from. The US Customs is getting absolutely on fire on the issue. You have to prove a negative. If your fabric is coming on a boat from anywhere in the world into a port in the United States, the question is: where does that come from? Where is the garment made, and where does that…? It’s not just cotton. It’s also polyester; it’s silicon; it’s tomatoes; it’s palm oil. It’s not just cotton. Be prepared, and ask the questions of your suppliers. The worst thing that can happen is that you didn’t ask the questions.

Gregg Profozich [00:15:59] If I’m a small manufacturer, I make sure I understand my inventory and count things in inventory that aren’t going to lose value. Don’t do the trendy things, the extreme things. Make sure I’m valuing my business on the basics to make sure I don’t get a false impression of where I stand from a financial perspective. Keep everything fresh, and absolutely do the due diligence to know where things come from. The reason for that is what?

Ilse Metchek [00:16:23] That is the issue as of June 21st of this year. Our government as well as the EU and Canada has jumped on it, as well. Forced labor, particularly from China, has become a monumental issue. Those three nations have said nothing gets in without you proving that it wasn’t made in the Uighur section of China. Now, not just made but sewn there and used by there. You must prove a negative. It is a monumental problem. It is because it’s very hard, almost impossible to prove where you got the cotton. Ninety percent of US cotton is shipped to China. It’s commingled with their cotton. It’s commingled with India’s cotton, with Pakistan’s cotton. Put all that stuff… That’s 42% of what we receive is made in China. Now you have to prove that it’s not made or sewn. We’re including bridal dresses. We’re including lipstick. You’re including ketchup. It’s not made or used in that region. The retailer must be aware of that, because the retailer… If you’re opening a small store, you must know that something that you have on order in November is not going to get there. What’s your alternative if your Christmas merchandise doesn’t come in? If you’re a manufacturer and you’re expecting goods in November to ship in January—you’re expecting a beautiful silk plaid from China or Vietnam to be made into your blouse that you want to ship for spring—you may not get it. What’s your alternative? At the same time that you have to be flexible, you have to look at the back of your eye, what’s my alternative? That’s new kind of thinking. We never had that before. As manufacturers and as designers we stayed with a look for years. You don’t stay with the factory. You don’t stay with the look.

Gregg Profozich [00:18:30] We need a plan B.

Ilse Metchek [00:18:31] Yep, always.

Gregg Profozich [00:18:34] Let’s talk about fast and slow fashion. What are they, for those of us who don’t really understand the details of it, and how they impacted the US apparel manufacturers?

Ilse Metchek [00:18:43] Well, here you get into that world of sustainability. Fast fashion was born in California, the whole idea of changing what you wear, because you’re taking that selfie all the time, and God forbid you are in the same outfit when you take your selfies. There’s nothing sustainable about it, nothing organic about it. If at the same time we are constantly talking about the need for environmentalism and environmentalists to do their job, you’re in a battle here between wanting to do the right thing environmentally but getting tired of what you’re wearing.

Gregg Profozich [00:19:24] Fast fashion is the idea of having things changeable all the time. It’s continuously updating a product line. Week to week, month to month? How quickly?

Ilse Metchek [00:19:34] Ten weeks.

Gregg Profozich [00:19:35] Slow fashion is what?

Ilse Metchek [00:19:37] Slow fashion is investment fashion. Slow fashion is when you’re paying $300 for a hoodie, and you’re going to wear that hoodie until it’s threadbare. That’s slow fashion/investment fashion. That’s an area that’s being very well-sustained economically. That’s a very good area to be in right now. Investment fashion of staple products. You have the luxury market, the very, very high end—the Dior, Gucci—that’s doing quite well. Then you have the Generation Zers who are buying Shein like crazy. You have the young men that must have those sneakers, those $300 sneakers that are made in the same place as Vans. It’s all conscious of where you are in your own society. The retailer and the manufacturer must decide who is their customer. They cannot be all things to all people.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:37] Fast fashion is quick turnover—10 weeks, et cetera, et cetera; slow fashion/investment fashion is much higher end?

Ilse Metchek [00:20:45] Yes.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:45] Higher quality, higher end, something you’re going to wear and cherish for a while.

Ilse Metchek [00:20:49] And not necessarily with the label on it, not necessarily status conscious. That’s another segment. What happens in the middle there, Gregg, is the stores that suffer, stores like Macy’s, Bullock’s, Dillard’s. They suffer, because they’re right in the middle. They’re not fast, they’re not the cheapest, and they’re not the things that give you the quality unless you are shopping in that department. The major retailers are the ones who are really looking for their place in the world. The new retailers—and I’ve had conversations with 300 of them in the latest trade show that I went to—are having a very, very good place in the sun right now. They’re addressing their local market, where they live, they know who their customer is, and they’re buying into that customer. The new retailer.

