Sustainable clothing is at the heart of the Made in Los Angeles movement. Here’s what—and who—you need to know.
In a country that’s often divided over any number of issues (take your pick), there’s a commonality in rallying around the Made in America movement. Nowhere is this needed more than in the fashion sector weighed down by challenges ranging from carbon emissions, water usage, and labor issues, to name a few.
Just a half-a-century ago, more than 75 percent of the clothing purchased in the U.S. was made on American soil. That dropped to 29 percent by 2020. Despite America’s love for, well, America, that dropped dramatically over the last two decades—now, only about 2 percent of the 20 billion apparel items purchased by Americans every year is actually made in the U.S. today.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 750,000 clothing manufacturing jobs disappeared from the U.S. between 1990 and 2011 as globalization moved production to cheaper factories, mostly in Asia. China now produces 65 percent of textiles exported around the world.
Made in America
Despite the decades of setbacks, the Made in America movement is picking up momentum once again. Once-thriving garment districts are reclaiming their history. New York City recently announced the return of its garment district with the launch of the Slow Factory.
In fact, a survey last year found 74 percent of consumers check the country of origin labels before making a clothing purchase.
Forty-five percent of consumers say they are more likely to always or usually purchase Made in the USA clothing labels; 47 percent say knowing whether or not an item is made in the U.S. is an important factor in making purchasing decisions.
That’s higher than those who cited sustainable (30 percent), environmentally friendly (24 percent), and recycled (20 percent). Twenty percent of consumers say they are also more inclined to associate country of origin with quality.
Made in Los Angeles
Those consumers need to look no further than Los Angeles with its booming fashion district that’s at the heart of the Made in America movement. And a growing number of the city’s labels are doing it sustainably, too.
Take Reformation, the celebrity-loved sustainable fashion brand that makes all of its clothing from low-impact materials, rescued deadstock fabrics, and repurposed vintage clothing right in Los Angeles.
Mate the Label’s organic basics and essentials are all made in Los Angeles. The brand’s commitment to sustainability and toxic-free garments makes it a must-shop, especially if you’re still committed to your Covid loungewear (as you should be).
There are stylish, sustainable garments from Southland-based Whimsey & Row, For Days, and Graceful District, to name a few more. But the list is long and growing.
Los Angeles Apparel
“We are contrarians, deeply focused on sustainability and efficiency in order to advance the interests of our customers, our workers, our shareholders, the community and the world,” reads the Los Angeles Apparel (LAA) website. It’s transparent about its social responsibility and sustainability metrics for its Made in Los Angeles collection.
The brand prides itself on being sweatshop-free and says all of its workers earn fair wages, with starting employees making an average of $20 an hour. “The garment workers at our factory are experts in their field and can make up to $35 an hour with productivity bonuses in a safe and ethically managed environment.”
LAA doesn’t just manufacture in the U.S., but it also sources its textile and yarn products from domestic producers, too.
“Over half of our yarn consumption is derived from domestic sources. A strong domestic farmer and yarn industry is good for our company’s financial viability in the long run. It also helps us serve the interests of our customers, is good for the health of the domestic and continental manufacturing base, and is ultimately good for the environment by reducing the impact of our supply chain’s carbon footprint,” the company says.
It sources sustainable and organic materials for its basics including tees, hoodies, and activewear.
“We continue to lead the charge on ethical production practices and nearly 100 percent of our production and shipping byproducts are recycled — including our scrap fabric, paper, boxes, plastic and everything that goes into manufacturing garments,” the company says.
“We are consistently developing new products that use our leftover and scrap fabric to create one of a kind and limited edition pieces and finding new ways to upcycle damaged or dated garments.”
By producing in California, LAA says consumers can be assured the products are environmentally friendly because of the state’s rules on industry dyeing.
All of that dovetails into what it means to be sustainable, and even more than that, Made in Los Angeles.
“We are committed to eliminating the trend of fast fashion within our industry, instead focusing our efforts on producing high-quality pieces that will last you for years,” the company says.
“We believe in local manufacturing from both an efficiency and an ethical point of view.”
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