If you’re involved in the production of sewn goods in the United States, you have likely noticed something in recent years. A shift in demand. An uptick in interest. A new type of client calling.
The Carolina Textile District defines it as “Crafted Production” and it represents a small (but growing) segment of modern demand for the domestic textile industry.
Crafted Production is characterized by small but scaling production runs, shorter turnaround time, customized products, and the use of direct-to-consumer distribution methods.
Since the Carolina Textile District was formed in 2013 over 1,200 clients have taken the CTD survey seeking domestic production assistance. What our team has found is that most of the demand is driven by entrepreneurs that are launching a new brand/product or scaling companies that are outgrowing home production and are ready to work with contract manufacturers. Many (56%) are seeking small runs of 100 to 5,000 units and the majority of them (nearly 80%) are doing their first production run in textiles or their first production run for the product they are inquiring about.
We’ve also learned that clients interested in launching new domestically manufactured products are younger (67% under the age of 40), have some capital (91% have at least $2,500 to put toward the design and development of their product) and have a direct-to-consumer distribution strategy (with 76% planning to sell online).
Many clients – especially the successful ones who come back around for repeat orders – incorporate triple bottom line principles into their business. They are socially and environmentally conscious. Many are looking for sustainable and organic materials or want to establish a local supply chain that reduces their company’s carbon footprint. Often these companies are social enterprises, meaning their business model is based on improving the well-being of others. Perhaps they donate a portion of their profits to a local charity or they have a ‘one-to-one’ model where they giveaway one item for every item sold.
Leaders within the textile industry, in many ways still recovering from the offshoring trend of the 90s and 2000s, didn’t see this shift to Crafted Production coming and it has required a change in their way of thinking. For a long time, manufacturers all along the supply chain (or value chain) had a business model based on large orders and working with established companies.
While the CTD recognized this incredible demand for Crafted Production, a lot of our focus has been to find the producers that are willing to interface with it and take on this work. As the CTD seeks out and adds manufacturers and producers to the network, we aim to partner with companies that:
- Earn profits from samples and small runs
- Focus on customization and quality over quantity
- Employ stitchers skilled with a diverse portfolio of products
- Are extremely responsive to clients
- Partner with high-growth potential clients, which results in larger production orders
- Are aligned, connected, share the same values and have deep, collaborative relationships
There is no doubt that the textile industry will go through many more changes in the coming years but, for now, we think things are heading in the right direction!