Since the 1950s and beyond, manufacturing clothing in the United States was the norm rather than the exception. Over time, the laws have changed, consumers consume more, and a clothing label that says “Made in The USA” has become a rare find. Movies like The True Cost, along with tragedies in sweat shops overseas have brought the overwhelming problems to the world’s attention—and now we know these same problems exist in the US as well. Less manufacturing in the United States can make it more difficult to find the talent and skill to help designers and companies create their products. Keeping American companies alive and thriving means jobs and booming local economies, both in big cities and in small ones.
The good news is that there’s been a conscious resurgence of apparel both designed and created in the United States. From independent designers having their clothing manufactured in their own cities, to big luxury brands that have made a deliberate commitment to produce in the United States, the result of this practice means it’s a win-win for everyone who participates in the clean manufacturing of goods and apparel. Artisan skills and practices are continued and passed on, neighborhoods thrive, and beautiful things get made.
Researching this article was fascinating for me—and it became a bit of a rabbit hole, since the history, information, opinions and reality on this topic are endless. Many labels that I really love, like rag & bone, The Row and Jason Wu are made here in America, and if you visit retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, you can type in “made in the USA” to find all US-made products; it’s a great feature that most people may not realize is there. It takes some effort to find these products sometimes, but it’s worth the look. Here are three looks that celebrate summer and the creativity and beauty of American made products.
Another NYC based designer, Beau & Ro Bag Company, teamed with designer Lisa Linhardt and the archives of Minnie Patterson, who ran a small leather goods store in the 40s and 50s. The exotic skin remnants from that time have been used to create a collection of limited edition bags, with 10% of the proceeds going back to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Their Cobra Patchwork Bag, with its colored vintage cobra remnants, is really amazing. Seattle-based jewelry designer Joanna Morgan has made the perfect accessory for this look: The Ishtar Shield Neckpiece in sterling silver on a hand stitched leather strap is next-level cool.
Perpetually hip label rag & bone maintains their urban and contemporary style using great design and American companies, including Waterbury Button Company, the oldest button maker in the US. I love how rag & bone denim fits, and the cropped flare is a big look for this summer, so this Stark Crop Jean is a perfect addition to your denim looks. I got this Brenna Cold Shoulder Sweater at Intermix Bellevue a few weeks ago and have had so many compliments—if your summer weather sometimes calls for a light sweater, this is a really good one. It is sexy without being too much, and it has a little nautical feeling as well. I thought a pair of espadrilles from American company Frye would be great with the cropped denim, and these Leo Perf 2 Piece soft nubuck ones look as comfortable as they are chic. I have a thing for clutches, and Clare V. is one of my favorite designers. This Los Angeles-based designer has such a downtown, cool girl take on things, yet she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I had a hard time picking a favorite, but the Core Supreme Fold-Over Clutch with stripes works with just about everything. Rodarte is another LA-based company that makes unconventionally cool things, including these Antique Honey Brass Earrings.
Finally, what’s more summery than a crisp white dress and baseball? Don’t think these two things go together? They certainly do when you pair a James Perse High Gauge Tank Dress with an all-American Levi MLB Denim Jacket with a NY Yankees patch on it. Even if you aren’t a Yankees fan, the combination is too perfect. If you don’t want to cover up that pretty V in the back of the dress with a jacket, then add the Pamela Love Levitation Lariat Necklace, worn down the back instead of the front. Pamela Love makes all her beautiful things in Manhattan’s garment district, another American designer at work in the heart of her city. Iconic Boston brand New Balance makes American made sneakers, and now they have done a capsule collection for J.Crew. These cool sneakers with the dress gives this look an urban feel. Shinola Detroit partners with other American companies, including the Horween Leather Company, one of the last companies in America to still undertake the full production process in-house, from raw unprocessed hides to fully finished leather. This stunning Regatta Blue Mini Zip Backpack from this collaboration may be on trend now, but it’s meant to last a lifetime. Finally, for those of us who remember the ’60s trend “mood rings” (they were quite the big deal), Moorea Seal carries rings made of vintage mood stones salvaged from authentic 1960s jewelry and reset by designer Proteales by hand in a sterling silver. I am definitely in the mood to own these one-of-a-kind rings.
Making a conscious choice to not only shop local—but also on a broader spectrum, to shop stateside—has a ripple effect that serves the communities that we all work, play and live in. Just like reading the labels when you shop for groceries, check out the label of your clothing and where it comes from in order to help the American companies get the support they need to keep creating and growing. Happy Summer!