Conflicting Reports

The Los Angeles Area Fashion Industry. A summary of data collected on Friday the 11th of April 2014.


The data was collected from:

  • CIT Commercial Services, one of the nations leading providers of factoring and financing to the apparel industry


  • California Fashion Association a non profit providing information for business expansion and growth to the apparel and textile industry in California


  • Sweat Shop Watch a coalition of over 30 labor, community, civil and immigrant rights, women’s and student organizations, and individuals, committed to eliminating the exploitation, which occurs in sweatshops; and factories in Southern California.


  • The Garment Workers Center, whose mission is to empower garment workers in the Greater Los Angeles area and to work in solidarity with other low wage immigrant workers and disenfranchised communities in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice.



Los Angeles is strong

in the Fashion, Apparel and Textiles Sector,

consider the following:


  • 46 billion in apparel goods enters our ports annually.
  • This global industry has clear reasons for sustaining a permanent place in this region, which boasts a well- paid employment base.


“Yes, the conditions are better here, but the notion that we still don’t have sweatshops in the United States is simply not true,” says Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center. “It’s important that people are aware of the conditions that exist like poor ventilation and terrible safety violations.” One common, and hazardous, violation is locking workers into the factory during operating hours.


Didn’t we learn our lesson from the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire in 1911?


  • Given the enduring popularity of L.A.-based design, inspired by the sun and a vision of easy living, “L.A. Style” is constantly propagated by the national media’s obsession with Hollywood celebrities.
  • L.A. brands and the constant influx of new designer names command a premium in the capital markets.
  • Technology helps L.A.’s designers and manufacturers stay competitive, shortening product cycles and reducing costs.
  • L.A.’s textile industry’s advantage is design: the ability to diversify product lines and take on vertical operations. These processes involve many layers of expertise, speed, and a willingness to try new things.


Working Conditions in Los Angeles have Improved


  • May 2012, 3,770 independent fashion designers worked in Los Angeles, earning about 35 dollars an hour.



FITM – OTIS are listed as the best places to earn degrees in Fashion in Los Angeles: these schools cost well over 50,000 a year to attend. Students will graudate with 200,000 in student loans, one would have to work 6666 hours to pay off that educational debt.  


  • Wholesale apparel wages remain strong at $25 an hour, while basic manufacturing (cut-and-sew) apparel jobs offer $15 an hour, well above the California and federal minimum wages.


A problem for U.S. workers: Wage theft —a typical practice in an industry where workers often don’t speak English and may be in the country illegally. Wage theft occurs when employers violate minimum wage or overtime laws and keep those additional wages owed to employees. 90 percent of garment workers in Los Angeles do not receive overtime pay, even when they work more than 40 hours.


Unhealthy conditions persist because the laws on the books simply aren’t being enforced. California has some of the most progressive labor laws in the country, yet employers violate these laws all the time. Los Angeles has a handful of investigators to inspect the almost 4,000 factories, so for the employers, it’s a risk worth taking. If they get caught, the fine becomes a business cost.


The hurdles to overcome

  • New, young designers seek to enter this business, and more and more specialized women’s clothing buyers arrive from other states and countries. There is an important need to refresh the LAX airport terminal and the downtown Fashion District.


The structure of the Los Angeles garment industry encourages a “race to the bottom” for wages and working conditions.

Money spent locally by better paid garment workers means reinvestment in the communities where they reside. Census data shows that garment workers are concentrated in the poorer areas of Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley. The influx of earnings and spending would bring needed economic stimulus to these communities.


  • Our own export capabilities need to be enhanced, and cooperation between government and business is necessary to overcome barriers to exporting. One possibility is to create retail channels that focus on the “L.A.” brand.


Multinational companies are the major winners. Walmart, Nike, and Adidas freely import from countries all over the world for the lowest costs. Unrestrained quotas, has allowed the consolidation of manufacturing, contributing to the downward spiral of wages and working conditions.


  • A hard look at how regulatory decisions are imposed on employers in the apparel and textile area is necessary. Reducing financial stress on small companies never falls out of fashion! Let us enhance entrepreneurial expansion—that’s the spirit of the West in a modern form!


Certain segments of apparel manufacturing are likely to remain in Los Angeles. Los Angels is a center of fashion design and marketing. Many industry officials speculate that local manufacturing will specialize in items requiring small production runs, rapid turnaround, or strict quality control. For example, the one occupation that is likely to stay is sample-making because it requires highly specialized skills. Unfortunately, these occupations constitute only a small fraction of the industry. The shops that do survive will encounter increasing downward pressure on wages, and the workers can expect conditions to deteriorate.


