He may be right, given the White House’s reluctance even to go through the motions of jawboning with foreign trade partners. Still, maybe there will be a period of adjustment long enough for the world’s apparel and textile industries — and American garment workers — to prepare for the worse. Who knows? Perhaps there is an apparel glut — if not in the stores, then in Los Angeles’ harbors — and China will not be receiving a tremendous number of orders immediately after January 1. Or perhaps China, which is currently racked by severe power outages because of its rapidly growing industrial sector, simply won’t be able to keep up with increased orders in the near future.
For now, local apparel manufacturers appear mildly optimistic — or fatalistic, depending on one’s interpretation.
"Nothing’s the end of the world," says Lonnie Kane. "We saw this with the shoe business — 98 percent of which is now imported. Apparel and textiles have slowly moved offshore. It’s all about price. We don’t have a place for low-wage industries. But I don’t want local manufacturers to go away because I enjoy the flexibility and don’t want to depend solely on imports."
And what happens to the people who formerly worked in those industries — will they all be forced to sell fruit on the street and clean houses?
"When your economy is undergoing massive change," says the L.A. Fashion District’s Kent Smith, "people are unfortunately going to lose jobs. We’re just not masters of our economy anymore."