In my post about trying to determine where to buy clothes that do not undermine or go against one's own values, I mentioned how difficult it is to know much of anything at all about the clothing - where it was made, the corporate policies behind it, the company's own values (if they really have any), etc. I do know that the time to find this stuff out is not when you are in the outlet mall, looking at a great pair of pants that are 50% off. It would be nice if clothing stores would start to advertise the information about their practices and manufacturing in the store, much like how some restaurants (particularly fast food joints) are putting up posters that show the nutritional information for every item on the menu. But, I won't hold my breath here...
What I did find recently is a few companies that seem to be making clothing in the US and adhering to at least some of the things that matter to me. And, even more interestingly, I found one large clothing and gear company that is amazingly open about all of this stuff, even if they are not perfect. Quickly, some of the locally-based manufacturers - like pretty small and in one or two locations in major cities - are Bonobos and BetaBrands. As you might expect, the clothes are a bit costlier than the $39 pair of Levis at the department store, but that cost is reasonable if it is a fair value for the product as well as its true cost (with some profit built in, of course). I don't like the idea of spend $70-100 on a pair of pants, but I think I should do it if I a) need pants, b) want someone to actually get a living wage making pants, and c) want the company manufacturing my pants to be doing so in a way that aligns with my own values. Money talks, right? The more people buying clothes with this in mind, the better these companies might do and the more of an impact there will be on the textiles industry at large.
The other big surprise for me, one that I should not really been surprised by, was a company named after a region in South America. You know, starts with a "P", ends with an "atagonia". They have extensive information on their website about their various practices and policies, are amazingly open about what they do and why they do it (even admitting where they can do better), and they provide a downloadable file that lists every factory the work with and its address, in case you want to check in on them. Not only is that amazingly refreshing to me, but the list itself is really quite interesting to look at - lots of countries on the list, all over the planet. And, they still use a fair number of factories in the US, although it is a fraction of their overall manufacturing effort.
Good stuff here, all around. It makes me feel hopeful that I can buy clothing with a conscience, although the pennypincher in me is cringing a great deal.