How to support the Industry

  • Reforming immigration and work permit rules tops the list to expand the industry.


Many garment workers are immigrants and they should not be discriminated against based on this status, whether documented or undocumented, workers deserve justice, dignity, and liberty, including the full protections, rights, and responsibilities afforded by law to all members of the society.


  • Costly hassles that emanate from a multi-tier regulatory structure are worth a second look. Water access for denim washing is critical. Reducing discouraging and complex regulatory snafus will mean less hassle and more excitement, which builds more industry.


The Levi’s plant outside El Paso, TX, uses 15% of the city’s water supply, to provide customers with cool looking distressed jeans.


How would Los Angeles in a draught year face this level of water use?


  • Efforts to navigate red tape and successfully display and sell products in Asia could be worthwhile, since the paltry $50 million in apparel exports that left L.A.’s ports for China in 2012 is laughable.


American Apparel has opened stores in Asia, however this is not the solution. I believe it is essential to consume less, and to continue to develop markets for goods and services existing under fair conditions, we must as individuals and governments commit to sweat-free purchasing.



International Quilt Festival in Long Beach

On Sunday, Toro and I attended the International Quilt Festival.  There were some beautiful works, I found myself attracted to the Modern Quilt Guild minimal Bauhaus inspired designs.  I especially enjoyed seeing the hand quilted works.  Here are a few of the high lights









Ballad of a Garment Factory Collapse

In the heart of SAVAR, Bangladesh. In June 2013, the winds were hot and humid, as a building collapsed on
Raza Plaza eight stories high, and 1129 hard working people did die.


On the top floor of that building, eight stories in the air
these young men and women were working in an new sweatshop there;They were sewing disposable garments for a very low wage.
So tired and pale and worn-out! They were desperate for a wage.


There were no comforts, no fresh air, no light to sew by, and the stitchers, they toiled from early morn till darkness filled the sky.  When vibrations from an illegally built generator brought the factory down onto the workers below.


Then on that fateful free market day, when the worst garment factory disaster in history occurred! 
That poorly constructed building collapsed and fell into a rocky maze. 
So many innocent hard working people died, trying earning a meager wage.


Thousands of remaining workers mourned, they followed the sad families. 
The streets were filled with people weeping bitter tears.  The factory owner, said, “We have to learn lessons and get together – retailers, buyers, suppliers, and make better days”


100 years ago it took a fire, to hope for better days.


Frau Fiber 2013


image of collaspe building


This summer I am opening my headquarters -


ILGWU – Institute of Labor, Generosity, Workers & Uniforms


ILGWU is an organizational body and experimental factory, housing the archive of my work.  I am organizing the work in the following ways -


Department of Commemoration

KO Enterprises

Revolution Textiles

Inerrant Textile Workers Museum


Department of Generosity and Workshops

Sewing Rebellion


Department of Economic Development

Made in Haiti


Department of Labor

Collaborative Bicycle Powered Sewing Factory

I’m stitching to support the Sewing Rebellion

With the downturn in the global economy it has become necessary for me to join the forty-three percent of tailors and hand sewers who are self-employed.  (This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  We hand sewers and seamstresses, provide an invaluable service to consumers who value their clothing.  I have found a nitch market, manufacturing garments for artists.  I am fortunate my skills and craftsmanship are appreciated.  I earn approximately $12.11 per hour, and hope to earn $25,200 to continuing supporting the Sewing Rebellion.

My first stitching project was a collection of garments created for CamLab a LA based artist collaborative.  I generated the following garments (see below), which were used in a performance at MOCA, as part of the engagement party series.

I’m open for other stitching jobs, so place your custom orders today!

Stitch In

Inclusive Fashion Practices remote presentation

This morning, I participated via Skype in an Integrated Design Program at Parsons in NYC,  I shared  my continued attempts to compete with China, through commemorative actions, situations of collaboration, facilitating honorably paid garment work in Haiti, and generosity and skill sharing.


Here are is the PDF of images.  Parsons 10 minute talk compressed  During the visual presentation I played the music of Bev Grant, vintage songs of the American labor movement.






The event ‘Inclusive Fashion Practices’ hosted by the Fashion track of
the Integrated Design program in the School of Design Strategies of
Parsons will offer a vivid context to a new generation of artist and
designers proposing new models of practice for fashion and our everyday
lives moving beyond established notions of fashion that promote
exclusivity and scarcity, appropriated by capitalism and staged by the
spectacle. It will embrace the inclusive, dynamic and all evasive
reality of fashion. Fashion is an expression of our vitality, a
celebration of our creativity, our vulnerability and our dedication to
share ourselves and be touched by others.

