Shopping for Quality, Ethics, & Cost per Wear

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One of my 2013 resolutions was to buy less cheap/disposable “fast fashion”, and focus on classic, quality items that last forever, and preferably are either second-hand or made in the USA, or some form of non-sweatshop labor. I started thinking about  this after reading about a number of horrific sweatshop fire related deaths in Bangladesh, and reflecting on how my shopping purchases could be contributing to the problem.

I could help (ever so slightly) by changing my fashion consumption in this case,  by thinking of my clothes and purchases in quality/ethics/cost per wear mode, instead of lots of cheap/disposable clothes that were most likely made in a sweatshop and would be thrown into a landfill in a year or so. Plus I like the idea of purchasing things made in the USA and supporting American workers, and the return of manufacturing in general to America.

Once I started going through my closet I was happy to discover that many of my favorite items are already made in the USA, such as most of my designer denim, which I also usually purchase second-hand as well, so double bonus! For new brands though, I discovered pretty quickly it is harder that I thought to find out who manufactures in the USA and who does not. Some companies hide this info on their website and you have to call and give an item number, or the only way to find out is to find the actual item in the store and check the label.

James Perse & Splendid are two brands I have already been buying and am (for the most part) happy with the quality. They are mostly made domestically, but you do have to check the labels since some are made in China. I shop the contemporary section of TJMaxx for both and usually have good luck finding pieces for about $20-$40.

American Apparel: I love the “basics are hip” vibe, and the comfy clothes also with a mission statement that I am totally on board with. However the sketchy/racy ads are a bit much for me, and make me feel a little skeevy. Plus the quality seems to have gone down the past couple years. I’ve bought some pieces recently where the zipper broke after a wash, or the stitching was ripping out after one or two wears. I think AA will be my place for  basics, such as tank tops and socks, but I’m not in any hurry to try any of the more expensive items.

Everlane: I haven’t tried Everlane yet, but think they will be next on my list. I don’t think they make all their products in the USA, but all seems to be ethically sourced and well thought out, which is good enough for me. I think I will look into a silk blouse and cashmere cardigan to wear to work, and a classic t-shirt and men’s french terry for the weekend. I recently read Gretchen’s Everlane review for the classic t-shirts and she was happy with the quality (and spot on with her previous post about quality and expectations). I’ve seen similar good review on Everlane from Cup of Jo, and Les Anti-Modernes.

LLBean: Although the Bean has been outsourcing much of their manufacturing they do have a whole “Made in the USA” section which is worth exploring. Happy to see my beloved Boat & Tote made the list!

What Made in the USA brands do you like? How to decide between quantity/quality? Does the type of labor that went into creating your clothes ever factor into purchasing decisions?

2 thoughts on “Shopping for Quality, Ethics, & Cost per Wear

    • Great suggestion! I gave them a call and they said they did have a factory in LA, but very few products were made there. They did have a good Q&A on the web site (http://www.alternativeapparel.com/info/social_responsibility) where they outline their principles for vendor and eco social responsibility. So I guess while they do manufacture goods outside the US, they say they hold their vendors to a high standard. Sounds encouraging, but my skeptical side wonders if it really can be that good!

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