Apparel CEOs and founders discuss the benefits of being Made in the USA.
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In today’s global economy, it is increasingly rare to find any manufacturer who can proclaim its goods are produced entirely in the United States. This is especially true when it comes to apparel—if you look at the label on whatever you’re wearing now, you’ll see it probably originated on an entirely different continent. Still, there are local alternatives available. A small but mighty group of brands proudly wear their patriotism on their sleeve and their labels, producing apparel that earns the “Made in the USA” badge (and lasts longer than a season). We spoke with the founders and CEOs of four American-made clothing brands to find out how they get things done, what makes their apparel special, and why it’s so important to them to produce things slowly, on their own terms, in the United States.
Husband and wife team Mark and Linda Baker founded Vermont Flannel Company in 1991. The company makes flannel pants, shirts, PJs, and blankets in the US from double-brushed cotton.
It’s hard to pick the coziest option (on a fashion advice thread on Reddit, one customer said their Vermont Flannel shirt was the "greatest money [they've] spent this year"), but Mark Baker pointed to the brand’s flannel lounge pants as a choice everyone can relax in. “[They] encapsulate our slogan, “Dedicated to World Comfort,” he says. “We want the ultimate quality, which we can control and supervise close to home.”
As for his motivation, Baker cites a book that Lifehacker once called the “Bible of business and personal productivity:” David Baker’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Tellason sells fleeces, bandanas, belts, and chinos for men, but it specializes in raw denim, e.g., that durable jean material that has not been processed or washed. It’s in the “selvedge” style—a term derived from the word “self-edge,” and refers to denim that has not been cut, unlike the jeans from most modern denim brands. The clothes are created from cotton grown in North Carolina and cut and sewn in a factory in a San Francisco.
Tony Patella, the co-founder of Tellason, says its selvedge jeans and jackets are the “essence” of the brand, noting that they have a long “shelf life,” being both timeless in style and long-lasting in durability. Both aspects, according to Patella, come from their being made in the US. “They are quintessentially American products,” he says.
He’s also proud to provide factory work that is becoming less common on US soil, or, in many cases has “disappeared in America,” he says. “Not everyone can be an app developer or an IT technician.”
Which isn’t to say he doesn’t appreciate app developers, too. Patella likes TurboScan, an app that allows you to scan things like receipts and supply orders (or anything else) directly into your phone. “I use TurboScan many times every day and love how it saves me time and effort,” he says.
Hackwith Design House, a women’s apparel brand based in St. Paul, Minnesota, specializes in minimalistic, size-inclusive designs, many of which can be appropriate for work, semi-formal occasions, or just lounging around—all in one package. Every one of its items is made by an in-house seamstress after the customer orders it, which reduces waste and allows for more customization than straight-off-the-rack brands. “We think it’s important to have it made in the US so that we can make sure our employees are paid a fair and living wage, work in a safe environment,” says Lisa Hackwith, the brand’s designer and founder. “And we can ensure that our garments are made with quality and care to be long-lasting.”
She highlights the Basics Wide-Leg Jumper as an item that defines the Hackwith Design House aesthetic. “It’s reversible, can be worn with our without a sash, is easily dressed up or dressed down, comes in sizes XS through 4X and comes in multiple sustainable fabric options,” she says.
How does she get everything done? Just like you (probably), she and her team use Google Drive “on a daily basis,” she says. “It’s so nice to have everything in one place and to be able to access it from anywhere.”
Todd Shelton, the founder of his eponymous men’s clothing line, insists that his denim clothes be produced in the US—East Rutherford, New Jersey, specifically (you can request an appointment to check it out yourself). This helps assert control over the manufacturing process and ensure strong, long-lasting relationships with customers who value knowing where their clothes start and end. Like Hackwith Design House, he brand also uses on-demand manufacturing, which means a product is made only when the customer orders it, reducing unnecessary labor and materials needed for production. “[Being] ‘Made in USA’ is about all quality and craftsmanship for us,” he says. “Our customer cares deeply about quality. They want to know their jean was made the right way.”
He identified the Pro Original Darks, the brand’s best-selling jean (made in the selvedge style, like Tellason), as one of the most emblematic products. “It’s classic, high-quality, and a customer will never regret buying it,” Shelton says.
To get stuff done, he doesn’t rely so much on a particular product or app so much as he relies on the absence of them. “I get into the office at 5:30, and it gives me a couple of hours before the workday really starts,” he says. “I don’t do tasks during this time, I read and think, and try to see things I won’t see when the day gets busy.”
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.