Inclusive Fashion Practices will bring together an exceptional group of
practitioners that share an integrated and holistic approach to
designing, living and making, and whose premises are joy, beauty,
collaboration, play, sharing and open source. The practitioners invited
come from different fields of practice, economy, food, community
practices, fashion, craft and art.

The event aims to spark discussion and insight about our current models
of consumption, production and creation, imagining new models for being
in this world, supporting values like love, abundance, respect, sharing
and beauty.

Join us on November 13th, from 11-6, in the Theresa Lang Community and
Student Center, Arnold Hall, 55 W 13th street, 2nd floor, for an amazing
brunch, inspiring talks, immersive workshops and an open exchange of
ideas and iterations.

participating practitioners a.o.:

Painted (Saskia van Drimmelen and Margreet Sweerts),
Michael DiPietro,
Otto von Busch,
Athena Kokoronis,
Caroline Woolard,
Huong Ngo,
Laura Sansone,
Frau Fiber

Hosted by the students and the faculty of the Fashion Area of Study in
the Integrated Design program of Parsons

Useful work vs. Useless Toil

Sept 8 and 9 I facilitated work and reflection on William Morris essay, Useful work vs. Useless toil. I asked the following questions of myself and participants:

Useful work vs. useless toil

What is useful work?

What is useless work?

Is Mending and altering jeans worthy work?

Is replicating my hand crank sewing machine in velvet useless?

Here are some selections from the Essay.

Useful Work v. Useless Toil

William Morris

What is the nature of the hope which, when it is present in work, makes it worth doing?

It is threefold, I think-hope of rest, hope of product, hope of pleasure in the work itself; and hope of these also in some abundance and of good quality; rest enough and good enough to be worth having; product worth having by one who is neither a fool nor an ascetic; pleasure enough for all of us to be conscious of it while we are at work; not a mere habit, the loss of which we shall feel as fidgety man feels the los of the bit of string he fidgets with. Pg 2

To sum up, then, concerning the manner of work in the civilized States, these States are composed of three classes – a class which does not even pretend to work, a class which pretends to work but which produces nothing and a class which works, but is compelled by the other two classes to do work which is often unproductive.  Pg 9

The first step to be taken then is to abolish a class of men privileged to shirk their duties as men, thus forcing others to do the work, which they refuse to do. All must working according to their ability, and so produce what they consume – that is, each man should work as well as he can for his own livelihood, and his livelihood should be assured to him; that is to say, all the advantages which society would provide for each and all of it’s members. Pg 12

When the revolution has made it ‘easy to live’, when all are working harmoniously together and there is no one to rob the worker of his time, that is to say, his life; in those coming days there will be no compulsion on us to go on producing things we do not want, no compulsion on use to labour for nothing; we shall be able to calmly and thoughtfully consider what we shall do with our wealth of labour-power.  Pg 14

Motivational posters for your use.

Usefulwork poster


And here is a visual narrative, possibly providing an answer to the questions?















On a beautiful Maine day, I take a moment, to wonder and consider the topic outside of the workshop.




In America even the flag is made in China.

Frau Fiber comments on the impact of globalization on American patriotism.

More than 200 years ago, the Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross, helped to create the first American flag. Legend says she impressed Gen. George Washington by fashioning a five-pointed star with a single snip of her scissors. Today’s American flag has thirteen stripes, 50 stars, and a tiny, often unnoticed, Made in China label.


Today the American flag, like most products Americans consume, has gone global. And as Americans wave their flags today, let’s consider some statics about the origins of these flags.



  • America has imported $10.9 million worth of American flags in the past year.
  • The 53-star flags baffle consumers.  Joyce Doody, director of membership services at the National Flag Foundation, a patriotic education association in Pittsburgh states “we presume that they were made in another country.”
  • China has exported $5 million worth of flags
  • Taiwan and Korea have also made hundreds of thousands in recent years, according to data from the US Department of Commerce, the US Treasury, and the US International Trade Commission.
  • Shanghai Flag & Tent Works exported about $1 million worth of American flags.
  • American companies also produce more than 100 million flags of all types each year.
  • Probably less than 5 percent of American flags sold are made overseas.
  • Chinese-made American flags account for about 20 percent of American flags sold at the United States Flag Store.


Concluding this research, I am lead to believe the Chinese do a better job with small flags, while the small flags you will see in parades around the country today are made in America tend to fall apart.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 82 other followers