By Katy Carik
Once upon a time, the term “Made in America” meant well constructed, long lasting products, and fair wages paid to those who made them. Today, unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
Built in obsolescence is common in many products, from fridges to cars, and it’s especially pronounced in technology – and fast fashion clothing, which can fall apart after a few wears. Moreover, many American brands like Forever 21 are infamous for using sweatshop labour, and others, like Victoria’s Secret, even use ‘slave’ labour in U.S. prisons, paying inmates virtually pennies a day.
Other fashion brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Joe Fresh, La Senza and others have stopped production in the U.S., citing ‘high labour costs’ as the reason, and have relocated to countries like Bangladesh, where they pay workers terrible wages for working in dangerous conditions.
On the other hand, there are some awesome American ethical fashion brands reclaiming the Made In America label. Large cities like New York and L.A. have thriving fashion districts that are creating new, innovative production processes and materials that help people and the planet, resulting in highly covetable but sustainable clothing.
Here are 10 fantastic ethical American fashion brands that are changing how we think about American made clothing.
Ethical American Fashion Brands Proudly Made In America
1. Mara Hoffman
This top designer’s pretty, summery vegan and sustainable clothing is all ethically made in America – mainly in the garment district of New York City or Los Angeles. Mara strongly believes in ‘Made In America’ production because it fosters a healthy local economy, bolsters national employment levels, creates a smaller carbon footprint, contributes less to pollution, and ensures that employees are treated fairly under the strict USA worker protection laws.
“Our California-based swim manufacturers are longtime Mara Hoffman partners with whom we have close working and personal relationships.”
Simplicity is the key to Orgotton’s clothing. They produce everything locally in Philadelphia, and as you probably guessed from their name (a blend of ‘organic’ and ‘cotton’), their clothing is full of GOTS certified textiles. Another added sustainability feature is their multi-option clothing design: for example, dresses come with straps that turn one garment into five different sleeve styles.
“Our priority is to create ethically made clothing from organic and sustainable materials.”
Image below: credit here.
Based in Nashville, Imogene + Willie takes their inspiration from vintage denim that fits and lasts. They make expertly cut American classics: basically, tees, button down tops and jeans for men and women. Every pair is patterned, cut, and sewn by fairly paid workers, only an hour away from the Nashville design studio and their denim is American-made too.
“Imogene + Willie is a small operation made up of creative, open-minded folks who enjoy working hard and working together.”
LA brand Reformation is a guiding light for stylish girls looking for sustainable fashion, and for up and coming brands wanting to know how to do it right. Their perfectly Instagrammable dresses, tops, jeans and swimwear are all ethically produced in Los Angeles. American ethical fashion doesn’t get chicer than this! The brand is super proud of their sustainability and on their website, they share information about how much water and energy is saved on every garment.
“We built our own sustainable factory in Los Angeles, where we work with awesome people from all over the world.”
5. Black Crane
Comfortable, elegant, and utilitarian describes Black Crane’s garments. Their designers, Alexander Yamaguchi and Momoko Suzuki proudly incorporate their interest in ancient Japanese culture into their clothing – but everything else about this label is as American as apple pie, from the fabric weaving to the sewing.
“We are committed to making everything in Los Angeles because it is vital for us to support our community as they help us.”
The Hackwith Design experience is unique – they make exclusive, conscious clothing that’s only produced once it’s ordered, to reduce waste. Hackwith releases one limited edition collection every week, which can include anything from basics to ballgowns. As a proudly American label, they are sure to include options for women of all shapes and sizes.
“Everything is made in-house in our Minnesota studio by our talented team of seamstresses. To reduce waste, many of our items are not made until ordered by you.”
7. Maven Women
A brand for female CEOs – or maybe the next female President – Maven Women is intentionally based in Washington, D.C. to delivery what professional women need and want in their clothing. Owner Rebecca Ballard and her team meticulously design sustainable materials, like eco- Ponte de Roma (it took them three years to find an eco-friendly producer), before taking their clothes into the production phase.
“For our development as well as production we partner with Lefty Production Company, a woman-owned manufacturer in Los Angeles. All staff at Lefty are paid a living wage and we are big fans of the warm, welcoming ethos of the company.”
8. Christy Dawn
Are you a ‘dresses’ kind of girl? Then you’ll love these beautiful and bohemian frocks by Christy Dawn. Best known for her summer-ready dresses and vintage-inspired designs, everything she makes is ethically produced in Los Angeles with deadstock fabric.
“We seek to make dresses you want to live in – timeless, versatile pieces that you’ll reach for day after day. Each dress is made using upcycled fabric, and sewn in Los Angeles by our team of dressmakers. We treat every member of our team like family – and as we grow, we intend to keep it that way.”
Of all the ethical American fashion brands, this one is most specialised in capsule wardrobe essentials that will keep you stylish for the years to come. They are committed to transparency producing only in the U.S.A and make all their garments from either deadstock material, or sustainable fabrics like Tencel.
“Our woven clothing is made in a family run factory in NYC, where many of the employees have worked there together for over 30 years – and we visit often. Our sweaters are knitted by our partner factory in Los Angeles that is audited annually for social and environmental compliance – and gets 70% of its energy from solar power! “
10. Alabama Chanin
Of all the ethical American fashion brands here, this may be the most sustainable one. Ms Chanin is a strong believer in American traditional clothes making, as seen in her dedication to creating locally sewn garments and goods crafted mainly from organic cotton. We love how her pieces are made to suit all body types and ages.
“At Alabama Chanin, we preserve traditions of community, design, producing, and living arts by examining work and life through the acts of storytelling, photography, education, and making.”