Rotary speaker touts the importance of quality craftsmanship

The world’s oldest manufacturing practice needs an update, with a strong focus on quality.

This was one of the thoughts of Dr. Rick Cottle, a professor in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences at Middle Tennessee State University, when he addressed McMinnville Rotarians and their guests at their luncheon. weekly Thursday at First Presbyterian Church.

With over 25 years of industry experience, Cottle teaches and conducts research at MTSU’s School of Textiles, Fashion Design and Merchandising.

Consumer demand for “fast fashion” and rock-bottom prices has driven the export of jobs from the once-thriving US garment industry, the Noon Rotary speaker said.

“These brands don’t do anything,” he said of America’s most recognizable clothing brands. “They’re just managing the supply chain,” he stressed, pointing to the complex global network of growers, shippers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

“The fashion industry is global supply chain management. I challenge you to find anything that has been made entirely in one country. But if you could, the price might scare you away, he suggested.

“I guarantee you, no one wants American-made underwear,” Cottle remarked. A pack of men’s boxers that sells at a major retailer for $20 would cost $50 if made entirely in the United States, he estimated.

“Everyone is looking for cheap labor,” Cottle told Rotarians. But as China’s rising middle class moves into higher-skilled, better-paying jobs, who will make the cheap clothes we buy and often throw away after a few uses?

“My educated guess is that these jobs will go to Africa,” Prof MTSU said in a recorded WCPI interview after his Rotary Club appearance. This half-hour conversation will air on McMinnville Public Radio 91.3 Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. with repeats Wednesday at 5:00 a.m., Thursday at 1:00 p.m. and Friday at 1:00 a.m.

With foreign producers pumping massive amounts of inexpensive clothing into the United States, what could give a designer brand a competitive edge in the market?

Cottle insists that superior quality in design, materials and production is the ultimate merchandising benefit. “We teach [MTSU students] recognizing quality and what it takes to produce quality,” he told the Rotary audience.

Archaeologists have found artifacts of textile manufacturing as far back as 28,000 years ago.

But another probative authority, the Bible, places the making of clothing at the very beginning of human experience.

After the first couple, Adam and Eve, succumbed to the lies of the serpent, they “knew they were naked.” In their shame, “they sewed fig leaves and made themselves loincloths”. (Genesis 3:7 ESV)

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