some high-end companies like Brooks Brothers have always
made clothing in the U.S., it’s been difficult to buy
American-made casual clothing because of the textile
industry consolidation in recent decades, as several
mills closed. But the industry didn’t die completely,
and now there’s a renaissance of startup labels
selling U.S.-made products — both clothing and home
goods — where the focus is on high-quality U.S.
craftsmanship priced competitively with imports.
these sellers, having everything in the entire supply
chain – or nearly all – be U.S.-based is an
important part to supporting local communities. Several
factors and macroeconomic trends make "grown and
sewn in the U.S." possible: e-commerce lets small
firms tell a story and sell directly to consumers who
have an interest in natural fibers like cotton and wool,
a willingness to invest in longer-lasting higher-quality
goods and a desire to shop local.
surprisingly, many of these labels started because they
couldn’t find what they were looking for. At McIntosh,
founder of Homegrown Cotton, was disappointed the
better-quality polo shirts costing around $80 or $90
wanted to keep production as local as possible and
guarantee it’s only his cotton in every polo, so every
step of the process is done in North and South Carolina.
The shirt’s final cutting and sewing happens 40 miles
from his farm. ($69, www.homegrowncotton.com)
a page out of the farm-to-table movement, Anna
Brakefield and Mark Yeager, father-daughter owners of
Alabama-based Red Land Cotton, call their bedding and
towel brand a "farm-to-home" product. By
growing and ginning their own cotton, they create a
higher-quality fiber, which is spun, woven and finished
in South Carolina and Georgia before being sewn in their
hometown. To differentiate their sheets from other
luxury brands, they sent U.S. textile engineers samples
of sheets from the 1920s to recreate the quality and
feel of heirloom sheets.
Madeline Gray Lace sheets (sheet set starts at $230,
www.redlandcotton.com) are named after the family friend
who donated those original 1920s sheets for testing.
McMillian, founder of Chicago-based Dearborn Denim, said
when he started the company in 2016, he wanted to create
an all-American apparel company that produced
high-quality products at an affordable price to show
that locally made goods don’t have to be more
expensive. Even though the manufacturing costs are
higher in Chicago than using foreign products and labor,
the e-commerce route helped keep costs down. His women’s
and men’s jeans cost around $60 (www.dearborndenim.com),
competitive with prices of jeans from The Gap and Levi’s.
labels’ journey to retail hasn’t been easy, whether
it was finding who would segregate their cotton or offer
smaller amounts of material, they said. Tom Chappell,
founder of Ramblers Way, which offers organic wool and
cotton clothing online (www.ramblersway.com) and does
custom-made clothes in their shops in Maine and New
Hampshire, said it took a lot of trial and error to get
the fabric quality he wanted and to do it sustainably.
they built their own factory in Canton, Mass., so they
could create a superfine worsted Rambouillet merino and
organic merino wool that wasn’t itchy and could be
said they had a hard time finding sewers who could do
some of the finer detail hemming for their sheets, but
found a small-scale sewing firm in their hometown to
finish the sheets, an operation which she said otherwise
would have closed.
is interest in buying U.S. products. A survey by Cotton
Incorporated, the cotton industry’s research and
promotion arm, showed 66 percent of consumers say they
are interested in buying U.S.-made clothing made with
U.S.-grown cotton. McMillian said American-made gets
people’s attention, but getting people to buy still
comes down to quality.
the sentiment (from customers) is, I love the pants, and
I love the fact that they’re made-in-Chicago pants.
That’s the cherry on top. But we shouldn’t rely on
the made-in-America angle as the sole reason to buy our
pants," he said.