Archive for the 'Clothing stores – Best Bets' Category

15
Dec
11

Clothing Made In USA: Stanford Shopping Center

Mainpoint: Determination of percentage of clothing made in USA at the Stanford Shopping Center.

The Stanford Shopping Center is an outdoor complex consisting of 140 stores. They have four anchor stores: Nordstrom’s,  Nieman-Marcus, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Their target demographic is a medium to slightly more upper end shopper. It is located on El Camino Real at Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto/ Stanford, California. It actually intrudes slightly into the Stanford University campus.

I went to the Stanford Shopping Center to determine how much clothing made in USA were in each store. I visited each store and checked the manufacturing labels and from that I determined how much of the store carried the labels that said “Made in USA”.

The Stores

Below is the alphabetical listing of each store that carries clothing with a brief description and the percentage of U.S. made clothes:

Abercrombie & Fitch – A large national chain. Clothing directed towards a younger age group. Quality: Low to Medium. % of American made: A big fat ZERO.

Ann Taylor – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. % of American clothing <1%. (Ann Taylor Socks).

Armani Exchange – A large national chain. Women’s clothing, limited men’s – medium end. 0% American made.

Banana Republic – A large national chain. Men and Women’s – Low – medium quality. < 1% American made.

BCBG Maxzria – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Betsy Johnson – A national chain. Young women’s clothing – medium end. 10% American made.

Bloomingdale’s – A large national department store. Men and Women’s clothing – medium to high end. 2% American made.

Brooks Brothers – A large national chain. Men’s clothing – medium to high end. 2% American. (Good place for American dress shirts).

Burberry – A large national chain. Men and Women’s clothing. medium – high end. 0% American made.

Cache – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. 2% American made.

Coldwater Creek – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. 1% American made.

Eileen Fisher – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Ermenegildo Zegna – National chain. Men’s clothing – upper end. 0% American made but high percentage Italian.

Express – A large national chain. Men and women’s clothing – low to medium end. 0% American made.

Fashion Passion – an only store – Women’s clothing – medium to upper end. 0% American made but high percentage European.

Free People – National chain. Women’s clothing – low to medium end. <5% American made.

Gap – A large national chain. Men and Women’s clothing – low to medium end. <1% American made.

Hlaska – One of three stores. Men & Women’s clothing – medium end, Will no longer be making clothes. Was 100% American.

J. Crew – A large national chain. Men and Women’s clothing – low to medium end. < 1% American made. (Belts).

J. Jill – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. < 1% American made. (Socks).

Juicy Couture – A large national chain. For young women – medium end. 10% American made.

Kate Spade – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. <1% American made.

LaCoste – A large national chain. Men and Women’s clothing – medium end. < 1% American made. (Special Ernest Sewn Jeans Only).

Lucky Brand Jeans – A large national chain. Men and Women’s clothing – medium end. < 2% American made.

Lucy – A large national chain. Women’s exercise clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Macy’s – A large national department store. Men and women’s clothing – medium end. < 1% American made.

Max Mara – A large national chain – Women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Michael Kors – A large national chain. Women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Nieman-Marcus – A large national department store. Men and Women’s clothing – medium to upper end. <2% American made. (Much more higher end European clothing.)

Nike Running Store – A large national chain. Men and women’s exercise clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Nordstrom’s – A large national department store. Men and women’s clothing – medium to upper end. 2% American made. (Probably your best bet in regards to American made clothing and department stores.

Pac Sun – A large national chain. Young people’s clothing. – low to medium end. <1% American made.

Polo – A large national chain. Men’s and women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Stanford shop – local only. Stanford clothing – low to medium end. < 1% American made.

Talbot’s – A large national chain – Women’s clothing – low to medium end. 0% American made.

Territory Ahead – One of nine stores. Men and women’s clothing – low to medium clothing. < 1% American made. (Special T – shirts only).

Tommy Bahama’s – A large national chain – Mainly men’s, some women’s clothing – medium end. < 1% American made (rare women’s blouses).

Tory Burch – A large national chain – women’s clothing – medium end. <2% American made.

Urban Outfitter’s – A large national chain – Young men and women’s clothing – low to medium end. <1% American made.

Victoria Secret – A large national chain. Women’s lingerie – low to medium end. 0% American made.

Vince – A national chain – Men and women’s clothing – medium end. 0% American made.

Wilkes-Bashford – One of two stores. Men and women’s clothing – high end. <1% American made. Plenty of European imports.

