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Monday, November 11, 2013

"Delicately Crafted in New York City" -- What it really means

It's on our logo and embroidered on our labels: she and reverie is "Delicately Crafted in New York City". It has a nice ring to it, but it's more than just a cute motto. It's the way we produce our clothing, and it's what makes our business what it is.

Manufacturing in NYC has so many benefits. I can go in person and make sure a garment is being sewn to our quality specifications, many factories can work with our small minimums, and generally, there's a two-week turnaround from the time the factory gets all the materials and patterns to the time we can pick up finished garments.

We can afford to take fast chances and be a little more experimental in what we sell, because we don't have to make 1000 pieces of one dress at a time. We can make the small, carefully-curated capsule collections that we release every season because we manufacture in New York City.

Most importantly, it means workers are paid enough for the work they do.


Apparel is not a widget like electronics or automobiles. It doesn't go into an automated machine and come out ready-to-wear; everything is still made by the hands of workers at sewing machines. Manufacturing methods truly haven't advanced much from those vintage photos of 1920s clothing factories.

Kristen Elmer runs Silk and Cyanide, a classic, vintage-inspired apparel label made in NYC. She says this is a huge reason for buying locally-produced apparel. "Although there are specialized machines, they are still individually operated by people, not supervised by a person,” Kristen says. “I know what it's like to sit in front of a machine for 12 hours, and I can't imagine paying pennies an hour or per piece just because I can.”

That's why buying ethically-manufactured goods is so important: regardless of how much you paid for it, every single piece of clothing you're wearing right now was made by the hands of other human beings.

Kops Bros. clothing factory, New York City, 1928, via
Fashion Design Concepts, New York City, 2011, via StartupFashion

A quick look through global trade hub Alibaba shows that you can have panties made in China for $0.10 per piece—and that’s not the lowest price available. If those panties retail for $9.50 a piece—a typical price for mainstream mall-brand underwear—that means less than 2% of your price would go towards manufacturing. That includes the factory's markup, so the individuals sewing the garments make even less than that.

For Dear Kate, who makes high-tech wicking and stain-releasing panties here in NYC, 11% of their retail price goes towards manufacturing. "This doesn't include our performance fabric, trims, labels, packaging, or shipping," says Julie Sygiel, founder of Dear Kate, who personally developed and tested the specialty fabrics they use in their undergarments.

At she and reverie, manufacturing makes up 12% to 25% of our retail price. For instance, about 20% of the retail price of our $135 Ballet Miniskirt is manufacturing cost, including the factory’s markup. Meanwhile, this chart tells us that only 7% of a $14 t-shirt's cost is manufacturing when made in Bangladesh, including the factory's markups and agent fees.

There are so many reasons to manufacture here in NYC, and even more reasons to shop Made in NYC labels.  When we purchase garments that were domestically manufactured, that additional money we pay goes towards making sure that individuals who make our clothes are paid enough for their work.  That way, everyone involved in the lifecycle of our clothing can live "la vie en rose." 

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