Photos by Brian Ferry.
This past weekend I got into a long heady conversation about the Made in The U.S.A. movement. My feeling is that on the one hand, the knee-jerk "all manufacturing in China is bad" reaction ignores complexity and nuance and how economic development changes manufacturing in a country, but on the other hand, there are sad and disappointing outcomes that we've seen all too often come from outsourcing. I think we can all agree that having these conversations is important and every consumer has their own power to support what they care about. I tend to support and champion the people that aren't chasing the lowest wages overseas because most often those guys are the most passionate about what they're making and most passionate about the actual process of manufacturing. No better case and point than Voices of Industry, a hand-woven textiles and apparel company out of Oakland that sources American fiber that is farmed and spun domestically. The story doesn't start with the weaving, to Voices of Industry, it starts with the farmers.
Voices of Industry's first collection started at Sally Fox's cotton farm in Capay Valley, CA. where they harvested organic naturally-colored cotton to make their goods. Adele Stafford, the founder of the company said, "I've built a model that puts the farmer at the heart of what we're doing and relies on the expertise of other makers—pattern makers, tailors, designers, photographers—as a way of building a collaborative industry. And I'm committed to each of us being valued and compensated fairly for the work that we do. I'm the weaver, but it takes this larger lot to make the work happen." Not only are VOI's scarves, throws, and shirts beautiful, but there's something really powerful about a finished product that you can trace back to its beginnings on a cotton farm.
I'm especially fond of the name Voices of Industry which came to Stafford after she poured through historical records citing story after story of women loom operators who mustered courage to stand up against the increasing industrial culture and eventually started a publication called The Voice of Industry between 1845-1847. Check out some of the old issues and its history here.