By Adrienne Suhm

What does “Made in America” mean in the context of apparel production and why does it matter? To understand why today our clothing is produced off-shore, crossing oceans and continents before landing in our closets, we must first look to the past.

In the late 20th century, American manufacturing companies were crippled by the opening of major markets in developing countries such as China and Bangladesh. These foreign governments allowed for below-average working standards, wages, and quality assurance procedures that consistently drove down production costs. Many American apparel manufacturers could no longer compete financially, and the vast majority of American clothing manufacturing facilities shuttered and closed. As a result, today over 90% of the apparel Americans buy is imported from other counties, mostly China.

Only in recent years has the American mindset shifted to recognize the importance of supporting domestic manufacturing and home-grown businesses. As the demand for a simpler, more transparent apparel manufacturing process grows, many clothing companies are choosing to produce and manufacture in America. The Buy American Movement and the Made in America Movement are organizations that provide certification to American companies and support America-based manufacturing. elborne’s own brands Suzanne Rae, Amour Vert, and Erin Considine (pictured) are committed to producing products exclusively in the United States; a policy that provides employment to American workers, quality control over resourcing and labor, and often utilizes sustainable materials sourced domestically.

The decline in American manufacturing can be viewed as a primarily systematic problem, leaving consumers unsure of how to take action. However, actively seeking out United States- based brands is undeniably beneficial. A clothing label conveys much more than just a location of origin – the simple phrase “Made in America” indicates high quality standards, local job opportunities, a thriving domestic economy, minimal and sustainable purchasing practices.