Though Made in America manufacturing has been an ambitious goal among brands for decades, now may be the time they turn that dream into a reality.
Such is the case for Lucky Brand, which recently tapped two U.S. suppliers to develop a limited-edition line of men’s jeans that will launch in Summer 2022. The Made in USA jeans feature selvedge denim produced by Louisiana-based Vidalia Mills that is then sewn and laundered in California at Artistic Milliners-owned Star Fades International (SFI).
SFI, which launched at the end of 2020, aims to establish a new model for both Los Angeles-based denim production and U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities. SFI provides turnkey and custom wash and finishing services to a customer roster that ranges from large international retailers to specialty premium labels, and its in-house design studio already has two capsule collections under its belt.
The fabric made by Vidalia has an added layer of U.S. history. The mill is producing the first U.S.-made selvedge since Cone Denim’s White Oak facility in Greensboro, N.C. closed in 2017. Vidalia owns 46 of the Draper x3 selvedge looms that helped put the now-shuttered plant on the radar of denim heads from around the world.
According to Tamara Reynolds, vice president of design, denim, at Lucky Brand, the label’s last Made in America jean debuted in 2018, and it’s looking forward to continuing that part of its history.
“We were so excited to dig into our American roots, the DNA of Lucky Brand, and the excellent craftsmanship inherent to Lucky Brand product,” Reynolds said. “This collection is a celebration of our heritage and honors the craft of small batch, limited-edition, Made in America jeans, where no two pairs are exactly the same and quality is paramount.”
Supply chain disruptions like unprecedented e-commerce demand, factory shutdowns, tight shipping capacity and global port congestion have fueled a demand for more locally made products. The Covid-19 pandemic shined a light on the importance of self-sufficiency and local partners, with an uptick in nearshoring specifically in the Western Hemisphere, as jeans imports originating from Mexico increased 55.42 percent to $352.94 million in the first half of 2021, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). Nicaragua, Colombia and Guatemala have also seen increases in their denim shipments to the U.S.
Vidalia has worked with brands such as Imogene + Willie and Trinidad3 Jeans, and has been a reliable domestic alternative to complicated supply chains in light of the pandemic. And while its location is attractive for brands, so is its dedication to quality and innovation. The mill uses traceable cotton and is working on developing yarns for both denim and woven goods, as well as for knits.
“Sustainability permeates every aspect of Vidalia’s approach to manufacturing; from a guiding principle of using e3 sustainable cotton and utilizing renewable energy and water throughout the fabrication process, to preserving slow, small batch production,” Reynolds said. “We will continue to invent special selvedge pieces for our heritage collection.”
Lucky Brand’s Made in American collection will include the men’s 410 athletic straight, 223 straight and 363 vintage straight fits. The 401 and 363 jeans will be available in sizes 28-42; sizes 29-40 will be available for the 223 style. Jeans will retail for $199.