Conclusion

With regards to clothing made in the United States, the Stanford Shopping Center is a bit of a disappointment. For men, the best choice is Nordstrom’s where one can find American made belts, ties, socks, T-shirts, suits, jeans and some casual shirts. Difficult to find are: dress shirts, shoes, underwear, (dress pants without the suit), pajamas, coats, and athletic wear. For young women – there is higher percentage of U.S. made clothes at Betsy Johnson and Juicy Couture. For the ladies, the best bet is again Nordstrom’s.

Other Places

If you want American made, but a little on the lower end, just a half mile away is an American Apparel on University Avenue. Otherwise, just 30 minutes away is San Francisco. For men, there is Bill’s Khaki’s, Levi’s Corporate Store, Freemans Sporting Club and Unionmade. Don’t forget to check out the Allen Edmonds shoe store as well.

“Fashion as king is sometimes a very stupid ruler.” – G.T. Bell

12
Dec
11

Favorite U.S. Stores #5 – Levi’s in San Francisco

Mainpoint – Levi Strauss, legendary clothing maker is making clothing made in U.S.A. again, finding it is more difficult. You need to go to the Corporate store in San Francisco.

I can not think of anything more American than blue jeans, when it comes to clothing. And when you think of blue jeans, there is no bigger name than Levi Strauss. They had been the leading maker of jeans for over a century, and are based in San Francisco. But then a some years back, Levi’s like everybody else started making their jeans elsewhere. It was up until very recently, that I had given up completely on Levi’s as a maker of U.S. made jeans. But, on March 2011, Levi’s put out a news blurb that they were going to start making jeans again “Made in the U.S.A.” (in a limited quantity). So, I searched and searched to find them.  All the Levi’s outlets didn’t have them and most salespeople had never even heard about them. On one trip, I went to the Levi’s store in the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, CA  and the manager said they had one pair that was returned to them, but they did not sell them in the store. But, then she gave me some wonderful information: the corporate store in San Francisco sells the American made jeans!

The Corporate Store

So, I went to the corporate store at 1155 Battery Street, in San Francisco. It is right off the Embarcadero (a famous street in S.F.) and only a half mile from Fisherman’s Wharf, a famous tourist attraction. But before I could go shopping, I had to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, because it was Dungeness Crab season, which had just started two weeks ago. Within Fisherman’s Wharf, there is a slew of good restaurants anxiously ready to serve you fresh Dungeness Crab. I enjoyed a great lunch and then made my way to the corporate headquarters. The corporate headquarters is part of Levi’s Plaza. The plaza (or park/plaza) is a couple of blocks consisting of large buildings connected by brick walkways and a small park (a downtown oasis) across the street (looking towards the ocean), and on the other side, one can see stairs traversing a very steep and impressive hill that leads to Coit Tower (a SF landmark and a name that the French people just love). The Levi building is an impressive looking building about seven stories high, constructed with brick and glass with aggressive newer architecture seen in the 1990’s. As I entered the building, there were streams of people going into this glass building and going up the elevators to their respective offices, it was only because they all had to go through a security checkpoint that I decided that this was not the way to the store. I asked at the receptionist desk where the store was and they pointed me to a large glass cubicle inside a larger glass cubicle. This was the store.

The corporate store is a much smaller store than most outlets. It can be very busy on the weekends and it is kind of slow during mid-week. As I walked in, I was met almost immediately by a salesperson who asked if he could help me. I said that I was looking for American clothes. And not only did he know what I was talking about, he was able to show me a couple of styles of American made jeans for men and for women. Surprisingly, Levi’s sells denim jackets, made in U.S.A. The salesperson, also, showed me belts made by Tanner. One further surprise was some Outdoor wear – a joint effort between Filson and Levi’s. Furthermore, they carried a couple of boots, American made by Al’s Attires (fairly pricey – about the price of Wolverine 1000 mile boots). Another bit of information I learned is ‘Dockers’ is owned by Levi’s. There were some Dockers in the store and almost all of the Dockers are imported, except for a limited edition of a special T-shirt – made in the U.S. The salespeople were excellent. They were professional, yet friendly and quite knowledgeable (more knowledgeable than myself, I didn’t even know that ‘knowledgeable’ had an ‘e’ before ‘able’, thanks spellczech).

Shopping Spree

I put a sizable dent in my credit on this trip to Levi’s. The final tally: my wife found a two pair of jeans; I bought a pair of  “505” jeans, classic, straight leg jeans, I passed on the skinny jeans: and I purchased a denim jacket. I had not owned a denim jacket since high school in the late 1970’s, it seems like almost everything comes back in style if you wait long enough. These American jeans are manufactured in the very traditional denim. There are stiff, never been washed or broken in. The salesperson’s advice to break them in: wear the jeans for 6 months before washing them. When you wash them,  cold water, inside out, and hang them to dry, or dry clean them. The full retail price of the made in USA 505 jeans is $178, which is about $20 more than their good imported Levi’s jeans. However, on this day, there were giving $25 off any purchase over $150. So, I felt better, because it was a sale.

