Tag Archives: denim

My ultimate guide to shopping ethical and American-made style (OFFLINE!)

For anyone starting out on a Made in USA shopping journey, finding places to shop and brands to trust can be overwhelming. I know when I first started out I felt quite discouraged for a while, as it was difficult to find American-made clothes.

A few years later, and a gazillion online shops later, I know where to go for my next “Made in USA fix”. Mrs. American Made, a style blog, has guided me to many brands, so has random Instagram browsing. The question still remains though, what are some physical stores where we can find locally made clothes, shoes and décor?

Online shopping is great for supporting small businesses and of course very convenient, but sometimes it’s nice to shop down the street, isn’t it?

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that promotes local, like Boulder, CO or Asheville, NC, you’ll have access to small boutiques, fair-trade markets, apothecaries, vintage shops or brand stores like PrAna and Patagonia and you’re off to a good start. (NYC residents probably don’t need this list either!) However, many of us reside in more of a “big-box retailer” region so I’m sharing my favorite stores with that in mind! Anyone can succeed and master American-made shopping (even in the suburbs ;))!

1. The BEST store for Ethical Fashion and all around browsing: REI

Yes, the camping and outdoors giant is our favorite place to go browse and try on new clothes! REI carries brands like United by Blue, PrAna, Toad & Co and many more small batch, fair-trade, natural fiber options. They’ve also got a massive selection of great quality, made in USA socks, from Sockwell, Smart Wool, Thorlo and more. You’d be surprised how many of the camping and hiking essentials are actually made in USA as well! Here’s the store locator.

2. The BEST store for affordable Made in USA clothes: Nordstrom Rack

Here’s where I score all the best deals on American-made fashion. I’ve found sweaters, tops, dresses, jeans, sweatpants, undies and more by digging through the store and the clearance rack. Anything from $60 Citizen of Humanity jeans (!) to $10 Hanky Panky underwear – they’ve got it. Ever thought you’d run into a jumpsuit, or romper, sewn in the USA? Well, my friend Mary Beth did. Succeeding here does require some energy as stores tend to be overflowing with options. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA romper
Mary Beth in Loveappella Romper, Made in USA, from Nordstrom Rack

3. The BEST store for high quality home decor and furniture: Crate & Barrel

I know it’s on the pricier side of things, but we haven’t bought anything at Crate & Barrel that broke or disappointed us. They’ve got lots of made in USA kitchen gear, decor and furniture, as well as beautiful glassware from Europe. We got our king size bed frame from there, it was built and upholstered in North Carolina and made to order. Here’s the store locator.

4. The BEST store for American-stitched denim: Last Call by Neiman Marcus

Splendid, AG jeans, Paige, 7, True Religion, Eileen Fisher, J brand, rag & bone and several others – Last Call has most of these brands available at all times and the majority of their denim is sewn in the USA! You’ll also get a much better deal here than shopping at the mall or online. I am not the type to order jeans online – trying them on is a must. Even the same brand and style, to me, fit differently depending on the fabric and wash. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA denim where to shop
US-made Splendid denim shirt with Alice & Olivia jeans (+ wind in the hair!)

5. The BEST place to go browsing and spend all day: Premium Outlets

You might get lucky at Premium Outlets and get a good deal on made in USA items at New Balance, 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch (some jewelry is US-made!), Saks off 5th or True Religion. The downside is you might NOT and end up spending the whole day, only to find nothing but sweatshop made clothes at Banana Republic and Chinese leather bags at Coach… (don’t buy them!) It’s worth a try if you keep an open mind and if you’re in that “shop all day mood”. Here’s the outlet locator.

Phew! These are my top five! Which ones are yours?

Shopping Made in USA doesn’t have to be complicated just because it’s happening offline! Try it out, let me know what you find :)

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This is the third post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, featuring pictures of my friend Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out my previous posts in the series about an LA-made t-shirt here and a great read on domestic leathers  here.

How my mama took my jeans from boot-cut to straight (leg) outta Vogue

Like most travelers and globetrotters, I get inspired by the places I visit or in this case, move to. When I first moved to Houston and saw how lots of cute girls were wearing boot-cut jeans, I had this insane idea that I too could rock a pair.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with boot-cuts, Jennifer Aniston always looks great in them, but I am a skinny/straight jean Euro.

Despite knowing this, I went out and bought an unethical, cheap pair at the Gap in January 2012. (This was before I started my not made in China challenge, and Gap claimed to have an eco-friendly wash process.)

Fast forward four years. Here I was with a bad pair of jeans that had only been worn maybe ten times (over three years ago). Not only were they the wrong fit for me, but also a bit too long, too high-waisted and with time, they had gotten to be a couple sizes too big. I tried selling them at garage sales, twice, for two dollars but no one picked them up. Evidently, I was not meant to part ways with these jeans. Considering how much energy, water, pesticides and fertilizer that went into the making of them, I knew the sustainable way to move forward was to “save” them. 

Mom to the upcycling-rescue.

