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Born in the USA: An Appeal to American Quality

Born in the USA

It seems to me that, unfortunately, nearly everything I own these days had to cross a major body of water on its long journey to my doorstep. This isn’t a xenophobic sentiment, as much as it is a genuine love of the American way. A sincere appreciation of true quality: something that seemed to have been as lost an art as dueling. Luckily, these dual concepts of quality and American have seen a recent revival.

Oak Street Bootmakers, Made in the USA

General Knot Co., Made in the USA

It came first in the menswear industry, when hip, emerging brands such as Epaulet, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Oak Street Bootmakers, Kiel James Patrick, Tanner Goods and the Hillside followed in the footsteps of the guys that had been doing it for ages.

Kiel James Patrick, Made in the USA

Classic American brands like L.L. Bean, Brooks Brothers, Levi Strauss, and J. Press, who have been producing superior goods within our borders for over a century. And now, in the age of the global economy, it’s refreshing to see a re-dedication to true quality and American craftsmanship.

L.L. Bean Factory in Freeport, ME

L.L. Bean “Bean Boot,” Made in Freeport, ME, since 1912

Michael Williams, founder and curator of the popular blog “A Continuous Lean,” champions the “made in the USA” cause, and has collaborated with Club Monaco for a clothing line made exclusively on the eastern seaboard. He believes the ethos runs deeper than mere state lines, as in “its not who is still doing it but why they are doing it.” To Williams, it’s about quality, heritage, community and character. He focuses on, and often features these companies that are “fighting the good fight,” as he put it in a recent WWD article-the brands that are making things a certain way.

 

The New Traditionalists & ducduc factory, in Torrington, CT

This has been the philosophy of our founder and CEO Philip Erdoes, who set up shop in Connecticut in 2006 for reasons beyond mere patriotic sentiment. The proximity permitted him to institute and ensure a certain quality and attention to detail from the moment a piece is designed all the way until it reaches the customer’s home. This high level of control also allowed him to customize the entire process for the individual, allowing their choice of hardware, wood, finish, fabric, sizing and upholstery; ultimately adding to the overall character of the piece.

“Making our products here allowed us to redefine the value equation for the customer, change the rules of the game, if you will. Frankly, it was the only way for us to succeed. And don’t kid yourself-you will design differently if you know the product is going to be made in your backyard. You will infuse it with more of an American aesthetic. Which is exactly what we were after.”

This sentiment is more than just a sound model for his business, as Philip has a penchant for Hickey Freeman suits (Made in Rochester) and dons a Starbucks “Indivisible” wristband, an initiative that donates proceeds to the “Create Jobs for USA Fund.”

Hickey Freeman factory in Rochester, NY (image from A Continuous Lean)

Hickey Freeman suits, Made in the USA (Image from A Continuous Lean)

Interestingly, the furniture industry, (which as a whole has been particularly smitten with moving operations offshore) is experiencing a massive shift in the form of media attention and a call to action on Capitol Hill. Industry leaders gathered in Washington DC last month for the announcement of a House Beautiful survey which investigated furniture consumer preferences. Ninety one percent of respondents agreed that they would prefer to buy domestic furniture, but nearly half of people surveyed said their last purchase was either manufactured outside of the US or they were unsure of its origin. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), took to the cause, calling on consumers to buy American at the press conference. It’s unclear what the net effect of all this rumbling will be. But what is clear is that “offshoring” is coming under serious question.

For a look at companies on the frontline of this American Made movement, check out “A Continuous Lean” ’s American List, which directs consumers to a multitude of quality goods that are made domestically and made the right way.

One such company is High Falls Mercantile, a furniture maker and seller of eclectic home furnishings located in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. They produce their furniture locally with re-claimed woods. According to founder Larry Ruhl, HFM has recently been making a conscience shift towards finding quality, domestically made products. According to Ruhl, the shift allows him to be more involved in the manufacturing process, “visiting the factory that makes our dinnerware allows us to be more involved, as well supporting the folks right in our own backyards.”

High Falls Mercantile, Hudson Valley, NY

 

It’s great to see others fall in line with the philosophy that we have always valued so highly. How important do you think it is to buy American and would you go out of your way to do it?

Join in on the conversation with the hastag #MadeinUSA

Also, check out this popular Made in the USA Tumblr, which features companies who maintain the heritage of fine domestic goods and how they do it.

***(Addendum: Due to reader inquiries, I would like to clarify: While the “century old” brands I mentioned above do still make products in the United States, they do not make all of their products here. The American consumer that is seeking domestically made high quality goods must be very careful. This is the reason that I included Michael Williams’ American List, which specifies exactly which of their products are made on American soil. He has done the research and it is a very useful tool.)

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