The Future of Levi’s

I asked about the success of the U.S. made Levi’s and the salesperson said that the items have been flying off the shelves. Noting their success, Levi’s has plans of making even more U.S. made products for 2012. That does seem to be the new trend, retro type clothing made in America, made by famous makers such as Levi’s, Ralph Lauren and Eddie Bauer.

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and non chalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.” – Yves Saint Laurent

07
Dec
11

Shopping for U.S. made clothing in Kauai

Mainpoint – Kauai has more U.S. made clothes than mainland America

I had just seen the movie “The Descendants” with George Clooney starring as a lawyer, in charge of a trust involving a large tract of land in Kauai, that may need to be sold, and, at the same time, he has  to cope with his nearly estranged immediate family, because his wife is in a coma. This film was directed by Alexander Payne, best known for his work on “Sideways” – which had beautifully displayed the landscape of Santa Barbara/St. Ynez area. Mr. Payne does the same thing here. It is a memorable moving postcard of Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island. The movie reminded of me of my trip to Kauai earlier this year. And it gave me the incentive to write about shopping in Kauai. By the way “The Descendants” is a very good movie.

Shopping

No, I didn’t go to Kauai just to go shopping for American made clothes. But, it is my hobby and I need to fill up my blog.  And yes, I did take time to look at the clothing labels, but not for too long, so that I didn’t tick off my wife. She has remarked to me once before: “You take all the fun out of shopping.” So, with that in the back of my mind, I tried to be less obsessive, and go with the flow and get in step with “Island Time”. In Kauai, we traveled the entire island, the part that is allowed to tourists with rental cars anyway, from the Na Pali Coast at Ke’e Beach (up north) to the Na Pali Coast out West (actually called Ha’ele’ele cliffs) at Polihale beach. The road out to Polihale beach was quite memorable, I don’t think I have seen as many ruts , ridges and potholes on any road in the U.S. as this one. When we brought our rental car back to the Hotel that afternoon, the Valet, by evaluating the tremendous amount of dust and dirt on the car, said, “You must have gone to Polihale”. He was right, there was no pulling a fast one on him.

But I digress. When I came to Kauai, my initial thought was that more of their clothing would probably be imported from China and the like, because it is almost the same distance as from the mainland. But, I was wrong, Kauai has more clothing made in the USA than the mainland (meaning greater than 2%). What I didn’t take into account were three things. First, there are many more smaller businesses in Kauai, and smaller businesses are more independent and tend to support other local businesses and their community. Second, even the larger chain stores on Kauai (Walmart, Sears, K-Mart and Macy’s) have more leeway in ordering products for their stores because their are located in a very unique environment – some would say paradise. But because of this environment, the stores have to be more thoughtful in providing products that their population needs, not just getting them things they want them to want (like the very latest fashions and trends seen in New York City or Paris). And third, Hawaiians are a proud people. They are proud of their heritage, their music, their language and their way of dress. They want to preserve their way of life – not all of them – and not all haoles (pronounced how-lehs or caucasians) want to change them either. They just want to stay a big family and support their friends and family members. How old school? Yeah? Ass right, bruddah!

Hanalei

We were staying in the southern sunny part of the island called Poipu (which means in Hawaiian – “the land of large hotels”). And from there, I always like to drive the furthest point away and work my way back. I can do that because Kauai is a small island. It doesn’t work so well in California. So, the furthest place away in Kauai that has any civilization and therefore, clothing stores, is Hanalei, the land where Puff the Magic Dragon resides. Hanalei reminds me of Bora Bora before it became so modern. Oh wait, reverse that. Hanalei has 514 people who call it “home” and I think they all work in that one small block of stores. The place I was especially interested in was a place called Hot Rocket, because “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook” said: “Some places are a must-see like Hot Rocket, where all the Hawaiian shirts are actually made in Hawaii.” With that enticing entry, I had to see this place for myself. And it was not that easy to find, it was on the back side of the shops, the ones facing away from the highway. But I found the place, and no, it was not 100% Hawaiian. I thought not. The store did carry Hawaiian shirts (the short sleeve shirts with buttons all the way down the front usually with some floral pattern). A good percentage -wise of Hawaiian shirts were American made (just like other places on the island). The T-shirts, however, were rarely made in America. The regular bathing suits were all imported. The exception to them were the “jams” – the cloth type shorts with usually wild patterns on the outside and no lining on the inside. A tip: Just make sure you don’t buy white jams or it becomes like a wet T-shirt for the lower half. The jams were all made in the USA. I bought a pair of blue jams, a Tori Richard Hawaiian shirt and my wife bought a T-shirt. Continuing in Hanalei, across the street was Yellowfish Trading Co. which carried antiques but also some vintage (“used”) Hawaiian shirts from the 50’s and 60’s. Nearly all were made in the US at that time, even Reyn Spooner who no longer makes shirts in the U.S.. I bought a fabulous vintage white with a flowered print shirt made by Penney’s, which was manufactured in Japan. Close by was a store called Sand People which had plenty of women’s clothing but not much made in the U.S.

