According to the US Department of Labor, in 1996, the American textile industry employed 624,000 people. In 2013 that number had fallen to 120,000.
It is quite staggering that as almost everything in my lifetime has increased in cost (healthcare, college tuition, ice cream, rent, apples, gasoline, etc., etc.), clothing seems to be a glaring exception. By now I think most of us realize it is mass production and cheap overseas labor that has led to the concept of disposable and fast fashion. Most of us have overstuffed closets and have bragged about the "deal" we got on some new item of clothing. Simultaneously, we also complain about outsourcing and manufacturing jobs disappearing in our own country.
There is a paradox here that I am still grappling with. Is Cheap a good thing? A bad thing? The enemy? Are we willing to give up our ever changing wardrobe in exchange for fewer US made items? Is this a global economy and to fight this inertia towards cheap clothes just a losing battle? Is this the golden age of cheap? Will the effects on people and planet eventually catch up with us?
I have many conflicting thoughts on this subject and over a decade of experience attempting to produce organic cotton fabrics in the USA. I haven't "solved" anything, but this year I am trying at least to pay better attention. To look at my labels when I put on the items. To thank the cotton growers, the spinners, ginners, cutters, sewers, designers, wholesalers, retailers, and more whose labor literally clothes me no matter what country they are in - to pause and say thank you.
Here are a couple of interesting posts that touch on this touchy subject: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/02/why-does-american-made-clothing-cost-more/ and https://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/12/3-simple-ways-to-inspire-mindful-consumption/
Are you willing to take a close look at where you wear? If so, please list the "made in" locations of the items you have on today in the comment section below.
This isn't about judgement or scolding. Just an exploration into something we all have in common. To start a dialog perhaps or maybe just a place for me to process the noise in my head. Thank you for reading this.