John Oliver’s recent segment on Last Week Tonight, his HBO show, has brought “fast fashion” back into the news — two years after the horrifying Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people. (The factory was linked to several well known U.S. and European clothing brands.) If you want to make ethical shopping choices, avoid contributing to sweatshop labor, and buy “Made in U.S.A.,” where do you start? Reader M wonders…
I am curious if you have written a post about domestic made corporate wear, shoes, handbags etc. I tried to search the blog but I didn’t find anything. I am very interested in having quality non-China made items. I love your blog and the helpful suggestions you offer.
It can be tough to find clothing and accessories that are made domestically — in other words, under U.S. labor and environmental laws. Of the clothing and shoes sold in this country, more than 97% is made overseas. In 1991, the figure was 44%.
- well-known brands that are (mostly) made in the U.S.
- fair trade retailers
- “natural” beauty products and cruelty-free products
- ethically and sustainably sourced jewelry
- “buy one, give one” programs
Made in the U.S.A. — Including “Slow Fashion” Brands
The phrase “Made in U.S.A.” is not as straightforward as you might expect. The FTC guidelines on proper labeling are lengthy and complicated — and, unfortunately, sweatshops operate in this country, too. For now, striving to be an ethical shopper means making do with the information you have, and doing what your budget and time allow. The smaller labels below are less likely to offer petite, tall, and plus sizes — and of course, the prices are higher (for good reason). That said, here are some companies that keep their production in the U.S.:
- Arkins: All textiles used are 100% natural, and more than 80% are Certified Fair Trade. All clothing is produced in Arkins’ NYC studio, where “each piece is produced on a made-to-order basis to limit excess.”
- Dobbin: All clothing is manufactured in the U.S. (in NYC) from European fabrics.
- Zady: Zady’s tagline is “A Lifestyle Destination For Conscious Consumers,” but it’s not easy to find information on their production policies. Their new “Essentials Collection,” however, is entirely made in the U.S. Zady releases just one new Essentials item at a time, like this $36 organic-cotton t-shirt.
- Oak73: This company produces its clothing and bags “responsibly” in the U.S., although some of it isn’t office-appropriate (too-short hemlines, etc.). This tweed jacket is $250.
- Cuyana: As with Zady, it’s hard to find specifics about sourcing, etc., on Cuyana’s website, which sells clothing and accessories, but in its founder bio it mentions “intentional buying” and “empower[ing] local craftsmanship from around the world.” Again, not everything is work-appropriate, but some pieces are, like this U.S.A.-made silk tee for $155.
- Of A Kind: Some pieces (all? again, it’s hard to tell) of the women’s, men’s, and kids’ clothing and accessories available (in limited quantities) through Of A Kind are made in the U.S., like this $117 Kordal bamboo/rayon top.
- Bailey44: All of this label’s clothing — some of which is acceptable officewear — is designed and made in Los Angeles, although this $180 L’Avventura dress is made of “imported fabric.”
- Judith & Charles: We slipped this one in here for our readers in Canada — 90% of its clothing and accessories — many work-appropriate — are made there. This ‘Zen’ jacket, made with Italian linen, is “tailored with love in Canada” and is $465.
- Lesley Evers: Many of the pieces by this bright and colorful California-based line are too casual for workwear, but some are better bets, like this machine-washable, nylon-blend shell for $84.
- Fair Indigo: Some of the women’s, kids’ and men’s clothing and gift items sold by Fair Indigo are imported, fair-trade pieces, and the rest are domestically produced. The site gives you the option to “shop your values” and browse fair-trade, organic, U.S.A.-made, recycled, vegan, or reusable items — but virtually all of the clothing included is too casual for workwear. (Looks like a great site for gift-buying, though!)
- Three Dots: As with many of these brands, much of this label’s clothing tends toward the casual, but some pieces will work for the office — its high-quality t-shirts earned a mention in our Guide to the Best Tops Under Women’s Suits. Here’s a sleeveless dress at Zappos for $128.
- American Apparel: OK, yes, the company’s clothes are made in the U.S., but, as you probably already know, they have a long history of some other types of, um, issues (which haven’t stopped after CEO Dov Charney’s exit).
- Raven + Lily: Raven + Lily, a B Corporation, is a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum and sells clothing, jewelry, accessories, and gifts. The U.S.A. Collection comprises soy candles made by formerly homeless women in Los Angeles, and clothing made by refugee women living in Austin, TX. (Other items are fair trade made by women in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Guatemala.)
- Fashion Brands’ Message for Fall Shoppers: Buy Less, Spend More [The Wall Street Journal]
- That “Made in USA” Premium [The New York Times]
- Slow fashion brands work to put the brakes on disposable fast fashion [Los Angeles Times]
- Find Fairtrade Products [Fairtrade America]
(Pictured at top: Pleione Pleat Back Woven Print Top, available at Nordstrom for $39 in regular and petite sizes.)
Do you try to buy clothing that’s made in the U.S.? How much more are you willing to pay for it? What are your favorite brands that are manufactured domestically?
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