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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The US apparel industry: a supply chain review (B)

This is an excerpt from a report. The link is provided at the end of the post.

Note the following:

  • This is apparel retailing.
  • The selection of buyers for the research as "mostly involved with purchasing decisions".
  • Store manager "has responsibilities in the daily maintenance of the store operations".

While both these are vital, important roles in traditional retail, the direct model of networking in apparel retail is founded and sustained by age-old one-on-one relationships.

* * *

In apparel retailing, we talked to a former buyer for a major retail chain: Ms. Jennings and a
buyer/owner of an independent boutique: Ms. Massoudian. Ms. Jennings worked for six years as an
assistant buyer, department manager, group sales manager, cosmetics and fragrance manager, and
operations manager for a large department store, which we will call LDS throughout the paper, and two years as store manager for The Gap. Ms. Massoudian owned an independent high-end women’s
apparel store in Palos Verdes, California and was mostly involved with purchasing decisions. We
selected buyers for our research contact, since the buyer is the person who directly makes the
decisions for what to buy, whom to buy from, how much to buy, how much to price, when to
mark–down, and how much to mark–down, whereas the store manager of a store in a chain has
responsibilities in the daily maintenance of the store operations (both personnel and merchandise),
and the chain executive is more concerned with financial control and administrative policy making.

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The US apparel industry: a supply chain review (A)

This is an excerpt from a report. The link is provided at the end of the post.

Note the following:

  • This is apparel manufacturing.
  • He (Paugal) "accumulated intimate knowledge" in apparel.
  • Paugal is a small company.
  • Paugal employs 18 employees: His productivity exceeds the capacity of his employees.
  • Paugal specializes in "fashion" with a life cycle of about 10 weeks.
  • Paugal is a two-category operation: women's sweaters and dresses
  • Paugal makes extensive use of independent contractors
Questions to ponder:

  • What are you doing with the Knowledge, Skills and Experience you have accumulated?
  • How many times would a network, like Paugal, multiply your apparel productivity and retail efforts?
* * *

In apparel manufacturing, our contact is Paugal Industries. Paugal Industries is an apparel
located in the Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Pierre Levy, originally
from France, founded Paugal in 1983, after working as a sales representative for a large apparel
retail chain where he accumulated intimate knowledge of the design, manufacture and retailing of
apparel. Paugal is a women’s apparel manufacturer specializing in products in the “fashion” cate-
gory characterized by product life cycle of about 10 weeks. Like many companies in the women’s
category, Paugal is a small company. Paugal employs 18 regular employees. Paugal has two types
of operations. In the first category, Paugal designs and develops women’s sweaters under the name
Ultraknits. Ultraknits has two brands; Fifi, targeting younger consumers and Loop, targeting
consumers looking for distinctive fashion. All production in this category is performed by inde-
pendent contractors
. Currently, Paugal contracts its production out to four factories in China and
Bangladesh. Major customers of Paugal in this category are department stores and specialty chain
stores. Production volume for sweaters is about 40,000 units per month. In the second category,
Paugal acts as an intermediary between the local contractors and mail order companies for women’s
dresses under the brand name Olive. Paugal is not responsible for the design of these dresses. Cur-
rently, Paugal uses two contractors which are both located in the Los Angeles area. All of the six
customers in this category are mail order companies. Production volume for women’s dresses is
about 5,000 units per month. We selected Paugal for our research contact as it is a small manufac-
turing company reflecting the current situation in women’s fashion business and it is working with
major retailers and contracts some of its business to off-shore companies.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Feasiblity test

There are occupations which do not lend themselves well to independent application. The assembly and related testing process of products such as electronic appliances or large items, high dollar items such as automobiles would be among such occupations.

There are, on the other hand, quite a few occupations which instill and equip employees with ongoing, valueable training and experience. Even so, the federal government has historically categorized these as "non to low-skilled" positions of employment. Aside of its demeaning, unflattering ring, it is not true.

Working Mannequin believes a more accurate, fitting description is that these employees have the resources of Knowledge, Skills and Experience (KSE) which over time have made them a valueable asset to their employer.

However, there are positions of employment in manufacturing where employees acquire and accumulate a considerable wealth of resources. Whatever the industry, for example, apparel making, there is a simple feasibility test to determine whether one's KSE can be applied as an independent outside and apart from the mass production enviornment.

