At left: Patagonia’s admirably transparent Footprint Chronicles show where their clothing is assembled. We wish other brands would follow suit. At right: American Apparel has nothing to be transparent about: just about everything’s made in their LA factory by fair labor workers.
It’s called Vertical Integration. By directly controlling all or as many as possible aspects of your own product—from sourcing to manufacture to distribution to retail—you save big bucks. Folks criticize AA because of the immorality of it’s whacky founder’s voracious, very public sexual appetites. But said same founder has built a big factory in downtown LA where garment workers toil in a solar-powered English-teaching well-paying environmentally-responsible environment.
And no one criticizes Eileen Fisher, the progressive woman-owned company, with its serene models posing on serene beaches or Patagonia with its gritty iconoclastic integrity and openness re: its manufacture process for not going Made in USA. And that no one includes myself, until this morning, pre-coffee, I sat moodily reading the New Yorker wondering for the umpteenth morning in a row why certain great companies support the hell out of elephant, our little indie rag, and some could give a Shiite about such grassroots endeavors.
And so I said to myself, Self, you gotta give AA their due. They’re one of the pioneers (even if 15 years after Patagonia) in getting sustainable organic cotton out there (conventional chemicallish cotton, which you’re likely wearing right now, is one of the world’s greatest toxin producers).
I wish my idol, Yvon Chouinard, would bring the manufacture process back here, to the US, even if just a bit—and retrain a generation of Americans to make his sturdy wares. He’d become an American hero—not just a hero of adventurers or environmentalists or entrepreneurs, as he is already. An American hero. His influence is great, and far-reaching—and I wouldn’t be surprised if others like prAna or Nau or Horny Toad or North Face would follow suit.
In the meantime, I’ll support both companies…and I’ll buy vintage as much as possible.
Time to make a cuppa (organic, fair-trade Green Mountain) coffee (from me old high school home state of VT.).