Kapa’a

Continuing down the road, we briefly stopped at Princeville, and then went to Kapa’a. Now Kapa’a, (pronounced Kah- Pah-pah-pah-ah-ah-ah, if you have a stutter, sorry to all you stutterererers) is Kauai’s largest city. It’s population is listed as 10,816. Now, when you drive through Kapa’a, you think: “Where are all the people?” That is because the main highway runs near the ocean through its downtown of two blocks of shops and restaurants. The people of Kapa’a actually live way up on the hills, and if you have the time, it is a nice drive through their housing tracts. One place worth stopping (and not having to do with clothing) is Kela’s Glass Gallery. It is quite beautiful. It feels somewhat more like a museum than a store for things to purchase. The prices also feel like you are buying museum pieces as well. There were several small shops that carry clothing in Kapa’a. The best store with the most American made clothing was this non-descript place just off the main highway (56), on Highway 581, just two buildings up from the lone traffic light in Kapa’a. It has many Hawaiians shirts and some of the old white label T-shirts made in America. I, also, bought a made in America T-shirt at Jungle Girl, not that they had that many. Don’t forget to eat at Bubba’s Burgers, a local favorite. Bubba’s has many funny T-shirts, too bad they are all imported. While we are at it, other great places to eat in Kapa’a/Wailua area are Kauai Pasta and Wahoo Seafood Grill and Bar. Wahoo’s is one of those rare places that serves Pacific “spiny” lobster. Upon exiting Wailua, nearly contiguous with Kapa’a (that’s how big they have gotten!) is a complex of shops called the Coconut Marketplace. Several places sell made in USA Hawaiian shirts as well.

Lihue

Yippy, Yappy and Lihue! Lihue although not the biggest, it feels like the biggest. It has the airport. It has the Movie Cineplex. It has Walmart, Costco, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, Hilo Hattie’s, Red Dirt Shirt Co.,  Borders Books (oops, I guess no more), and even a Starbuck’s. We shall start at Walmart. I don’t know how many Walmarts I have been in but this one was a little bit of a surprise. They carried many Hawaiian shirts and I would say that probably 40% of them were U.S. made. No T- shirts were American made. I did find a package of white Nike crew socks made in the U.S. I did buy those. Next, on the list was Macy’s. For men, the only clothing made in America were Tori Richard and Kahala Hawaiian shirts. (Often, you can find Tori Richards and Kahala on the mainland as well). For women, there was, actually, a fair amount of American made clothing in the one section of Macy’s. That was a pleasant surprise. My wife purchased a top there.

There are two national T-shirt companies that started in Hawaii, Red Dirt Shirt and Crazy Shirts. They both used to be 100% made in the U.S. That was when Hanes made most of their T-shirts in the U.S. Now that most Hanes T-shirts are imported, so are Red Dirt Shirts and Crazy Shirts. They take the imported shirts and then treat them.

Hilo Hattie’s

Going to Hilo Hattie’s is like a rite of passage when visiting any of the Hawaiian islands. When you enter the store, the greeters still place upon you an inexpensive shell necklace around your neck as you enter, just as they did more than 40 years ago. I suppose if you go to Hilo Hattie’s all the time, this might not be so charming. I wonder what the locals call the place? Hilo’s? Hattie’s? Double H? So who was Hilo Hattie anyway? Answer: Clarissa Haili. Oh, so you want more information than that? Hilo Hattie was the stage name of Clarissa (Clara) Haili, born in 1901. She was a very popular Hawaiian entertainer in the 1950’s and 1960’s. One of her popular songs had Hilo Hattie in the title. She passed away in 1979 and really didn’t have much to do with the business. The first Hilo Hattie’s was started in 1963 by Jim Romig. The store was located in Kauai, specializing in Hawaiian items, and he, eventually changed the name to Hilo Hattie’s. Now, Hilo Hattie’s is Hawaii’s largest retailer, manufacturer and wholesaler of Hawaiian fashion and gifts. Hilo Hattie’s is usually a fairly large store. It has an impressive amount of “island fashion”. There are a vast array of Hawaiian shirts, tops and dresses. Matching his and hers outfits abound. I would say that about 30% of their Hawaiian shirts are U.S. made. The dresses about the same. T-shirts are almost all imported. Of special note: they do carry a certain brand of island fashion – Iolani. Iolani has more of an elegant look. When one talks about Hawaiian formal – one is usually talking about black pants and a dark, preferably black, Hawaiian shirt, but with a pattern. For women, a floral pattern dress going down to about knee level will suffice. Iolani is U.S. made.

