It is sometimes overlooked that agriculture not only gives us the food on our tables and the fuel in our vehicles, but the clothes on our backs as well. However, in North Carolina, a state well-known for its rich textile history, several clothiers are standing out in the marketplace for their efforts to reconnect consumers with agriculture by buying cotton from local producers.
As a result, businesses like The Raleigh Denim Workshop, which creates custom-tailored jeans that go from the farm to the loom to the workshop while never traveling more than 200 miles, are promoting an important message about how every purchase affects the land and its surrounding community. Here’s a closer look at how this movement, also called the “wear local” trend, has become a win-win for all involved.
The Benefits of “Wear Local”
“We should all be conscientious of the markets we are supporting and the environmental effects made by our choices. Personally, I try to wear as much cotton as I can and use cotton home goods,” says Andrew Burleson, a fourth-generation cotton farmer in Stanly County and recent winner of the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation’s 2017 High Cotton Award for Southeast states.
“We are proud to be part of a company that strives to keep our products and labor force local,” he adds. Presently, the Burlesons are selling cotton within the Carolinas through a local company called TS Designs, which spins, sews, dyes and markets shirts under labels such as Dirt to Shirt, Cotton of the Carolinas and Mindful Supply.
At Mindful Supply in Greensboro, brand manager Sarah Cardman has also seen firsthand how the “ ‘wear local’ trend is not only supportive of manufacturers, but artists, designers, screen printers, you name it. Hundreds of jobs are created by simply choosing to buy a T-shirt made locally versus buying something made overseas.
In the end, you get more for your money and you’ve helped your community,” she says.
Dedicated to keeping an open and transparent supply chain, Mindful Supply is proud to support local producers with their “Made in the Carolinas” shirt line and is even able to tell consumers which field the cotton in their clothes came from.
“Each of us has seen the impact that a single farmer can have on the local economy. We want the money we spend to go back into the community too,” says Cardman, who credits private manufacturers with the freedom to make products better, smarter and more ethically. And when consumers are buying products made from cotton from the Carolinas, she feels that’s proof that they support this mission too.
Another business working with TS Designs is Cotton Incorporated, based in Cary. As part of this collaboration and Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ denim collection program, a special commemorative tee was released at a local soccer game in September 2018. It featured a colored piping design indicating where the shirt’s cotton came from.
“The ability to track that commemorative shirt back to the grower that grew the cotton in it is a great way to put a face on the product ingredients, and to help the consumer understand that there are real people behind every cotton product that touches their lives,” explains Kim Kitchings, senior vice president, consumer marketing of Cotton Inc.
Additionally, for over a decade, the Blue Jeans Go Green™ sustainability program “has engaged consumers in end-of-product-life cotton sustainability and educated them about the sustainable gains U.S. cotton growers continue to achieve at the beginning of the product life cycle,” making it clear that “cotton isn’t just the fabric of our lives, it’s the fiber of communities around the world,” says Kitchings.
Ultimately, the “wear local” trend is just the beginning of what will be a very fruitful relationship for local producers, businesses and consumers.