There are two distinct tiers of today’s textile and apparel industry to approach consumers. One tier embraces intricate far-flung global supply chains, a behemoth pumping endless quantities of mass-produced textiles and clothes onto the shelves of retail stores everywhere. Many of the companies operating in this tier are famous as purveyors of fashion as a commodity to the consuming masses throughout the world.
The other tier is far smaller, comprised of local supply chains and high-value-added production. Typically produced close to consuming markets, products of this industry tier are often seen as a stylish alternative to the mass-market offerings of many fast fashion retailers. Such local industries exist in the United States and Europe; although perhaps supported by large mills, garment production is often conducted by small, specialized companies, many of which are not known beyond the confines of a regional or city market.
Indeed, the majority of consumers buy their clothes from large, integrated retailers, while a growing subset of the consuming public favors small-batch, locally produced apparel. Moreover, the appeal of local over global, small over large, reflects a shifting paradigm of consumerism.
When the forces of globalization were unleashed beginning in the 1970s -- more formally supported with the advent of the World Trade Organization in the 1990s -- the United States, the victor of the Cold War, the unchallenged leader of the global economy, enjoyed the benefits of a unipolar world. In the past, the American consumer was often seen as a buyer of last resort. Whenever the global economy tanked, American consumers were always there to take up the slack. Global manufacturers were always assured that a market existed for their products.