Los Angeles–based eco-friendly contemporary knitwear brand and private-label manufacturer Peligrosa built its business on its overseas-production connections. Now, the owners are bucking the offshore-production trend and bringing Peligrosa production back to the United States.
Since the company’s launch in 2003, Peligrosa founders Nico Morrison and Adam Sidell have used factories in China and Japan to produce everything from cashmere sweaters, cut-and-sew knits, double-knit blazers and woven pieces for their own line and those of their clients, which have included Great China Wall, Rock & Republic, William Rast, Trina Turk, 7 For All Mankind and Taverniti So . Morrison, a knitwear veteran, began her career workingwith overseas mills and launched Mille Nico, her first sweater line, in Japan in 2001. Working closely with several mills, Morrison and Sidell, a husband-and-wife team, were able to produce high-quality knitwear in sustainable and organic fibers using low-impact dye processes.
Now, Peligrosa has begun to produce its own collection in California while continuing to produce the line’s fully fashioned knitwear and its private-label clients’ knits overseas.
“There are several reasons for the move,” said Sidell, who heads up product development for the knitwear maker. “We want to reduce our carbon footprint, have more control in the development and production of our clothing, and contribute to our economy. Peligrosa is about making great clothing out of sustainable and organic materials, but we also feel a sense of social responsibility. By moving production here, we don’t have to think about the fair-trade issue.”
Other motivations include cutting down on the six to eight yearly trips to China and Japan. Eliminating the cost of importing its goods also adds wiggle room to Peligrosa’s margins, Sidell said. Lead times for the line have been slashed from 60 to 90 days in Asia to 30 to 60 days. For a small company like Peligrosa, being able to respond quickly to retailers’ needs is a big plus. Retailers are waiting longer and longer to confirm orders. They’re waiting until the last possible minute, and they are relying more and more on Immediates, Sidell said. “Our motives aren’t entirely altruistic,” he said.
Whatever the motivation, after years of producing overseas, bringing cut-and-sew knits and woven production to California has been challenging, Sidell acknowledged. Finding the right partners has proved difficult, though the company is now happily working with two contractors in Southern California. Domestically produced items will launch with Peligrosa’s April 30 and May 30 deliveries.
For now, there are no plans to bring Peligrosa’s private-label or fully fashioned knitwear production to California. “Our private-label clients have more volume, and that business model affords them the ability to continue to manufacture in Asia,” Sidell said. Fully fashioned knitwear production must stay overseas because of a lack of resources. “We would love to produce sweaters domestically, but there are too many limitations. The system here is very different than in Asia, and it is technically prohibitive as well as cost-prohibitive,” he said.
Sidell acknowledged that a “Made in China” label sometimes hurts Peligrosa’s business. “Some of our retailers have a ’No China’ policy. They had no problem with Japan, but they wouldn’t buy the pieces made in China. And as time goes on, I think more people are going to adopt that philosophy and practice,” he said. But, he added, he doesn’t believe the bulk of Chinese factories deserve the stigma they carry. “Ninety-five percent of the factories I visited there were impeccable. You could eat off the production floor,” he said. “People have secondhand experiences of China, and they don’t know the real situation. They’ve never been there. It isn’t as bad as everybody makes it out to be.”
Wholesale prices for Peligrosa will remain constant, hovering between $22 and $88.
Maria Krizova of the Los Angeles–based contractor MKP Development LLC, which provides production and samplemaking services for contemporary and ready-to-wear brands, said she has seen several of her clients return their production to Los Angeles after stints elsewhere. The reasons, she said, range from an inability to fulfill the minimum orders required by overseas manufacturers to lack of communication skills, incompetent overseas agents and poorly produced goods.
Ultimately, Krizova said, domestic contemporary brands stand to benefit from using Los Angeles’ resources. “Here, the initial cost can be higher because our labor is more expensive, but [designers] gain control on production, sampling, timing, quality and more. Overall, the opportunity cost is better.”
Joe Rodriguez of the Garment Contractors Association of Southern California isn’t as bullish on the idea of designers bringing their production stateside. “I haven’t seen an uptick in domestic production. I’ve been hearing the same thing for 20 years—one of these years I hope it does happen,” he said. Instead, he said, membership in the contractors association has steadily dropped for the last several years.