Burlington, North Carolina – According to the USDA, the United States is the third largest producer of cotton in the world, but it is also the largest exporter of raw cotton in the world.
However, a company in Burlington is working to restore the phrase “Made in the USA” with an emphasis on being environmentally friendly.
What you need to know
The United States of America is the number one exporter of raw cotton in the world
Solid State Clothing in Burlington has committed to using ‘Carolina cotton’ in its products
The company’s president believes that this is a step towards more sustainable and ethical clothing
A lot of thought goes into Solid State Clothing’s rather simple-looking tie-dye shirts, specifically about how to make them sustainable.
“You know this was locally sourced cotton, all made in North and South Carolina,” said Courtney Lockemer, brand manager at Solid State Clothing. “We dyed it with non-toxic vegetable dyes. The pomegranate peel extract and green color come from the addition of iron.”
When all is said and done, customers can scan the QR code on the shirt and track the entire supply chain.
There’s Andrew Burleson, our cotton grower. There’s Wes Morgan, our expert. There’s Andy Long, our spinner. There’s Alex, our weaver. There’s Stacey, our ultimate maker. There’s William, we cut and sew. There’s that guy from TS Designs.
“We want people to view clothes as an investment. It’s not just a batch of the moment they wear it three or four times and then throw it away,” Henry said.
Henry insists there is no reason to outsource anything. The T-shirts he makes travel less than 600 miles from where the seeds were sown on a farm to his warehouse in Burlington.
Compare that to a regular imported T-shirt, which is probably local cotton because we grow a lot of cotton in this country. You’re looking at a shirt that has the potential to travel 13,000 to 15,000 miles. And you have no idea what’s behind this supply chain. You will get the last country of origin where it was made. It could say China but it could be American cotton. “You have no idea,” Henry said.
Henry admits that his shirts can be made cheaper in a foreign country, but believes that this cheats the system. He says this is part of a trend toward more ethical and responsible clothing.
“You’re investing in your local economy. All of these people are in my Carolinas, so when you make that investment, you’re supporting the people who live in your community. 97% to 98% of the clothes we wear are made overseas. That usually benefits the brand but consumers.” Or manufacturers don’t participate because they were made elsewhere. “It’s all done here,” Henry said.
“It’s very similar to what happened to the farm in the Crossroads movement. People realized the value of connecting with their local farms and supporting that local farmer and understanding the whole food process. I think people are starting to deal with this relationship with clothes because we buy a lot of clothes,” Henry said.
In the future, Henry wants to start growing natural dyes, incorporating synthetic hemp fibers into cotton threads and finding ways to prevent clothing from reaching landfills.
Henry says because he uses all locally sourced produce and labor, his company has been able to avoid supply chain issues during the pandemic.