Gregg Profozich [00:21:44] With this fast and slow fashion background, if you will, what does a small manufacturer in the apparel industry in California do today with that information? How do I act on that and get competitive advantage, or how do I act on that and play in that ecosystem?

Ilse Metchek [00:21:58] You get a very good social media consultant and act on that with the right TikTok message, and the right Instagram message, and the right YouTube, and the right Facebook, and be on all of it. These are your media channels. Harper’s Bazaar is out of business. Seventeen magazine is out of business. There’s no other marketing strategy that would serve you better than direct social media to your client base. Pick your client base. You cannot be all things to all people. By the way, that’s the biggest problem I have—people want to do a collection. That’s a dirty word in today’s language of apparel. They want to do shoes, and hats, and bags, and children’s wear, and men’s jackets, and women’s pants. Forget it. That’s not the way to succeed. Pick your substance. Pick the area of your success and go with it. There’s so much room, so much room.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:00] If not a collection, what would that look like, my area for success?

Ilse Metchek [00:23:02] Something is probably starting your idea of being in the fashion business. You have a great sweater. Make 100 great sweaters. Maybe make one pair of pants with them. But you don’t need the shirt that goes with the sweater. You don’t need the coat. You don’t need the men’s, and the women’s, and the children’s, and the hats, and the gloves. Stay with the sweaters. In today’s world it’s the focus that is needed.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:30] Instead of a number of product lines, you’re saying rationalize it down to a few key products that you can do incredibly well, that fit with your capabilities, and that you’ve identified a market for, and you know how to interact with that market. That’s what I hear you saying.

Ilse Metchek [00:23:43] But as many SKUs as you want in that market.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:46] One product line, multiple SKUs, not multiple product lines, multiple SKUs. A simplicity approach. Right?

Ilse Metchek [00:23:51] Exactly. For the beginning, that’s the way to start.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:54] We’ve talked a lot about challenges. We’ve talked a lot about some of the things that folks in the industry can do. We’ve talked about technology and its impact on the industry. What do career opportunities look like for the apparel manufacturing industry, not just the apparel industry but particularly the manufacturing side? Does a career in shop craft have any future these days? Is it even a possibility?

Ilse Metchek [00:24:13] Oh, absolutely. I have a list of eight pages that were given by the 24-7, which is the leading executive search firm, of the jobs that are available right now, eight pages, and each position pays over $100,000. These are yes, shop electrician. How do you put a machine together? How do you take it apart and put it together? As we do more for just-in-time manufacturing, we need more of those. But we also need more data analysts. We need more people who are social media experts. We certainly need more people who can look at a product and analyze it. Merchandise. Merchandising is not designing. A merchandiser is boss of the designer. When I say that designer is down there on the totem pole of executives, I really mean it. A merchandiser can go beyond the mirror. A designer really looks in the mirror and says, “What do I like?” A merchandiser says, “What does my customer like?”

Gregg Profozich [00:25:18] And how do we position it such that it will sell in huge volume? The greatest product in the world can never catch on if it’s not merchandised correctly. That’s what I hear you saying?

Ilse Metchek [00:25:26] Exactly. Not only presented correctly but packaged correctly. Fifty percent of the merchandise online is returned. That makes for no profit. How do you get the customer to keep it? That’s merchandising. That’s product development. That’s shipping. That’s transportation. There is so much room for people to be in our business.

Gregg Profozich [00:25:51] A lot of different career opportunities and not just for sewing skills, although sewing skills are still in demand. Right?

Ilse Metchek [00:25:57] Exactly. Sewing skills are in demand, but they’re not career opportunities. Most people who are sewing, they could be shop foremen; they can own their own factories. But sewing skills are strictly the base of operation you can make at a factory level. It’s entry level. If you’re sewing samples, it’s $30 an hour. There are levels of sewing skills. Very, very, very unique areas of improvement there. If you’re at a sample maker level, you can own your own shop. There are levels where you go. Generally, from sewing skills it does not go into product management. It does not.

Gregg Profozich [00:26:42] Let’s talk about the future now. What are your predictions for the California apparel industry in the next one to five years?

