Rotary speaker touts the importance of quality craftsmanship

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

That was the thought of Dr. Rick Cottle when he addressed McMinnville Rotarians and other guests at the Thursday luncheon 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’ According to the Noon Rotary speaker, lower prices have led to the export of jobs in the once-thriving US apparel industry.

“These brands don’t do anything,” he said of the most popular American clothing brands. “They’re just managing the supply chain,” he stressed the importance of the global network that includes shippers, manufacturers and wholesalers.

“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, nobody wants underwear made in America,” Cottle commented. 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 WCPI interview, recorded after his Rotary Club appearance. McMinnville Public Radio 91.3 will air the half-hour conversation Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. Rebroadcast Wednesday at 5:05 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m.

What could give a designer brand a competitive advantage in the market when foreign producers are importing huge quantities of cheap clothing into the United States?

Cottle emphasizes the importance of merchandising with superior design, materials and production. “We teach [MTSU students] recognizing quality and what it takes to produce quality,” he told the Rotary audience.

Archaeologists have discovered artifacts of textile manufacturing 28,000 years ago in prehistoric times.

Another authority, however, is the Bible. It places the making of clothes at the very beginning of the 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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