When the International Textile Group (ITG) announced last month that its Cone Mills White Oak selvedge denim plant in Greensboro, North Carolina — the last in the US — would close at the end of December after 112 years of operation, brands using the fabric, stores selling White Oak products and denim heads worldwide cried with disappointment but not disbelief. ITG said orders slowed with customers buying overseas for cheaper goods. Overhead for a tiny corner of a three football field-long facility that once housed over 2,700 fly-shuttle looms is clearly prohibitive. Some 200 employees will lose their jobs and the future of the remaining 40-odd vintage looms remains unknown.
But while this is yet another nail in the coffin for Greensboro’s legacy as a once-booming textile capital, there are signs of life in North Carolina’s apparel industries.