Why American-Made Matters

Why American-Made Matters

by Robin Barrett Wilson November 12, 2016 0 Comments

By now, I’m sure you know that, at robin b., we prioritize American-made products when curating our collection of women’s boutique clothing. Buying from US and Canadian manufacturers and designers is our key cornerstone and one of the many reasons that you, our customers, feel good shopping with us. It’s what sets us apart.

When I started my college career, majoring in retail merchandising, I was shocked to find that, while most designers are based here in the US, the majority of their apparel is manufactured in another country. It didn’t make sense. Why weren’t these proud, American designers producing their lines here, too?

A peek inside the Andrea Valentini showroom on one of Robin's visits.

Why did America stop making its own clothes?

Three words: quicker, faster, cheaper! 

During the 1960s, the average American household spends over 10 percent of its annual income on clothing – that worked out to be about 25 pieces that cost $4,000 per year, the majority of which was USA-made. Fast forward to today, the typical family spends less than 4 percent of its annual income on clothing, clocking in at under $1,800. Have we gotten thriftier? Nope! That $1,800 is purchasing a whopping 70 pieces of clothing, with only 2 percent being manufactured here at home. We’re acquiring more by choosing cheap.


What sparked the shift?

So how does a nation flip from buying the majority of its clothing from domestic manufacturers to importing almost all of it from other countries? The answer is large textile mills and factories in developing nations. They emerged throughout China, India, and other countries in which the minimum wage is drastically less and raw materials are significantly cheaper. Because of limited labor laws, these areas are able to quickly produce huge orders at apparel for next to no cost.

As the competition grew in the fashion industry and the desire for retailers to grow revenue and increase margin strengthened, American companies focused on foreign suppliers to meet their goals. Couple this with a series of trade policies from the 1990s, and importing foreign-made clothing became the most cost-effective option for designers here at home. The result, a huge shift from manufacturing in the US to moving nearly all production overseas.


Why should we care if our clothes are made in the US?

I mean, if it costs less for designers it will cost less for us consumers, right? True. The thing though, those few extra dollars to buy USA-made goes a heck of a lot farther than you’d think:

  • Buying American-made supports our nation’s manufacturers, workers, and strengthens our economy.
  • Buying American-made ensures that those who are producing our clothing are treated well and compensated fairly. Here in North America, we have laws in place that promise safe working conditions, fair trade, and prevent child labor.
  • Buying American-made is good for the environment. US manufacturing processes are much more advanced and cleaner than in most other countries. Not to mention, the more local your clothing is purchased, the less that goes into crating, packing, shipping and transporting, reducing emissions.


Robin's self-named line of basics is manufactured here in the USA!

Why does robin b. buy USA-made clothing?

In addition to those solid reasons above, I look for designers that create their collections in small batches, ensuring a uniqueness that you won’t find in mass retail. As a result, our customers can be confident that they’re buying sustainable, sweatshop-free, cruelty-free, quality designs.

To shop our wide selection of American-made clothing, stop by our Rhode Island boutique or browse online. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to catch more insider info and stay on top of our upcoming Holiday promotions!

Robin Barrett Wilson


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