What does it mean for my business to be American made? I often get asked as to why I chose to design and manufacture my products in the United States.
The textile industry has been under scrutiny, due to the fact that often times unsafe and unethical working conditions drive an industry where mass-manufacturing and low costs fuel the market. Garment workers, as well as other textile factory workers will frequently work for pennies a day in order to make ends meet. Women make up the majority of these workers in areas where they are unable to do much else due to their gender. Children are often forced to work alongside the women in factory slave labor, as well. These factories are hot, humid, crowded, and not structurally sound, resulting in collapses that entrap or even kill workers. Owners do not maintain the facilities, nor take caution as to where the textile waste is left, leading to environmental pollution that affects the local water supply and damages the surrounding environment for future generations.
It is incredibly easy to turn a blind eye to the nature of an enormous global industry. Why? Because it is also easy for consumers to go to the store and pick up a cheap textile product with no indication as to what really happened behind the scenes, other than the tag where the far-off land is embroidered. The low cost of a product is often what a consumer analyzes first and foremost - but what about the social implications of making that purchase?
The textile industry used to thrive in the United States, but what happened? Consumers wanted to spend less and less on goods, creating a disposable textile market. Textiles have turned into throwaway items that consumers become bored with and replace frequently with the next new trend. This caused companies to outsource work, taking jobs away from Americans so that the lowest absolute cost could be achieved for production. This created a textile economy in which fast-paced designing and short-lived trends replaced the higher quality goods that consumers anticipated to keep for years to come.
Sure, I could have my products made for a few dollars overseas - no problem! That would save me a lot of money - however, I choose not to. I will not and cannot have my business support an industry where people suffer as a result of my wanting to spend less on quality goods. I cannot sell an item to a consumer knowing what I know about the industry. I will not have my textiles printed in a community where the ink and dye waste pollutes the local water sources. I will not support factories where women are barely making ends meet and children are subjugated into cheap or free factory labor.
I hope that consumers - whether they are my customers or other businesses' customers - make a conscious decision when they purchase a product. Where did it come from? What is the story behind the good? Was it created ethically? Is it high quality?
I know where my products come from and that they are created ethically. I work with a manufacturer who pays a legal wage for work, and I work with local seamstresses. I want to help keep jobs in, and bring back jobs to, America. I print my fabrics with eco-friendly, water-soluble ink, using a method that produces the least possible amount of waste in the textile industry today.
I hope, that at the very least, I help consumers think about where they are spending their money and what ethical issues underlie their purchases.
American made - that is what it means to me. What does it mean to you?