November 27, 2010

My Top Picks: Made in USA

Frank Weiss, my great grandfather, founded LeeMar Knitting Mills.

My grandfather, his brother in-law and my uncle soon joined the factory. The factory manufactured women’s knitwear in Long Island City. My grandfather Leo would drive to the factory around 4.30am each morning, meet with his team of craftsmen and sell racks of women’s knitwear. The factory housed knitting machinery mostly from the United States and produced woman’s knitwear for Lord Jeff and Kimberly Clark.

Quality and craftsmanship were paramount with the most highly valued machinery and dress makers. The high end machinery was exported from Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

In 1980 LeeMar Knitting Mills closed. The factory was sold to Swingline Staples, which later sold the building to MOMA QNS. The factory floor where I wandered as a kid is now the Museum of Modern Art Queens.

MOMA QNS, formerly Swingline Staples and LeeMar Knitting Mills

US manufacturing in 1980 was impeded by artificially high labor costs—namely unions—and that combined with escalating shipping and marketing costs placed the United States at a competitive disadvantage. The machinery at Leemar Knitting Mills was sold, put into containers and shipped to the Philippines. Sewing, a craft that my family and the team at the factory mastered in Long Island City, was moving quickly to China and India.

Today the United States is home to many craftsmen creating high value products, returning to build family industries. There are craftsmen like Quoddy who makes hand sewn shoes in Maine, Winn Perry’s Jordan Saylor who stocks some of America’s finest brands and Archival Clothing who is designing, developing and producing a line of US manufactured clothing and accessories.

Driven by the desire for our clothing and accessories to last, companies like Archival are bringing back the designs and detail that branded “Made in USA” an important attribute of handcrafted garments. Focus on craftsmanship, sourcing local designers, durable fabrics and stitching, and attention to detail creates an amazing pair of shoes, tote, musette or t-shirt.

Hand stitched in Perry, Maine.

By purchasing products made locally we are investing in quality products for ourselves and equally important: the craftsmen and their specialty tools. We are keeping our eye on quality, construction, and local manufacturing.  These craftsmen are carefully sourcing buttons, stitches, straps and extremely durable materials; meeting the needs of the discriminating shopper.  Quality craftsmanship and durability should win over mass produced goods from factories in countries like China.

Thirty years ago LeeMar Knitting Mills lost to overseas competition. Today we can bring back the quality and craftsmanship that LeeMar represented by choosing high quality products from local artisans.

Avoid the cheap, disposable purchase at Walmart and invest in pair of hand sewn durable boots from Quoddy.

Take pride in shopping at our local farm stand, shop and market. It is time to reconnect with our craftsmen-  small scale clothing manufacturers, steel works, fabricators, and tradesmen.

Matterial: Tablets, Journals, Notecards, Soft Goods, ETC.

Americana, Metal Studio
Standard Metal Works

Archival Clothing
Hanky Panky
Win Perry

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