Koloa and Poipu

When traveling to Poipu, one almost has to pass through a small town called Koloa, population 2,088. Two places worth mentioning, first they have a fantastic wine shop called “The Wine Shop”. Me, I would have named it “the Fantastic Wine Shop”. Second, they have a clothing store called Pohaku T’s. This has many Hawaiian shirts and some T-shirts. Hawaiian shirts were usually American made, T-shirts were not. In Poipu, there is a little more higher end shopping. Hawaiian shirts are your best bet in finding American made clothing and the Poipu Shopping center is one of your better bets, you bet.

Hanapepe

No trip to Kauai is complete unless you have gone to Hanapepe. The main shopping in Hanapepe is on Hanapepe Road. And if you come across it in mid daylight when nobody else is there, it can resemble a ghost town. But at other times, it can be bustling. And I use “bustling” in the context that if Kauai is ever “bustling” then this is “bustling”. Hanapepe has some art galleries and some jewelry with art galleries downtown.  The lone clothing store is Robert’s serving all of Hanapepe’s clothing needs even for the high school formals. Robert’s actually carried some made in America dress pants, (not many) but they are, also, the only ones that I found in Kauai. They carried many American made Hawaiian shirts as well. I bought two Hawaiian shirts one made by K.Y.’s and the other Two Palms. Then after shopping, we went and walked on the swinging footbridge. The footbridge makes me ponder, when they built the bridge, did they say, “I sure hope this one swings?” Then the shopping was all done and it was off to the Beach House Restaurant which probably has the most exceptional ocean view of any restaurant, let alone Kauai.

Conclusion

If you are looking for clothing made in the U.S. in Kauai, and who isn’t? Then, you are in luck especially if you are looking for Hawaiian shirts or some Hawaiian made dresses and tops at Hilo Hattie’s or Macy’s. Types of clothing you will probably not find (with regards to US made): baseball type caps, shorts, swim trunks, shoes, sandals, athletic wear, and underwear. Difficult things to find made in USA items: T-shirts, pants. So, my last piece of advice, when you are in Kauai and you get tired of shopping, remember there are many other things to do.

“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.” – Paul Theroux

25
Nov
11

Shopping on Black Friday? Shop online for American made clothing at Macys, Nordstrom’s and Sears

Shopping on Black Friday? Buy American, Give American! | Alliance for American Manufacturing. I am sharing this link. This website was produced by The Alliance for American Manufacturing. And this was brought to my attention through the Blog: simplyamericandotnet. Click on the department store and they will show you the American made products they have on sale. I have looked at the Nordstrom’s menswear section with their 831 items and I would say I could vouch for about 98% of them as being American made. The other 2% may be American made, but I have not personally verified them, but they probably are American made. This is a very valuable link. I don’t know how long it will be available. It would be nice if there could be something like this every month. This link lists the American made clothes in Sears, Macys and Nordstrom’s.

Addendum 12/7/2011: I had visited the Nordstrom’s website, and I found them to be very accurate regarding whether the clothing was made in the U.S.. But there was one item I was very skeptical of: Boxers made by Burberry. So, I ordered the ones that said they were made in the U.S., and when I received them, they were made in Thailand. I took them back in and got my money back.

09
Nov
11

Favorite US Stores #4 – Oxxford Clothes

Oxxford Clothes. This is the link to Oxxford Clothes.

Oxxford clothes spelled with 2 xx’s has been around since 1916. Originally started in 1916 in Chicago. They used to make suits for Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Joe Dimaggio. They hand make all their suits – you may want to watch the video to see the painstaking way they make your custom fit suit. There is only one remaining Oxxford clothes store remaining. It is located in Manhattan – the address is 717 Fifth Ave, but the entrance is on 56th Street between 5th and Madison. Everything is made in the United States. This is like going into the past except the store itself is quite modern looking as are the clothes. I am sure if you wanted a Retro or Classic look they could design the suit just for you. Oxxford clothes does send some of its clothes to one place and one place only – Wilkes – Bashford at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA.

08
Nov
11

A Californian in New York City: Finding clothes made in USA in NYC

Mainpoint: Finding clothes made in the USA within New York City – the fashion Capitol.

