In Michigan, the signs of the summer season coming to an end is the sudden cooler temperatures, the leaves are starting to turn, back to school ads run non-stop and Labor Day weekend has arrived. In the United States, Labor Day is observed every first Monday in September to recognize the contributions of American workers.
When it comes to celebrating the worker in Detroit, our city’s landscape is rich in manufacturing history that dates back to the auto lines created by Henry Ford’s factories in the early 1900s during the industrial age. The auto companies (Ford, GM and Chrysler) created many ancillary businesses who became suppliers to what we, back in the day, affectionately called the Big Three.
What outsiders not familiar with Southeastern Michigan may not realize is that other industries have grown significantly in this region out of the auto industry including design and engineering. The last several years we have witnessed tech companies large and small make Detroit their new home.
With Detroit’s growth, we have seen other industries steadily showing interest in being a part of Detroit’s revitalization. What is exciting for Beau Satchelle is the emerging garment industry that is receiving major buzz in the last couple of years. Fashion is finding a home in Detroit! The East and West Coast have been the dominant force in the cut and sew garment industry for many decades in the U.S. and unfortunately once manufacturers took those jobs overseas for cheap labor, materials and other financial reasons, this country lost valuable skill tradespeople.
So in the last few years, the industry is observing a pivot with designers who are purposely deciding to manufacture in the USA or are returning to the states and looking for manufacturers who can handle smaller orders. This is where Detroit can make a statement. For example, non-profit organizations such as Detroit Garment Group are make headway into providing industrial sewing classes and building a manufacturing hub for cut and sew companies to service smaller orders for beginning or small design shops making it more affordable.
Last week, Beau Satchelle was invited to participate in a mastermind meeting with a variety of professionals and industry leaders in Southeast Michigan that specifically work in the world of leather. The group included representatives from the auto and boating industries, large and small leather designers and manufacturers, city and county officials and non-profit manufacturing training organizations.
The discussion was based on whether Detroit has the will and the ability to develop an educational infrastructure to teach industrial sewing in the leather industry. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the industry is hurting for workers and technicians. Historically, U.S. garment and textile manufacturers employed many first generation immigrants to work in their factories and unless these skills were passed on to the next generation, the ability to find new blood became difficult. The reasons for this dilemma range from current workers getting older and retiring, school systems have eliminated economics and sewing classes, and perhaps for younger workers “sewing” has not been promoted as being a “cool” profession. Employing new, quality workers has been a challenge and companies who can afford it, are still forced to look outside our borders. According to the industry professionals at this meeting, higher costs, especially in New York is pushing emerging designers to “think outside the box”. This is where Detroit has the ability to capture that business.
Although, our wheelhouse is not in the industrial sewing trade, for Beau Satchelle, we still feel like we have a place to make a difference by bringing our own knowledge and experience to the table. We envision teaching the “old school” skill of leather crafting to a new crop of young people, as well as inspire and mentor leather artisan entrepreneurs.
It was a valuable event for our company and I look forward to keeping our readers posted as to the direction of this project. If you know of any young people who would be interested in learning about sewing leather, either industrial or bespoke, please contact us. We love discovering new talent! -AJ
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