For this growing garment operation, 'Made in Janesville' is the label that fits

  • Article by: MARCIA NELESEN , The Janesville Gazette
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 12:05 AM

JANESVILLE, Wis. — It's hard to find a piece of apparel today that includes a "Made in America" label.

Unless you shop in downtown Janesville.

In the retail section of Cy-Va, you'll find clothes not only made here but designed here too, The Janesville Gazette reported.

Toward the back of the store at 222 W. Milwaukee St., employees busily snip, stitch, sew and iron fabric on a cluster of machines for designers across the United States.

Fabric is delivered to Janesville pre-cut, stitched into garments in the downtown shop and shipped back to the designers for sale.

"A lot of new designers and smaller (high-end) designers are coming to us because they want to keep their items made in America," Cynthia Walker said.

The owners also sell their own lines of clothes and accessories in the front of the store and showcase the work of other local sewers.

Walker, 59, and her daughter Valerie Brinkman-Kampmann, 40, opened Cy-Va two years ago.

Their business bucks the trend in the industry, which in the 1980s began moving production to developing nations where piecework is cheap.

The U.S. went from the largest manufacturer and exporter of apparel to the smallest, Walker said.

The future of the industry is anyone's guess. Garment workers all over the world are demanding better working conditions after well-publicized disasters killed thousands. New safety measures will add to the cost of apparel, as will shipping costs.

For now, Cy-Va has found a niche.

"That first year, it was a huge struggle to make ends meet," Brinkman-Kampmann recalled.

The women used personal money to pay business bills.

"What kept our doors open is we have a lot of great customers who want something unique and that you don't find in the mall," Walker said.

Then_it seemed like overnight_business tripled.

"We had really big customers just drop out of the sky in four months," Walker said.

Now, the women have a waiting list.

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