It has been said that what first occurs in New York City will eventually find its way to the rest of the nation. And this has been very true regarding fashion and clothes. So, clothingmadeinusablog went to New York City to see the state of nation in regards to clothing manufactured in the United States. And, in general, it is dismal. Clothing manufactured in the United States is about 2% overall. In New York City, it is no better. I can say this only in a general sense, because this unlike the time I surveyed every single store at Santana Row in San Jose and took a rough inventory of American clothes in each store. The reason for the change in methodology is obvious – there are not enough people, i.e. money and time that could map out Manhattan and their inventory of clothes.

For those of you who do not know New York city, it is divided into many unofficial districts: Times Square, Chelsea, Financial district, etc. I decided to start in Times Square, for its innumerable shops, its immense tourist density and because I was staying there. There are many people from Europe visiting New York. And these tourists are just salivating at the prospect of purchasing American clothes. There was this time I was going up in an elevator with a French couple and their two and a half children. The father and the two tweens were proudly wearing their polo shirts emblazened with “American Eagle” on the front. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to ruin their moment and tell them their shirts were all imported from China and not much of the shirts were American at all. The equivalent would be they are as French as French fries. I suppose to this family it was still buying American, using that funny American money and having to pay New York Sales Tax. But still, if you want to get a genuine American souvenir, you should buy one that is made in the USA. Why go to Amish country and then buy one of their cheaper Chinese versions? You didn’t need to travel all that way to do that.

Times Square

It had been ten years since the last time I had been back to New York City and Times Square. It has gotten larger and there are much more lit up moving billboards. There, also, seem to be a lot more “Broadway” theaters than I remembered. Many stores have come and gone in that time – that’s just the way it goes in the big city. But, more than anything else, the most notable change is just a ton of chain type stores. Chain store here, chain store there, with the exception of an independent souvenir shop. There were Starbuck’s and Duane Reade Drug Stores almost every block. And none of these chain stores had any bigger selection than the stores everywhere else in the US, certainly no “anchor” stores or “flagship” stores – stores that sometimes carry more inventory and occasionally unique items in that particular store and no where else within the chain. So, as far as buying American – Times Square is a bust. The exception is a branch of American Apparel stores – everything is made in the USA – its anchor store is in Los Angeles. This chain of stores for the most part is designed for younger people and with the quality equivalent of a Kohl’s. But, at least it is 100% American. Hallelujah!

Uptown

Uptown is the area where you go to spend too much money. We are talking: Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Bounce-a-check Avenue. Hold it. That is too much of an old reference, nobody uses checks anymore. Something more appropriate would be “Credit card limit extremely over and thus declined Avenue”. There reason to shop in uptown is as follows: there are different levels of quality and therefore prices within clothes. At the bottom, there are the sweatshop clothes – China, India, East Asia, Mexico, and Central America. The next level of clothing manufacturing is: Turkey, Poland, Peru, Romania and possibly Tunisia. The next level is clothing manufactured in the USA, possible exception – American Apparel. Then the very top level is clothes made in Italy and France. So, my hope was to find higher level shops that may carry American made clothing. This did not produce the results I had hoped for. I found many too expensive Italian clothes with just a smattering of too expensive American clothes. At Barney’s, I found a couple of American made brands I had not seen before: “Thom Browne” and “Band of Outsiders”.

I had found that in Uptown, there is no limit on excessive price gouging. Just when you think you have seen it all, there is another whole level that exists. When you get to two levels above outrageous, then you are just buying luxury. I have bought things that were priced outrageously, but in my mind, they were still worth it, quality products that will last for years. I suppose everybody has different levels of what is outrageous. For instance, what I buy now compared to when I was a college student would be considered two levels above outrageous from my “poor me” days. But, I make decent money now and still some of these prices just make my head spin. I guess there is a top 1% and then there is the top 0.1%.

In my walk uptown, I discovered a small store, Oxxford Clothes on 56th Street between 5th and Madison. I tried the glass doors and they were locked. Fortunately, the salesman saw me, decided I wasn’t there to rob him and buzzed me in. What I discovered is Oxxford Clothes are all made in USA, specializing in dress shirts. The shirts ranged in price from $180 to $325. There was a section of shirts that were 50% off as well. The Oxxford Clothes started way back in Chicago in 1916. It may be the only place to get a hand cut, hand sewn, custom made suit made entirely with American materials and American tailors. One thing that sort of put me off, is that I selected three shirts to try on, the salesman allowed me only to try only one on (I was wearing a T-shirt under my dress shirt as well), and then we could make the decision whether that fit was right. So, I tried the one shirt on, it fit well, and I purchased only that shirt. I might have purchased a second one had it not been that approach. The salesperson did say that Oxxford Clothes does send it shirts for sale at one place in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA – “Wilkes – Bashford”. I may have to visit Wilkes-Bashford again. You may want to visit the website of Oxxford Clothes at oxxfordclothes.com. They have a video of how they make their suits – which is quite interesting, especially in this age of automation.