  • Is the device or mechanism on which I acquired my KSE affordable? Affordability should not mean soaking oneself in debt in order to purchase the device on their own.
  • Is the device or mechanism small such that I could set it up in my home or garage if I chose to do so? There are industrial grade and home models for devices such as sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, floor buffers and more.
  • Does the device permit me to express my creativity? That is, as an independent you are not punching the clock for anyone. You determine when and how you willl perform your service to your client's satisfaction while at the same time satisfying your desired time for yourself and family.

There are, aside of manufacturing, various trade professions such as plumbing, appliance repair and maintance where employees acquire valueable KSE. Even though some fields, such as plumbing, typically require state certifications the same feasibility test can be applied by anyone desirous of implementing their KSE as an independent in support of certified plumbers.

Test yourself.

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The Network Next Door

Texas has the unique distinction for the highest number of displaced apparel workers from manufacturing and retail sectors. What that means is that in a state where Dallas once reigned in apparel merchandising and El Paso was the envy of apparel manufacturing there are large and increasing numbers of people with their Knowledge, Skills, and Experience (KSE), still.

These people have not disappeared. They have lost their employment, not their resources.

They live next to you.

They are for the most part without organization and getting by having found refuge in customer call centers, plastic injection plants and other jobs.

Working Mannequin recognizes these individuals as vital, valueable partners in a renewed and recharged apparel opportunity, both, for themselves, apparel retailers and others. This will not happen through mass-production facilities nor their jobs.

It will happen as they take their KSE and join with Independent Apparel Retailers to

create the network next door, across town, in the region,
state and nation.

Networks provide the acceptable alternative to consumer cynicism of mass production apparel:
"One size fits none."

Against mega-corporations and foreign competition local networks provide affordable customization, design, fashion shows, on-demand service, reduced inventory, an expanding KSE pool and more.

It is a direct model.

This far-reaching impact of apparel networks between Independent Contractors and Independent Retailers will extend as well to their neighborhood cousins; fabric retailers, and, textile. Who better than fabric retailers and textile to supply the more than 40 million, according to Home Sewing Association, people who sew whether for leisure or profit?

So, what are you doing with your resources next door?

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Small is Beautiful

After six years of doing my research I was pleased, I was excited, to be introduced by an attorney to the work of renowned British economist E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautitul.

Although an economist himself, Schumacher does not speak kindly of his fellow economists. He challenges scientists and technologists to design and develop machines which are:
  • Affordable
  • Small
  • Creative

This is the core of Working Mannequin's call to Independent Contractors and Independent Retailers in apparel networks and their KSE (see KSE post).

First, that the Independent Contractor's primary tool is the sewing machine. It is affordable. Purchase of the most expensive home sewing machine is not in excess of an individual's gross annual income.

Second, any home sewing machine is small enough to fit in the home, easily. It has the added portability feature which means that despite it being slightly bulkier than a notebook anyone with a sewing machine can travel.

Third, and perhaps a point much undervalued: The affordable, small, sewing machine allows for creativity. Creativity ought not be seen merely as the free expression on canvas by a painter or a beautifully designed quilt or apparel item. It is creativity when a person can design their day according to their family life. Where they can put in so much time on a given order or task and then breakaway to attend their child's school or athletic function.

Schumacher did not believe the mega corporation was the solution to the needs and problems of our society. There is nothing affordable, small or creative in the mega machine on the manufacturing floor where many a worker earns his/her livelihood.

It excites me to think there will be networks which will make a name for themselves for their quality, integrity and ability to deliver. The cream rises to the top, always.

The Lord he is God.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 19, 2006


If you are involved in apparel retail, design, production, distribution or related fields you are invited to attend a presentation on local independent contractors and independent apparel retailer networks

Where: Church building (Portable C)
1200 N. Georgetown Street
Round Rock, TX 78664

When: Friday, January 19, 7:00PM

Cost: Free


If you are driving south on I-35
Take Hwy 79 exit, turn left toward Hutto and Taylor
Go to third traffic light, Georgetown/Hwy 79, w/Walgreens drugstore
Turn left
1200 N. Georgetown is just behind corner business plaza

If you are driving north on I-35
Take Hwy 79 exit, turn right toward Hutto and Taylor
Go to third traffic light, Georgetown/Hwy 79, w/Walgreens drugstore
Turn left
1200 N. Georgetown is just behind corner business plaza

Tithing and Giving

Probably the sorest point for some believers, and more so for non-believers, is the practice of the church to take up collections. Lets be clear on that, that's a collection of money. The practice is regarded, by these two groups, at best as unspiritual and at worse, greedy.

