Choosing "Made-in-America" Makes Me a Control Freak


Boise's outdoor Saturday market
Boise's Saturday Market | Copyright: Boise Daily Photo
A couple weeks ago, my cousin visited Boise and I had the pleasure of meeting up with her and my sister for some strolling, shopping and convo at our bangin' Saturday market in downtown Boise. We took pictures in Freak Alley, noshed at Wild Root Cafe , picked up some funky eco-friendly greeting cards at Mixed Greens  and then all ended up with pre-loved designer jeans from Piece Unique. I scored a pair of wonderful J Brands - perfect timing since I've been working with ONE pair of jeans since last year :)

It was one of those short windows of time that I was without B, and I tried to soak up every second. Not because I needed to escape, but because I wanted to finish an adult conversation and catch up with family. And ours is large, Italian and loud, which typically means that we hang in groups of 705. Fun, but not great for intimate conversation.

So, naturally, I loved every minute laughing and catching up in our girl cousin trio.
My sister, Lauren (left) + cousin Farah (right) in Freak Alley. Aren't they the cutest?
My cousin Farah has a wonderful world perspective. Growing up in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India, she gave me fresh inspiration and validation for SproutFit.

I explained the overarching goal: to simplify children's clothing and solve problems, not create more! Clothes should last through growth spurts, and not have to be replaced every few months. This will:

  • cut down on textile waste that quickly accumulates and ends up in landfills
  • save time and money (no more monthly closet purge followed by replacing clothes -- just to do it again in a month!)

When we began talking about my commitment to USA-made, she asked me why it was so important, when it is possible to ethically manufacture overseas. While SE Asia is known for garment manufacturing (and many US and EU companies exploit these areas with the lowest labor costs in the world), not all factories are dilapidated sweatshops working 6 year old children to the bone.

She made a great point.

Our conversation made me realize that I wasn't addressing the problem I was actually trying to be a part of solving. Manufacturing in the US doesn't automatically solve the fair wage ethics problem, and it most certainly doesn't protect workers' poor working conditions and sub-optimal treatment. Modern-day slavery is alive and (unfortunately) well everywhere.
Young boy working in garment factory in Cambodia
Young boy working in garment factory in Cambodia
I've worked in and around food production my entire life. And in my experience, the factories closest in proximity to the company's HQ are the ones being monitored the closest. This equates to more accountability, which creates more efficient outputs, better quality and faster conflict resolution/problem solving.

I have no doubt that ethical manufacturing is possible in SE Asia, but with my home base being the US, it will be easier to build a transparent supply chain one state away, than continents away.

I love that my cousin, without even knowing it, inspired me to continue answering the "why" and "how" behind my business decisions. And even more importantly -- the "WHO" behind our clothes!

Often, entrepreneurs (like politicians) are eager to gain support and throw around feel-good descriptions, only to crash and burn when they half-ass fulfill their commitments.

I believe those risks are immediately mitigated when you're forced to answer the tough questions and look your intentions square in the face.

As a millennial, I expect retailers,  food companies and restaurants to be transparent, so why should clothing companies be held to different standards? And here's the kicker, if I'm expecting it of others, why wouldn't I deliver that same level of transparency in my own brand?

When someone asks our brand, "who made your clothes?" We will be proud to know the names of folks in the factory just an hour flight away. We will be proud to share our supply chain practices. 

At the end of the day, that is why I want to produce my clothes here in America. Shadiness and corner cutting happens everywhere, but it's much easier to rectify problems and sustainably control quality without the hassle of traveling thousands of miles.  

So, if you want to call me a control freak, at least give me Quality and Ethics Control Enthusiast :)

American flag in a green field with clouds and sunset overhead

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published