Arts/Culture
1:19 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Michigan group travels to Turkey to tout state's emerging garment industry

A small group of Michigan designers and economic development officials are headed to Turkey for a week-long trade trip.

The group believes Michigan’s garment industry is up-and-coming, and they hope the trade trip will spur on partnerships with Turkey’s textile suppliers and buyers.

Eleanor Fuchs believes the garment industry "has the potential to be a multi-million if not billion dollar industry here in Michigan."

Fuchs is with the Prima Civitas Foundation, which is spearheading the new Michigan Garment Industry Council. She hopes the trade trip to Turkey will spur on partnerships with buyers and suppliers:

"Is there something that could be brought back to Flint, back to Lansing, back to Alpena?" says Fuchs, "and be able to create more of an industry there with Turkish investments."

Fuchs’ long term goal is to create a garment district in Detroit, and eventually team up with the garment industries in LA and New York in an effort "to bring garment and apparel manufacturing back to the U.S."

She says the state already has a lot of the infrastructure in place:

"We have big name designers that are based here in Detroit, we have designers that want to come back to Detroit. We have large scale manufacturing - if you look at Peckham Industries in Lansing, they have a phenomenal operation out there, where they produce hundreds of thousands of garments a month."

But she says the state could definitely use more: more talent, more small and medium-sized manufacturers, more textile producers.

WKAR Reporter Mark Bashore recently visited Peckham's 115,000 square-foot production floor, where they produce military apparel. He spoke to the folks there about their products, and about the state's emerging garment industry:

"This jacket we produce approximately about 50,000 garments per month, and these jackets are primarily going to go to the troops in Afghanistan," says Peckham manufacturing director Ed Terris.

But the Lansing company recently joined an effort that's far removed from the military. Peckham is one of dozens of enterprises on the newly-created Michigan Garment Industry Council. Prima Civitas thinks the state has the components of a potent garment and fashion sector. Peckham CEO Mitch Tomlinson says even a maker of Army outerwear bound for Afghanistan has a role to play.

"We're never going to be a high-fashion industry at Peckham, but we think there's a lot of transferability between the products that we make and the commercial market," he explains. "A lot of people want really high-performing garments and certainly that's what Peckham's known for with the military."