Sunday, April 10, 2016

Made in America

In July of 2015, GQ ran an article entitled "11 Made in the USA Brands - Worth the Dollars." The article's opening paragraph resonated with me not because of its novelty but because it gave accreditation to something I have been quizzing the makers of golf knit shirts about for years.

                              Made in America

Manufacturing in the USA is a commitment, one that comes with the higher costs and complicated workflow due to the shrinking and segmented garment industry in this country. But it also comes with great rewards, like personal relationships with the people creating your products, greater knowledge of and involvement in each step of the process and a pride in supporting your neighbors, at times down the block or at the next stool.

For these eleven brands, that commitment is part of who they are, for some, it's who they been for over a century. In honor of the 4th of July, we thought we'd give a short out to 11 companies working their butts off to make high quality clothing, accessories and footwear right here at home    - Lisa Corsilla - GQ

The article then goes on to discuss Battenwear, Billykirk, Buck Mason, Danner, Filson,Haspel, The Hill Side, Quoddy, Save Khaki, Stanley & Sons and Schott, all of which have incredible product at affordable prices and were worthy of the support shown by GQ.

This article will not attempt to convey the history of the apparel industry taking its cut and sewn operations to China and/or third world sweatshops nor will it explain what should be the obvious political correctness of retailing better USA goods. As has been pointed out not only by those managing the companies I've quizzed over the years and by many others who have written on the subject, it is not easy to produce quality in the states at an affordable price:

Mark Tungate, author of "Fashion Brands" whose book makes the contention that "you don't buy clothes, you buy an identity" also makes the point that "while political correctness is an attractive brand value, it won't be enough to guarantee sales. These companies must insure that their designs are as irreproachable as their ethics."

In December of 2013, Hayley Peterson wrote in Business Insider "The insane popularity of a single sweatshirt has forced its maker to expand into four new factories within the last year just to meet soaring demand.

The zip-up hoodie, made by San Francisco startup American Giant, costs $89. It had been on the market for 10 months when a December 2012 Slate article declared it "the greatest hoodie ever made" and suddenly sales exploded. At the time, American Giant had only one factory in Brisbane, California. The company has since expanded into a factory in Los Angeles and three more in rural North Carolina just outside Raleigh. Here is a promotional video with American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop talking about this product.

Times are changing. Technology has created jobs producing goods that are not only outstanding goods but provide well-paying jobs. I spoke with two relatively new and soon-to-be-known golf apparel companies in Orlando that are not only making their goods in the states but are in many ways designing better quality goods than we are used to being presented in the industry. I also reached out to Billy Draddy to comment on his sourcing for Fairway & Green of "Made in America" knits. Here is what they had to say: 

Hey Craig - All three of our men's brands, F & G, ZR and BDraddy are manufacturing products in the US. For us, the move was driven by opportunity to shorten our lead time WITHOUT increasing our cost or sacrificing our quality and at the same time contributing to the effort of bringing more manufacturing back to the US. The effort to contribute to the American economy; and you are correct - it is more effort, resonated so strongly with us and our ownership that we decided to contribute initially 13 cents, now 26 cents from the sale of each shirt back to the Folds of Honor.

-Billy Draddy - Head of Design and Sourcing for Summit Brand

At Holderness & Bourne we have been committed since day one to sourcing and manufacturing as much of our collection as possible here in the United States. That commitment not only supports the American economy , but also affords us advantages ranging from faster product development cycles to better quality control. We have found that it helps us meet the the needs of our green grass clients in a more efficient way, which is a big advantage for us as a relatively new brand in the market. It also gives us an opportunity to develop and test a broader range of designs within a given style so that we can be sure that our products are dialed in before we launch them. Finally as entrepeneurs we are proud to support American factories and American workers by making the decision to keep much of our business here. It makes what we are building more meaningful both to us and our customers, who increasingly care about the story and heritage behind the products they buy.

 - Alex Holderness and John Bourne, Owners of Holderness & Bourne. 

As the founder and designer of the Lyla Renai brand of luxury sportswear, I am proud to manufacture in the United States. Though it can be discouraging when consumers do not value the "Made in America" tag when comparing prices to other brands (who manufacture overseas)I am still committed to making my garments in the U.S. We need to provide jobs for Americans and market our products so buyers realize the impact they are making on our economy when purchasing products made on home soil. The additional benefits for the brand include the ability to monitor quality and be more involved in the production process first hand which is very important to me and has paid off. I like that I have established strong relationships with our sewing contractors and meet with them weekly while in production resulting in shorter lead times and a better quality product.

- Lyla Altevers, Owner of Lyla Renai

It seems that those of us who populate the green-grass industry are an ideal retail collective to begin profiling and patronizing products that care enough and go the extra mile of manufacturing value and quality in the states. If every shop were to merchandise a "Made in America" golf knit area golf retail may actually be able to make more of a difference than Congress.

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