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End of an Era: White Oak to Cease Operations After 112 Years

The iconic Cone Denim White Oak mill will end its 112-year run of continuous production in Greensboro, North Carolina this December.

International Textile Group, Inc. (ITG), parent company of Cone Denim, announced Wednesday that the mill will be ceasing operations and closing effective Dec. 31, 2017.

The company said changes in market demand have “significantly reduced order volume” at the plant as customers have transitioned more of their fabric sourcing outside the U.S.

Despite tremendous efforts on the part of the plant staff and all employees to manage these changes, ITG said the plant’s large size provides more capacity than is needed resulting in a significantly higher manufacturing cost that cannot be supported in a sustainable business going forward.

ITG will work closely with its White Oak customers to fulfill all orders and to meet customer needs over the coming months, including transitioning styles to its other global platforms.

“We truly regret having to take this action to close the mill, and we deeply appreciate the loyalty and dedication of all current and former employees of the White Oak mill,” said Kenneth T. Kunberger, president and CEO of Cone Denim and International Textile Group. “Their talent, effort, innovation, dedication, and customer focus all combined to create a White Oak brand, heritage, and legacy that will forever be the heart of the Cone Denim business.”

Kunberger continued, “Today that legacy fuels inspiration and drives innovation throughout Cone’s global denim platform, furthering Cone’s tremendous leadership in denim authenticity, sustainability and performance.”

The White Oak mill, known for its 1940s vintage American Draper X3 shuttle looms that produced vintage selvedge denim, was started in 1905. The mill produced denim exclusively for more than 110 years, making it a global denim icon.

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For years, brands have relied on denim from White Oak for their Made in America collections, including 3×1, Levi’s, Ralph Lauren and Timberland. The mill’s denim adds cache to collections, as it is the only source for selvedge denim made in the U.S.

Cone Denim’s extensive global platform includes state-of-the-art operations in Mexico and China and the Cone 3D R&D incubator focused on advancing performance and sustainability to the world’s favored fabric.

In May, ITG sold Cone’s dual core patent portfolio to Invista. The portfolio covers a number of dual core yarns, fabrics and garments made from those fabrics sold in the U.S., China and Europe.

The company says it will also work closely with employees to provide transition services and other support including severance benefits and assistance in finding training sources and other employment opportunities.

ITG will continue to be headquartered in Greensboro with ten manufacturing operations across the U.S., Mexico and China.