Ilse Metchek [00:26:50] For the California fashion industry I see more and more small companies based on Hollywood, based on who the latest… Whether it’s movie star, influencer, rapper, songwriter, everybody wants their name on the pair of jeans or on a T-shirt. Then what happens inevitably at the $10 million level, they are scooped up and purchased by either a venture capital company or a major holding company not in California. It has become increasingly difficult to be a manufacturer in the state of California. We have lost, just in the past three years that I know of, at least 3,000 machines working to Arizona, and Texas, and Nevada. That will continue to happen. But the opportunity to establish a brand with a California lifestyle is even bigger than ever. I was in Europe in May. Again, I was in South America in August. The idea of California fashion or what happens here is a beacon of interest all over the world. Taking advantage of that glow will have a lot of creative opportunities for creative beginnings. I think anybody in the industry has to know what’s going on in the world. It will affect them. Every blip and every headline in one way or another affects our business.

Gregg Profozich [00:28:31] I’m going to do a quick summary here. We started off our conversation with a little bit of the history. California’s apparel industry is over 100 years old, and today there are over 200,000 direct and indirect employees working within the industry. It’s about a $63 billion industry in 2021. There are about 3,000 fashion brands. Only about 15% of what anybody’s wearing is actually made, produced in the United States. The industry has changed a lot over the past 30 years. Back in the day, you would design a piece of apparel, you’d make the pattern, you’d take it to a contract manufacturer who would produce the quantity for you, and then you’d take the quantity he’d produced for you, and you’d do shipping, and distribution, et cetera, et cetera. Now a lot of that has been changed. The corporate structure of a modern apparel company is really focused on the design, and the marketing, and the accounting aspects of it. Production is something that is often outsourced and happens other places. There’s a different set of capabilities around what it takes to be successful. Technology is more and more a core of modern fashion. Technology such as ERP systems, enterprise resource planning, product lifecycle management, PLM, POS systems, point of sale systems, give all kinds of data. A well-designed system tied together to a known market can really, really help establish and sustain growth. There are a lot of opportunities in this industry. It’s the easiest to enter, and it is a very, very diverse industry, but there are also many barriers to success. The fact that it’s easiest to enter means that there’s the other side of that coin, which is there are a lot of barriers to success. Some of those have to do with training and education. There are more colleges and universities on the west coast in fashion and design than anywhere else in the world, but there’s not a lot of industrial training for the fashion and apparel industry. We talked about the aspects of fast and slow fashion, the fast and cheap changing your product line every 10 weeks, to slow and more investment fashion, where you’re looking for higher end, higher quality, higher price products that are going to last and be sustained for a long time, and that divide between those two mindsets and those two consumer behaviors we talked a little bit about. We talked about some of the changes that are happening and what apparel manufacturers need to know. A couple of those things are number one, inventory control. Keep an eye on the inventory, and make sure it’s the inventory that’s going to be usable over the long term. If you have things that are more fad related, maybe you don’t value them. Keep your balance sheet clean, and keep an eye on that within how you manage those aspects of your business. Keep things fresh. Continuously change. Update your website on a regular basis—monthly, quarterly timeframe, not annually or biannually, or those kinds of things. Keep your social media presence up at all times. Continuously be finding ways to communicate with your target market and keep yourself relevant in front of them. Know where your product comes from. New regulations as of June 21st of ’22 in the US, the European Union, and in Canada around forced labor. There’s the need to prove that the products you’re bringing into the US do not have components that were produced under those conditions. Your supply chain is becoming much more important and something you need to focus on. In terms of career opportunities, we talked about the idea that because it’s technology based, there are a lot of great opportunities for high-paying jobs within the apparel industry, but they’re not in the cut and sew traditional kinds of things that we think about. They’re more in shop techs, and data analysts, and merchandising, especially, and in social media experts. All the things that allow you to understand and keep in constant touch with your distribution channel and with your customer are the things that really drive the fashion industry. Ilse, those are the things I took away from our conversation. Did we miss anything? Did I misstate anything?

Ilse Metchek [00:32:18] No. I think you should write a book. I’ll be your coauthor. I think it’s terrific.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:24] I don’t know about that. I’m not sure you want to see my writing.

Ilse Metchek [00:32:27] I couldn’t add anything to that. The synopsis is perfect. Thank you.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:31] Fantastic. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground, and I really thank you for your time. Ilse, it was great to have you here today. Thank you for joining me and for sharing your perspectives, insights, and expertise with me and with our listeners.

Ilse Metchek [00:32:43] Thank you. I’m delighted that CMTC is recognizing the importance and the size of this manufacturing sector. Have a good day.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:52] Absolutely. To our listeners, thank you for joining me for this conversation with Ilse Metchek in discussing the apparel industry in California. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy.

Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC’s mission is to serve as a trusted adviser providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California’s manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, MEP, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC, please visit For more information about the MEP National Network or to find your local MEP center, visit

Topics: Sales and Marketing, Apparel, Innovation & Growth

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