I did go to Sak’s Fifth Avenue. I found some very nice Italian and French shirts. But, I did find something disheartening. “Ike Behar”, an American shirt manufacturer, had been purchased by a new owner last year, and now, no further American made shirts will be coming from Ike Behar. I guess I will scour some of the discount stores to see if they have any older Ike Behar, made in USA, shirts. I did end up purchasing an Italian shirt by Breuer, a shirtmaker making shirts for centuries. Other information from the salesperson: “Fanconnale” – a French company – was bought by Nordstrom’s and all their clothes now are made in China. BEST ADVICE: It is best to purchase a shirt from a shirtmaker that has been doing it for a long time – not a “perfume maker” – somebody just interested in making money. Shirtmakers pay special attention to details like the fit, the stitching and gossets – inserts to help the shirts from separating at the front ends. You will get the ultimate quality from a shirtmaker.

Greenwich Village

This is your best bet to find American made clothing. It is an eclectic mix of small shops, cafes and trendy boutiques. I found several stores in this district that make American made clothes. “Rag and Bone” – about 50 -70% American made clothes for the men. Clothes are made in New York, jeans, shirts, suits and shoes. The men’s store is on 100 Christopher Street, the women’s store 104 Christopher. They have two more stores (One Men’s and one women’s in Soho as well. “Freemans Sporting Club” has two locations: 327 Bleeker, also 8 Rivington, was founded in 2006 by a restauranteer, Taavo Somer. They make shirts, twill pants, jackets, neckties and specialize in suits. Everything is made in New York City sometimes using 100 year old sewing machines. Their motto is “Made Local, Buy Local” One interesting note, at the SOHO store, in the back of this store is a very busy barbershop. Freemans Sporting Club also has a store in San Fransisco.  “7 For All Mankind” is a chain of stores that make US made premium jeans, actually they are based in Los Angeles. Just be aware that not everything including the jeans are made in the USA (so read the label). Not too far away is Ernest Sewn, 821 Washington Street at Gansevoort Street, since 2004 have been making premium jeans in New York. They also make a special pair of jeans for the Lacoste store chain. In the Ernest Sewn store, you can have your jeans custom-made while you wait.

Conclusion

There are some bright spots within New York City regarding clothing manufacturing in the USA: Rag and Bone; Freemans Sporting Club; Ernest Sewn; and Oxford Clothes. I did find some expensive American made clothing at Barney’s – Thom Browne and Band of Outsiders. Other than that, New York City is a huge city which is losing its character with its rampant expansion of chain stores that can be found in every suburb across the United States. Except for the high end stores along Madison Avenue and a few interesting stores in Greenwich Village, shopping in New York City has become very pedestrian. With regards to clothing made in the USA, I would say that New York is about average, only about 2% is made in the USA, and it doesn’t look like it will increase anytime soon unless their is a change in the population’s attitude or government intervention. There may be a silver lining, I have found that there is a movement to produce vintage clothes in the United States once more, stores like Levi’s and Eddie Bauer. One last tip, if you are visiting New York City and you purchase over $110 worth of merchandise, you may want to inquire about shipping them home, by doing that, you avoid their sales tax.

“Fashion for the most part is nothing but the ostentation of riches.” – John Locke

12
Oct
11

Underwhere: Underwear Made in America

Main point – it is difficult to find made in USA underwear, but they can be found. (At the bottom of the blog entry, there is a list of brands of American that are still made in the USA).

It had been about nine months into my quest when I noticed that the random store shopping was getting me nowhere in the underwear department. I had investigated everywhere or so I thought: Sears, J.C. Penny, Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the discount stores: Ross, T.J. Maxx, Burlington and the Designer outlets – Nada. Not even Nada had any underwear. The closest I had come to finding anything not made in Asia or Central America was a few months back. I was in one of the discount stores (I think it was a T.J. Maxx), when I came upon a box of underwear. I inspected it, it was made by a prominent designer, and made in Italy. the price tag $50. The only problem (besides the price) was that the box was empty. Either I am paying $50 for a box or the contents had been pilfered. And getting the usual help in such a place which is often none, I decided to track down any other underwear vaguely close. And what do you know, there was nothing remotely connected to this single empty box of Italian designer underwear. So, how did it get there in the first place? Of course, a brief paranoid thought passed through my mind, is somebody playing a joke on me? No, that would be crazy, but then again, why is that box here in this discount store?

