Looking Into The Future

Each month, Behind the Seams explores a different aspect of the sewn products industry with an introduction from the SPESA team. This is the January 2021 SPESA Speaks introduction.

For our first Behind the Seams issue of 2021, we wanted to explore the future of the industry. And let me tell you, nothing makes you think of the future more than a fresh-faced one-week-old looking up at you, wondering why you look so tired.

Lawrence Alistair “Rhys” McDonald entered the world and joined the SPESA team December 28, 2020. So far, we are all happy and healthy, and we are grateful to everyone who sent their well-wishes.

SPESA has really always been a family business — first with the Gardners and now the McDonalds — just like so many others in the sewn products industry. It is not uncommon to see textile, apparel, and equipment companies with ties to multiple generations of families, passing down their knowledge and expertise through the years, decades, or even centuries. In fact, we dedicated an interview series to learning more about these companies and why the sector lends itself well to family-run businesses.

Our answer to that question is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, we believe the sewn products industry is stable, resilient, predictable enough that a parent could teach his daughter or son everything he knows about the industry and it will still be relevant years later. Things like how to build durable equipment, establish good customer service, and maintain a network of personal relationships that last a lifetime. These characteristics aren’t going anywhere.

On the other hand, the industry is changing, and we would argue that those changes are what will keep it interesting for generations to come. When we talk about the future of the industry that includes smart textiles, automation, robotics, and 21st century innovations that can attract both workers and consumers. This month’s issues of Behind the Seams explores the evolution of digital printing, utilizing game design for workforce development, and integrating lessons learned from Covid-19 into both commerce and shop floors.

Our industry’s ability to evolve from one generation to the next, without losing its core values is what keeps it going (and sewing).

Michael likes to say you are either “born into the industry or tricked into it.” Michael was born into it, Maggie married in, and Marie claims she was tricked, but happily so. While we don’t know yet if baby Rhys or his big brother Bo will want to follow in their parents’ footsteps and represent the next generation of the sewn products industry, we do know that our job is to keep looking toward the future and ensure our industry is built to last.