Friday, February 21, 2014

Made in the USA: California Contractor, Ball of Cotton

In less than a month, it seems like the Olympic sweaters from Ralph Lauren's collection have come and gone, yet the story behind those cotton knits is worth a closer look. From a knitting business in southern California that produces high quality knits, the Olympic sweaters were hand assembled by the "Ball of Cotton" company. A local company for more than 20 years, the owners Eddy and Elizabeth Park produce their own brand, along with private label jobs such as the Lauren label for the Olympics.

Eddy Park has developed a manufacturing process that keeps all of his production state side but still maintains a high capacity of 6,000 sweaters per month, so it's not a little mom and pop outfit, but rather an option for designers who want high quality knits made under local supervision and production. An interview with the couple can be seen HERE

While New York city would like the public to believe that the city is the center for US apparel, in fact it is southern California that leads the US in employing the most apparel manufacturing workers (43,000) in the nation.

What make the LA/Orange county region successful is that nearly 7,900 apparel contractors are in business (2011). Additional 'boutique' contractors are often so small as to not be counted along with the large businesses, yet they contribute towards regional success. The businesses In southern California are often geared towards higher production values, turnover and methods. This is something the less expensive off-shore manufacturing process often does not do successfully.

As more contractors build up manufacturing that is independent from offshore production, such as Eddy and Elizabeth Park have done, we will be able to find more apparel available to us that is made in the USA from concept through production.

Ball of Cotton Website

Additional information on the southern California industry: California Economy Predicted to Improve Next Year and Grow Modestly, By Deborah Belgum | Thursday, February 20, 2014 a recent economic forecast released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lillian Montaldo: Early Fashion Entrepreneur

The "Montaldo" label originates from a fabulous chain of high fashion stores that were owned and managed by an early pioneer in fashion retail, Lillian Montaldo. In 1918 she opened her first fashion store in Kansas. Lillian would continue to open more shops in cities through out the south, mid-west and even in Colorado during her long career in retail. Her stores were popular for high end designer fashions that came from New York and were also sold in stores along 5th Avenue.

Known for their luxury, Montaldo's attracted women who wanted to wear the best. Even the interior design of the shops was styled with luxury and presented a French allure.

During her career, Lillian worked from New York to procure the latest fashions for her shops. Her concept of a high fashion chain of retail stores was an early venture into ready to wear fashion in the U.S. She is also unique in that the fashion business was still a 'man's world' at the time she began her career.

Lillian was honored for her achievements in fashion in the late 1960's. Her 'empire' would last until the 1990's, more than 70 years of success.

The "Montaldos" label satin dress shown here was probably sold in the very late 1940's or early 1950's during the "New Look" trend. The gown has heavy embellishment of sequins and chenille on the bodice and a long flared box pleated skirt that falls to below knee level. It has a traditional side zipper of metal. The house label is sewn into the bodice lining.

More photos of this gown are shown at Pintuck Style, my shop on Etsy.

Other resources on Montaldo's: Lillian Montaldo is profiled by Betsy L. Hendrix

Advertisement from 1923: HERE