My family and I took a trip to Maine. Never been there before but, to us, it was a distant state that seemed just as exotic as a small country in Southeast Asia. Being from California you can just about travel this entire state for days before having to cross over state lines. So Maine was one of those states that held some mystery that we decided to explore it this summer. It was a trip that we have already blocked off mentally in next year’s calendar to revisit.
I love our country and our visit to Maine made me appreciate the uniqueness and individualism within our states even more. Aside from the sweet local lobster and clam shacks so distinctive to Maine, we shopped in downtown Portland where there were these stickers adhered to the shops’ windows that encouraged locals and visitors alike to support the local merchants and manufacturers. To me, these stickers created an atmosphere of pride and self esteem for this state. People questioned where their food came from, they looked inside tags and labels before making their purchases. The visitors and merchants talked up their ‘local consciousness’. There was a postcard from a clothing manufacturer that promoted their clothing by saying, hey people, we make our clothes just a few miles from Portland and with a Maine address no less, not Canada, not over seas. They survive and thrive on their local businesses from the fishing to the retail merchants, to the coffee houses. It was as American as I can ever imagine it to be.
My view of Maine may be a bit nolstalgic and limited in scope but nevertheless, it was an image and experience that I perceived having spent short of two weeks there. Granted, Maine isn’t known for being a leader in the world of fashion. Having my clothes made in Los Angeles is something that I feel very proud to claim as part of the intrinsic value of the clothing that I offer. Being in Southern California like many other large cities, we have so many wonderful cultures and transplants from other countries that add to local flavors and scents. Perhaps all of this individualism lends to the fashion trends that eventually end up in mainstream America. So does a product such as clothing that’s made locally matter in the larger cities? Does anyone care really? Because the price to a consumer is obviously a big deal when the product gets costed out to the retail level. Then being Made in USA may not be worth it to her.
Like growing cities, there comes a time in the growth of an apparel company that it has to look elsewhere for its manufacturing needs. Even now with Balzac being manufacturered in L.A, there is this big “So What” in this patriotism of mine that is a bit cynical. So what if your clothes are made in Los Angeles, so what if you are proud to hire people locally, so what! So what… is the price for this dress? The price to support our own economy, our own people, Americans. The price to have a petite line because we are literally overlooked when it comes to our needs for fashion.
As I constantly examine every clothing label to see where their clothing is made, it’s a rare gem when a shirt claims made in the USA. Running a business in California is expensive. So when you look at just the cost of minimum wage here in California (versus pennies an hour overseas) and the cost it takes to make a blouse and sell it at a price worth paying for it’s not a hard decision just at this basic level to decide to do business across the Pacific. With competition being so fierce especially in the clothing industry, apparel production in the United States seems to be a dinosaur of its day. So what? So, what they say in real estate are the three most important features of property is “location, location, location.” In this case where the apparel industry is concerned, these three features won’t likely be sharing the same address. Until the time comes, my label will continue saying Made Proudly in USA.