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Hope for domestic garmentos?

China recalls help U.S. apparel manufacturers.

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New York -- China Fashion Week ended yesterday as the country's top designers proudly showcased homegrown haute couture on the Beijing runway. But the world's largest textile and apparel industry has been battered in recent months.

Last May, Beijing News reported that one in every five Chinese-manufactured baby garments and toys had failed safety test inspections. And in August, New Zealand scientists announced that they had found dangerously high levels of formaldehyde in imported Chinese garments.

This ill wind has blown some good in the direction of U.S. garment manufacturers, long battered by low-priced competition from overseas manufacturers. To be sure, one in every four pieces of clothing sold in the U.S. is made in China, and the recalls aren't likely to undo that edge quickly. But for the first time in many years, small domestic garmentos have a real chance to gain market share.

"Consumers are definitely looking for products made in the U.S.A," says Nataly Blumberg, vice president of The Bromley Group, a fashion PR firm based in New York City. "We sense that they're willing to spend more because it's a way of showing support."

"You shouldn't have to say Made in America under your breath," says Rodger Roeser, spokesperson for American Joe Apparel in Plano, Texas. The T-shirt company proudly advertises its domestic credentials, using suppliers from six different states and making sure that all inputs - down to the office paper - are made on U.S. soil.

Sales of American Joe products have tripled since the last summer's spate of China recalls. The company projects sales of $20 million in 2007, its first year year in business. "We want everybody to wear our clothes and feel like an All-American hero," says Roeser. "By wearing an American-made shirt you're putting Americans back to work."

This message tends to resonate best in America's battered industrial heartland. In Arcanum, Ohio, a small garment manufacturer called All American Clothing (allamericanclothing.com) markets Made-in-USA denim as pret-a-porter workwear.

Says founder and president Lawson Nickol: "We go after this demographic because they are aware of how their peers have lost their jobs, and are more inclined to support the cause."

All American Clothing sales on the retail site have shot up by 500% since the recalls. "Frankly, the Chinese are helping us quite a bit right now," says Nickol. To top of page

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