The Story of American Manufacturing
The United States once had a robust apparel manufacturing economy. In the 1990’s, clothing companies left the United States in search of cheap labor and fewer environmental regulations. The U.S. manufacturing sector collapsed, many Americans lost their jobs and a new wave of exploitation began in developing global regions.
In the past few decades, Americans have consumed increasingly more and increasingly cheap clothing. Why is that clothing so cheap? Because that system is extractive - it demands maximum output from human labor and the environment without replenishing it (similar to oil being constantly pumped out of the earth yet, our bodies and our biosphere are the greatest nonrenewable resources). The secretive and unscrupulous world of textile manufacturing in developing nations is unacceptable.
Pollution from unregulated agriculture and textile industries continue to destroy the ecology of developing nations. These developing nations suffer the brunt of environmental pollution that devastates the environment and health of the communities. These regions are being exploited by big clothing companies. Still, the toxic chemicals also end up all over the world in drinking water - those dyes and finishes leach out of clothes when we wash them and end up in our local water systems.
The United Sates is the biggest exporter of cotton in the world. The vast majority of American grown cotton is shipped to China and Southwest Asia to be processed and/or sewn, and then returns to the U.S. to be sold. A typical t-shirt that is shipped back and forth around the world has an astounding carbon footprint.
The New Model of Sustainability
The new sustainability model works in accordance with human communities and the environment in order to maintain a healthy balance. Generally speaking, this means safe working conditions, real living wages and thriving ecosystems around the world. Rather than simply pass the problem along to developing nations to solve (or trust large companies to remediate the problem), we can build a new model in the USA. Keeping the supply chain entirely in America will also significantly reduce the carbon footprint of clothing.
More specifically, the benefits of entirely "Made in America" clothing are far reaching. Economically, we can create a diverse domestic economy and create new jobs for Americans. In the process, we will eliminate the need for global sweatshops. Environmentally, we can regulate the chemicals that are used for farming and manufacturing. Socially, we can give Americans a vast array of satisfying jobs in a meaningful industry that encourages human productive creativity.
Harvest & Mill is sewing clothes entirely in the San Francisco metropolitan area. We support mills that have been working hard for decades. All of our cotton comes from American farmers. 100% made in America can be done.
- In 1960, 95% of clothing purchased in America was made in America.
- Today, just 2% of clothing purchased in America is made in America.
- In the United States, between 1990 and 2011 alone, 750,000 apparel manufacturing jobs were lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- In 2011, apparel workers in China earned $1.24/hour and apparel workers in Bangladesh earned a mere $0.25/hour
- In China, 75% of diseases and 100,000 deaths are attributed annually to polluted water, the textile industry being the largest offender