As American as…

A family of garment workers in the early 1900s
A family of garment workers in the early 1900s

Any FOF woman even remotely interested in fashion should make it a point to watch the HBO documentary Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags about New York’s Garment Center and the demise of the American fashion industry. (95 percent of the apparel sold in the United States today is made outside the US, versus 15 percent in 1985.)

As a former editor and publisher at Fairchild Publications (WWD), I watched first-hand as designers became stars, department stores lost their business to discounters and American manufacturers and retailers started traveling abroad to source garments. Schmatta tells the story dramatically and intimately through fascinating footage and dozens of interviews with members of the industry at every level, fabric cutters to fashion icons.

Well-done coverage of chilling events like the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire—where almost 150 immigrant workers (mostly young women) lost their lives—juxtaposed with commentary from an ultra tanned Ralph Lauren  (“Designers do fashion. I do lives”) make Schmatta as thought provoking as it is revealing.

Ralph's "family"
Ralph's "family"

Consider this: Ralph Lauren, a son of Jewish immigrants, has amassed a fortune worth over $2 billion by manufacturing a lifestyle of perfect people who sail, ride horses and walk hand in hand on the beach with their perfect  children. So why are many of his clothes manufactured off America’s shores?

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