Field Notes

The Great "Made in the USA" Conundrum and What We're Doing

Like our Shop Local and Deployment Box initiatives, Made in the USA is wildly important to me so when I saw the topic of manufacturing come across Insiders, I felt compelled to throw in my two cents. 

First things first. Manufacturing our goods in the United States is one of the top goals for the company and has been since we started. Please realize we try our best to do all we can to support the cause. For example, our office is in Hoboken, we choose to ship using USPS, we screen print a lot of our good in PA, we have a warehouse in California and there is so much more. 

I've done a great deal of research and outreach to U.S. based apparel manufacturers and it's a tricky situation. The KUNUFLEX fabrics that our customers have come to know and love are difficult to source domestically and then, when you factor in the cost of manufacturing the product itself, it would drastically increase our cost, we're talking legitimately 5-7x or higher.

As a smallish company, proudly based in beautiful Hoboken, NJ, I would have to make some tough business decisions to bring our manufacturing state-side. Drastically raising product prices (probably wouldn't go over well), cutting staff or lowering salaries for our 13 incredible U.S. based employees (would never), or slashing operating expenses (goodbye growth). These don't seem like great options.

Of course I would love to blaze the trail on this and bring apparel manufacturing back to the U.S at scale, it would be great for the economy and not having to worry about things like freight, trade wars and tariffs would be icing on the cake. I've even talked to my friend in DC about discussing the issue with Senators because I think I know more about the situation than most people, but to be completely honest, I'm not exactly sure what the solution is.

The headwinds for U.S. based apparel manufacturing are very strong. Customers have come to expect a high level of quality at an affordable cost, and getting the combination of both, while being made in the U.S. is difficult. Just look at brands like Brooks Brothers, Polo and Todd Shelton, I envy their U.S. clothing lines but their price points, $180 - 250 per shirt, seems so unrealistic.

I'm not saying this is impossible, if I've learned anything from the growth of RSVLTS nothing is impossible, but the industry will require a fundamental shift to pull it off.

We have looked into doing limited Made in the USA lines, which would be an option for people willing to pay a significantly higher cost per product, but again, in my research, finding a vendor who can produce a soup to nuts shirt with the made in the U.S.A. materials that we require hasn't been possible.

In the future I hope there is renewed vigor for U.S. based apparel manufacturing. If it was as simple as flipping a switch and paying a little more we probably would have already done it already but the high quality material our customers have come to love are unfortunately are hard to come by and the manufacturing options are few and far between.

I hope this offers some insight into the situation from our perspective and the industry as a whole. I'm always an open book and as future developments come along, again this is a top goal for the company, we will proudly share the news.