In some ways, it's no problem for illustrator Alex Stadler to get the fine woolen scarves he designs manufactured in New York. It's an easy train ride and he often has business in the Big Apple. But that's not the way he'd like it to be.
"I manufacture there because I couldn't find anybody in Philadelphia," he said.
Stadler needs a particular machine to handle the kind of knitting his scarves require. Stoll knitting machines are manufactured in Germany and the nearest one is in New York. Lately, though, Stadler has come to know Andrew Dahlgren, who just finished his master's degree in industrial design in University of the Arts.
Dahlgren wrote his master's thesis on the knitting industry in Philadelphia. He found gaps -- gaps that he dreams of filling. Right now he's trying to wrangle financing to buy a Stoll machine and travel to Germany for training. Then he'd like to assemble that machine and some others in his living and work space in East Kensington.
"I've coined the name industry design," Dahlgren said, who set up his own company, ADMK. "It's not exactly designing the product, it's designing the process to make the product."
Supply chain logistics do the same thing,he said, but they are often set up without regard to region or distance. He would like to get the entire process, from growing the fibers, processing them, dying them, turning them into fabric and then manufacturing the fabric into a product all set up in Philadelphia. If there are gaps in that process, he'd try to work with entrepreneurs to create companies to fill the needs.
Right now, Dahlgren wants to work with knitting, but he could imagine the same process for other industries.
Stadler can hardly wait for Dahlgren to get the Stoll machine, because he loves Philadelphia and wants to base his all aspects of his life and work here.
Those were the kinds of stories that I heard at last Wednesday's textile manufacturers' gathering sponsored by the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia at the Global Dye Works, a now shuttered textile mill. You can read my story in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.