- In the nineteenth century, manufacturing was done under the supervision of the couturier, usually in his or her attic (or atelier). As ready-to-wear evolved and sales volumes increased, factories were set up with production personnel hired to optimize the manufacturing process. Factories have proliferated in the countries that produce clothing for designers and manufacturers. Eventually, due to the high cost of labor in the more developed countries, new, more cost-efficient mass-production facilities have been created in less-developed countries. This trend toward offshore manufacturing is expected to last for decades, as long as there are disparities among the standards of living in different countries. In theUnited States, both the textiles and manufacturing industries suffered due to increased economic globalization and technological advances. The industry responded by creating niche markets in the 1970s, promoting high-quality products, developing strong brand names, and investing in faster customer-response systems. Despite these efforts, almost one million U.S. textile and apparel jobs were lost from 1973 to 2005. Countries with more competitive pricing such as Hong Kong, India, China, and Mexico have became major players in the apparel offshore manufacturing business.Unfortunately, it's come to light that some factories in these countries are sweatshops, employ children, use forced labor, and/or allow hazardous working conditions to exist for many employees. Many of these factories' situations were brought to the world's attention in the early 1900s and again in the 1980s. Activists launched campaigns against companies that manufactured products under these horrific conditions. Legislation was eventually passed in Europe, the United States, and, later, in many developing countries to protect workers from unscrupulous employers. Trade unions have also been created to protect worker's rights. However, these measures have not yet eliminated the many sweatshops that still exist around the world.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.