I asked her if she wanted to give fixing them a go; “You need to take them in and change the entire style” I said, “I need skinny/straight jeans”. She agreed to try, considering only two dollars were at stake, though assuring me she was no longer the master seamstress she was when making clothes for me and my sister growing up. I trust her though, I know she’s awesome and I’ll take my chances any day!

Here’s where we started. It’s not great.

before

I put them on, took them off again, and she started by needling her way to a tighter fitting inseam, including shortening the rise about one inch (to create a lower waist). After that, she took in the outer seam, starting just below the front pockets.

mama

Then she had me try them on, over and over, each time she’d remove more and more fabric in the legs, making them slimmer and slimmer until I said “stop”. She also took two inches off the length.

My mom is a goddess. Here’s where we ended up: straight (leg) outta Eco-Vogue.

train tracks

This is my new favorite pair! Next time I see her I’m going to bring more clothes for her to “fix”. (Yes, I already told her.) So if someone asks me who made my clothes, I’ll say my mama did.

Looking amazing. Zero dollars spent. Minimum eco-impact.

That’s happiness in a pair of jeans.

vince-second-hand

More on sustainable denim here

How dirty is your denim, dear?

Oh, beloved denim. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve all got that one favorite pair of jeans that seems to go with most of the tops and shoes in our closets. How many pairs one has in total varies, but surely they cannot all be equal. Not in style and certainly not in environmental foot print.

It takes over 10,000 liters or 2,600 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. 2,600 GALLONS. That’s a lot of water. A scary fact in current times when climate change is causing more severe draughts and water supply, globally, is scarce.

But let’s put that amount into perspective and see what other “fun” things one can enjoy using that same amount of water:

  • Take 25 baths in a regular size bath tub
  • Eat one 16 oz. steak (believe me, in Texas this is not an unusual size)
  • Drink 44 glasses of wine
  • Or have 88 cups of coffee

I don’t know about you, but I sure enjoy a pair of skinny jeans way more than one steak! Or I would, if I ate beef. So does that mean that vegans and non-beef eaters can buy 50+ pairs of jeans per year with the same environmental impact? Nah, let’s not over-consume now, and there are still pesticides to consider.

jeans3
Environmental impact of one pair of jeans

According to our trusted source, the internet, it takes 2/3 of a pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Conventional cotton production accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides. The chemicals are harmful not only to the workers (five of the top nine pesticides used in cotton production are known carcinogens) but chemical runoff also affects surrounding ecosystems and contaminates lands and rivers. (The True Cost Movie highlights many important facts about growing cotton and its corruption; “Hello Monsanto”. If you haven’t seen that movie yet, please do.)

A better choice is organic cotton! Even if it uses the same amount of water, there are some great things to it; like no GMOs, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, healthy soil practices, enhanced biodiversity and ethical treatment of farmers.

Google search, here I come.

The coolest denim brand I have found using only organic cotton, transparent sourcing policies and eco-friendly practices is Nudie Jeans. A Swedish company that doesn’t only live by mentioned practices, but also offers mending of old jeans at selected stores, (LA is my closest location), recycles denim and sells an all made in Europe product. Nudie buys the fabric in Turkey, the biggest producer of organic cotton in the world, and their jeans are sewn in Italy. It’s a bummer all their models are modeled by male models (that’s a lot of models!) online, but apparently many styles work for women as well. I am skeptic, but intrigued, and I can’t wait to find a retailer and try some of them on! All their other products, like tees and accessories, are fair trade or all made in Europe – they also source in Sweden (go local!).

nudie
Nudie Jeans stores: so stylish, euro and eco.

Next, I’d like to mention Patagonia and their line of eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic jeans. (Sewn in Sri Lanka). The drawback for me is that they only come in few styles and colors. Being designed for outdoor activities, comfort and “heavier use”, I am not sure these jeans would be best paired with a blouse and heels for a night of cocktails… I really appreciate Patagonia’s commitment to long lasting quality and the environment though. Did you know that every single cotton garment they’ve made since 1996, is organic? Love that!

Eileen Fisher has earned a shout out too, as they offer an all made in USA line, with jeans made of organic cotton! I have never tried anything on by Eileen Fisher, and at first sight, it looks like more of a classic ladies brand than a modern brand, but I have been surprised before. Made in USA plus organic? I’d be a fool not to try them on next time I need jeans.

If mentioned styles don’t work – don’t give up your eco-fight just yet. Do a search of your own for organic jeans and see if you find something you like better. If not, here are some other ways to make a positive eco-difference when it comes to denim:

  • Only buy jeans you are 100% awesome-looking in. Don’t jump on temporary denim trends.
  • Wear them in and wear them out. Mend them if they need mending. Repurpose the fabric for something else if they are beyond saving.
  • Support locally made and buy your pair from a small, local vendor. If you can’t avoid pesticides in the process of making your jeans, at least pump some money back into your local community.
  • Look for awesome pairs at resale shops and thrift stores. If you want many variations of jeans, or brands you know are bad for the environment, this is the way to buy them.
  • Honestly, you don’t need to wash them very often. And never, ever, like ever, throw them in the dryer. Wash cold and hang dry.

Good luck :)

Dang! You look hot in those jeans!