During the now concluded contentious presidential election, the subject of manufacturing — specifically, the geological location of it — was a major topic of battle. One story to come out of all of the China-stealing-US-jobs talk was "reshoring," or the common declaration of "the return of manufacturing."
Maybe because of its fashionable profile, the garment industry has been in particular focus. Newsworthy instances include the US Olympic team's made-in-China uniforms by Ralph Lauren and conservative pundit Glenn Beck's launch of 1791, his flag-waving denim line.
But clothing brand Carhartt has been making its clothing in the US since, well, forever. And now its is working to make this fact more a part of its message.
Carhartt's tan, swirly wave logo on its characteristically tan garments is probably familiar even to those who don't count on the brand for work wear. But construction workers, truckers, welders, farmers, and just about anyone else in America who works outside an office have a special appreciation for the brand.
"Best for wear" and "From the mill to millions" have been a couple of the mottos the brand has used since it was founded in 1889 by its namesake, Hamilton Carhartt. The "Made in America" tags on its clothing was more or less an afterthought. But now, Carhartt has released a "Made in the USA" line featuring some of its most iconic products. The line, Carhartt says, is "stitched on American soil for any person that believes in hard work."
"Rather than follow trends, our goal is to always design and manufacture premium work-worthy apparel at a price that respects our consumer’s hard-earned dollar," Carhartt Vice President of Marketing, Tony Ambroza, told brandchannel when asked about the new line's timing. When asked any Carhartt chose now to stress its "Made in America" bona-fides, Ambroza said, "Our Made in the USA line of apparel was created in response to consumer feedback; they told us they wanted to know exactly which products we make and source in the U.S. We were able to shift some product to other manufacturing facilities in order to accommodate production of these popular styles."
With the rough economy driving some to pay more attention to buying domestically-made products, Carhartt's move is a wise one, especially since the brand can back up its marketing. "Made in America" marketing can backfire, as Gap learned in 2010 when its much-touted "made in the USA" products were revealed to have been "made in China." Plus, since Carhartt was already manufacturing in the US and known and revered far more for its high quality, the line is simply a smart bit of existing brand identity boosting.
But a recent study published by the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal argues that American consumers overvalue US-made apparel. From the study:
"Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor in the textile and apparel management department in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at MU, surveyed American consumers to determine the value they place on apparel produced in different countries. She showed participants a cotton shirt, told them it was made in China, and said it sold for $40 in retail stores. She then showed them the same piece of clothing and told them it was made in the U.S. with U.S. cotton. The study participants valued the U.S. cotton shirt at $57, which is more than 42 percent higher than the same shirt produced in China."
Meanwhile, asked if Carhartt has ever considered a "retro," more fashionable line, Ambroza replied, "Our commitment is first and foremost to serve the needs of the American worker on the job. That said, we do recognize that providing products that can be worn on-and-off the job site is a benefit to the workers who purchase Carhartt products."
With this in mind, Ambroza hinted that the line was not yet complete, suggesting Carhartt fans "look for additional USA-made exclusives this holiday season."