Among believers the result is some participate in the church collection with reservations while others abstain altogether. Furthermore, this lack of understanding and the attitude which it fosters reflect on how a lot of people regard their giving to businesses and government their due. The justification behind this robbery is that these are not people. This, of course, is yet another falsehood, because like the church, businesses and government are made up of and function with people.

It needs to be said much of this is due to a lack of preaching and teaching on the subject of tithing and giving. Contrary to aspersions cast on tele-evangelists who call on their listeners to give, teaching on the subject is in the form of an annual message for many congregations, typically. Preachers feel uncomfortable expositing the subject, hence, a lack of understanding.

The practice of tithing, (tithing is ten percent of the whole) as commanded to the nation of Israel by God through Moses, predated the nation of Israel. Abraham, who lived many centuries prior, is found giving tithes to King Melchizedek. Israel was commanded to pay their tithes as this was for the livelihood of the priests.

Today, while tithing is taught and expected of members in many churches, it is not a commandment to the church in the New Testament. There is nothing said against its practice by an individual, but the apostle Paul does write about the giving of a particular congregation. He says first, "they gave themselves to the Lord", that every one should "give as they have purposed in their hearts" and "God loves a cheerful giver". Clearly, there is an absence of a specified amount, but a clear spiritual accent on the church's practice of giving.

Working Mannequin believes as one learns to give one can then build their business, our churches, communities and government, because they are each made up of people. People are built up when we give.

Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Take his words. Understand them. Live by them. Teach them.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Two Corporate survival lessons

Quite likely many of us at some time have been affected by the corporate strategy of downsizing, outsourcing or shutdown. While these strategies by corporations are viewed with disfavor, contempt and hopelessness by workers they are carried out by corporations in order to survive and remain viable competitors in the marketplace. Corporations, by their very legal structure, can leverage tax law to their advantage. They will resort to those means necessary to ensure their survival including limited alliances with competitors, also.

The American worker, on the other hand, employs a much different strategy. When hit with hard times he resorts to a part-time job to supplement his income. He may even resort to a second job. However, unless he fails to report that additional income from his lawnmowing, housecleaning, he finds himself in the same predictment that comes with a higher tax bracket. Two realities undermine his efforts: He is still working a job. He is still going at it alone.

Working Mannequin has seized the two corporate survival strategies for individuals who have seen the job doesn't cut it and who have seen you can't go it alone. As Independent Contractors individuals are recognized as business entities by the federal government and as such can

leverage tax law. Simply put, they can legally take the law in their favor in tax deductions and other business matters.

As Independent Contractors they work for themselves, not alone, but together with like-minded individuals they create an alliance of networks.

It is NOT HOW MUCH MONEY YOU MAKE, but HOW MUCH YOU KEEP. Creating an alliance of networks enables you to increase HOW MUCH you make. Leveraging tax law to your advantage enables you to increase HOW MUCH you keep, legally.

Working Mannequin believes we must rise above mere legal compliance and strive for the "ethical and moral" high ground in our transactions with corporations, government, entreprenuers, community, church, family and God. Uphold and sustain all these because they are the fabric of our country, our culture and our society. Truthfulness towards one for all and all for one.

What do you think?


A few years ago when I started out in pursuit of those whom I thought could benefit the most from my business model, I thought of the non-to-low skilled worker in apparel.

I did not like that designation, because while that is an oft used description by the government I thought it is not true. Those apparel workers who have lost and continue to lose their employment in the apparel industry are not non-to-low skilled.

Apparel workers, as well as their at-home cousins, have a wealth of resources. Namely, they possess KSE, the Knowledge, Skills and Experience required in the apparel industry. These are the same resources which employers have mined a treasure for themselves, and, their bank accounts. I commend those employers for their resourcefulness which has also provided employment for many.

Knowledge may be what was acquired from class, textbook or word of mouth. Skills is that hands-on ability which one picks up and masters after much repetition. Experience is the combination of Knowledge and Skills over a period of time such that one has developed a pretty complete familiarity with a great deal of the apparel industry process whether in manufacturing or retail.

However, these same workers and their cousins, estimated by the Home Sewing Association at over 40 million who possess sewing skills, have acquired, developed and retained their resources regardless of the industry where they currently make their employ.

Working Mannequin is committed to interested parties in apparel whether Independent Contractors (IC) or Apparel Retailers (AR). Working Mannequin is presenting our business model FREE for ICs and ARs, alike. The techniques and methodologies of the manufacturing floor remain with apparel skilled workers. Those same techniques and methodologies can be emulated off the floor on a smaller, private scale for personal profit by both parties alike.

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