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Detroit... the Fashion City? Why Detroit May Be the Next Silicon Valley of Apparel Manufacturing

By WXYZ Detroit

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2021 Wayne County rose to be ranked 4th nationally for the highest total payroll in apparel manufacturing, only behind Los Angeles, New York, and Orange counties.

Detroit has always been a fashion mecca but the growing global spotlight on the city is now boosting the economy.

"I don’t want to undersell the fact that Detroit influences everything," said Kevin Johnson, President and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Johnson's team said that between 2017 and 2021 Wayne County payroll in the apparel manufacturing industry nearly doubled.

Within those years Gucci moved into Downtown Detroit, Bottega Veneta presented their famous fashion show in the city, and ISAIC was born.

ISAIC stands for Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center.

Located 3 stories above Carhartt in Downtown Detroit, the organization is the only one of its kind in Michigan that offers beginner to expert education in sewing and apparel manufacturing.

Those who learn and work at the 3-year-old organization currently make Carhartt beanies, jerseys, and blankets.

Roni Williams was the first apprentice to ever graduate from ISAIC, she told 7 Action News, "I didn’t think I would even have the opportunity to sew, even though I wanted to sew when I was younger, because I never had anywhere that had any training for it."

Roni's boss is Jen Guarino, president and CEO of ISAIC.

Guarino led the creation of Shinola's leather manufacturing unit and is a leading voice for the advancement of domestic manufacturing.

When asked about apparel manufacturing jobs in the city, Guarino said; "Typically on any given month there’s industrial sewing positions available, 125 to 150 a month."

Guarino informs that we only make 3% of what we wear in the United States, and Detroit knows how to manufacture, hence her idea to bring apparel manufacturing opportunities here.

"So the idea is that we can both create and express in a Detroit way and bring the industry here," said Guarino. "So we actually become an advanced head for apparel manufacturing."

Guarino says that Detroit may be positioning itself to be the silicone valley of apparel manufacturing.

In 2021 all of the clothing and shoe retailers in Wayne County employed 3,129 workers and generated $67.6 million in payroll.

Roni Williams hopes to one day be one of those retailers, she said she plans to open her own bag store in the next 5 years.

"I have just begun to see all the opportunities that are available," said Williams.

This article (and accompanying video) was published by WXYX Detroit October 12, 2022. ISAIC is a member of SPESA.

SPESA members are encouraged to email news and releases to or to be featured under Member Spotlights.


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