After fruitless searching, I decided I needed a more directed approach. Well, at least, I knew that there was Italian underwear out there somewhere. But, the question remained: “Is there underwear still made in America?”  I remember years ago, when Fruit of the Loom proudly advertised it was made in America, but that was a long time ago, and now no longer true. So, I did a computer search – I have always felt that Google is still the best search engine, so I googled “Underwear made in USA”. And bam, 25,900,000 entries. Of course, the best leads are in the first few pages. I wanted to find an actual retail store nearby that sells underwear and I came up with a few good leads: American Apparel at the Valley Fair Shopping center in San Jose, Eco Goods in Santa Cruz and REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) in Saratoga.

My first visit was American Apparel – for more information, you may want to visit my blog entry: Favorite US Stores #1: American Apparel. So, briefly, everything in the store is made in the U.S. Their main store is in Los Angeles and that is also where their clothing manufacturing occurs. With regards to underwear, it has the largest selection of American made underwear than any other store. They had briefs, they had boxers, they had bikinis, and they had boxer briefs. There were numerous colors as well, some even neon colored. I passed on the neon colors but did end up purchasing six pairs of boxer briefs – my personal choice for the last two years. It was definitely a big score, and I can always go back for more.

My next stop was REI – a large chain of camping, accessories and clothing found all through out the US. I was looking in particular for Patagonia underwear, because up until very recently Patagonia was made in the US. I found the underclothing section and found some Patagonia – which were few and far between. Even fewer were American made underwear. I found a pair of patterned boxer briefs made in the US in my size, and right next to that pair was an identical pair except that one was made in Mexico. Probably, what is happening is that they are probably going to totally phase out all American made clothing by Patagonia. I guess I was lucky to get this one. Maybe it will be a collector’s item in a few years. But all was not lost. As I was still in the underwear section, I found the store brand – REI – also made underwear that was made in the USA. So, I bought a couple more pair of boxer briefs. I felt the visit to REI was a semi-successful venture.

The last stop was Eco Goods in downtown Santa Cruz. For those who don’t know Santa Cruz – it is a small city just 30 minutes south of San Jose requiring a trip through the Santa Cruz Mountains. The mountains keep many of the citizens of San Jose away for which the Santa Cruzians are grateful. This keeps Santa Cruz unique. In downtown Santa Cruz, there is a diverse mixture of people: aging hippies, grungers, surfers, teenagers, a few families, and a few business people. Eco Goods is also unique. It is a store that specializes in environmentally friendly products. The products are made of recycled material or made of plants, like hemp or bamboo. Some of the products are made in America, but about 65% are not. I found a couple of boxers briefs – one made by bgreen, and another made by Bamboosa.  I also purchased a couple of T-shirts and a light jacket. I f you are in the neighborhood, Eco Goods is definitely worth a visit.

For ladies underwear, the ability to find underwear made in America is even more difficult, because the percentage made in America is so low. I have found only a couple of clothing manufacturers that make ladies underwear in the U.S., there may be more, but I get a little uncomfortable shopping for this product for very long. The names are Hanky Panky Undies – which can be found in Anthropologie and Nordstrom’s; Spanx – found at Dillard’s or Nordstrom’s; and Zinke Bras – found in Anthropologie. Blue canoe makes ladies underwear, panties and bras. I found Blue Canoe at Eco Goods in Santa Cruz, California. For the lastest listing of underwear makers see my blog entry : “Listing of American clothing brands -retail”.

Updated February 26, 2014.

Listing of Underwear Brands Made in USA (found in Brick and Mortar Stores)

  1. American Apparel
  2. Araks (bra & panties)
  3. Bamboo Boxer Co.
  4. Bamboosa
  5. bgreen
  6. Bills Khakis
  7. Blanqi
  8. Blue Canoe
  9. Commando
  10. Debra Marquit
  11. Farr West (slips)
  12. Free People (bra) (rare)
  13. Flint & Tender
  14. Freemans Sporting Club
  15. Hanky Panky
  16. Kiki De Montparnasse
  17. Merona (tights)
  18. Omgirl (bra)
  19. Only Heart (Bra and panties)
  20. Parisa
  21. Patagonia
  22. REI
  23. Result Wear
  24. Second Base (cammis)
  25. Solow
  26. Spanx
  27. Special Delivery NYC
  28. Steven Alan
  29. The Lake & Stars
  30. Thom Browne
  31. Underwares USA
  32. Undrest
  33. VPL
  34. Zella
  35. Zinke

“Underwear makes me uncomfortable and besides my parts have to breath”. -Jean Harlow




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