Transparency is a big topic of conversation in the apparel industry these days.
Jen Busfield introduces a collaborative initiative in the US that aims to change the supply chain problems of today.
With the recent loss of lives in Bangladesh and the harsh truth about poor working conditions and low wages, consumers are considering the real cost of cheap apparel. They’re thinking about investing their dollars in products that are made with social responsibility and with a transparent supply chain. A lot of consumers are even purposing to spend their dollars locally, because investing locally provides its own unique accountability.
It makes a big difference when you can feel confident about a purchase you’re making; that your money is supporting good business, fair treatment of the labor force and helping to provide living wages. It makes an even bigger difference when you can actually talk to the people behind the scenes, the ones who actually make the product available for purchase. It’s akin to meeting your local farmer during a Saturday morning Farmer’s Market and being invited to stop by the farm anytime for some really fresh, really good food that’s grown nearby where you live.
The Cotton of the Carolinas project sponsored by TS Designs is bringing that “meet the farmer” experience to the apparel industry. How would it make you feel if you could track your cotton t-shirt back to the US farmer who grew it? What kind of confidence would you have in an apparel purchase if you knew that you were supporting over 500 US jobs that provide fair treatment and living wages? And what if your purchase just happened to be one of the softest, most durable t-shirts you ever owned?
Collaboration of farmers and manufacturers
When the Cotton of the Carolinas concept was introduced, industry professionals scoffed at the idea that farmers and manufacturers would actually make a concerted effort to work together to create a final product. Industry standard is that cotton is grown somewhere; and that manufactures get their goods from that same “somewhere.” It’s never as real as buying from the cotton farmer in the next county within the same state. And that is what Cotton of the Carolinas wanted to be: real.
Dirt to shirt in the good ole USA
We say “Made in America” with pride, but it goes even beyond that. It starts by being grown in America – American soil and American farmers growing both conventional and certified organic cotton. But Cotton of the Carolinas gets a little more detailed than that. We use North Carolina dirt on North Carolina farms to grow our cotton. We like calling Carolina home and we want to do all that we can to support our local area; because, deep in our roots, we believe that good business gives us an opportunity to grow strong, positive communities. So, we keep our cotton and make sure that our neighbors, who also happen to be textile experts, are the ones who benefit from what’s been grown. When we say we support local, we meant it.
Low transportation footprint
Because we keep all the activity right here in our home country and within our local region (we have connections with both North Carolina and South Carolina companies, hence our name: Cotton of the Carolinas), we can keep our transportation footprint lower than the industry standard.
All of the stages that make up a typical apparel supply chain could (and often do) require thousands and thousands of miles for traveling. Importing cotton from India or Egypt so that a t-shirt can be made in the USA already puts a lot of miles on the final product. Now consider this: North Carolina is the United States’ fourth largest producer of cotton and 50% of that cotton is shipped overseas to be manufactured into finished products that then get shipped back to the US to be sold to consumers. We’re talking about a lot of miles.
The Cotton of the Carolinas project keeps everything within approximately 700 miles. We’re doing everything we can to make sustainable choices that positively affect our local communities.
Complete product transparency
We don’t kid around when it comes to laying bare how the cotton is grown, in what kind of environment the fabric is cut and sewn into shirts, and what kind of processes are used for printing and dying. Maps, images, and tracking paperwork for each harvest are available on the main website allowing any wearer to track his or her shirt’s life from “Dirt to Shirt” using the printed code on the neck label of each tee.
There’s also contact information for each company that handles our shirts. And we welcome you to get in touch. We even host a Harvest Tour each Fall, where we invite interested parties for an afternoon of introduction and exploration into the process of cotton becoming apparel that takes you straight to where everything started: the farm.
Providing transparency is an added effort, but we believe that it’s worth it. The details that we provide backs up our product and gives the consumer the undeniable truth that their money was used to fund a worthwhile investment in good business. Good business that’s focused on providing solid jobs for our neighbors and providing you with the most sustainable t-shirt on the market.