Working with local manufacturers was a no-brainer for New York City-based designer Danielle Ribner, who she started her womenswear label, Loup, in 2009. “There are so many factories in the Garment District and, as a new brand, I knew that working with them was the easiest thing to do,” the Parsons alum recalled.
Though small minimums, shorter lead-times and ease of communication may have fueled her initial decision to produce apparel stateside, she said it didn’t take long for a sense of responsibility to kick in. “I quickly realized that in order for these factories to survive, they really depend on small companies like mine growing with them, and if everybody continues to move production abroad because it’s cheaper, these factories aren’t going to exist for very much longer.”
This isn’t a new development. In 1960, 95 percent of clothing sold in the United States was manufactured in Manhattan. Today, that number has plummeted to about 3 percent. But it’s not just patriotism that’s keeping Ribner’s production here. Some of the reasons designers sought offshore alternatives no longer apply — including cost.
“The truth is, price-point isn’t so different from doing it here versus doing it abroad when I count the cost of customs and shipping,” Ribner explained. “Because I’ve been working with my factories for so long, I can negotiate a better price if I work with them in the off-season.”
The fact that her clothing is streamlined and simple helps keep costs down, too.
This past year, Loup stepped its made-in-the-U.S.A. ethos up a notch, using domestically-sourced materials (read: denim, cotton and rayon, mostly from California) in all its designs. “I am a little more limited, but it means that I get to be more creative, working more with washing techniques, doing my own prints, dyeing or things like that,” she said.
The biggest downside is the short supply of sewing machine mechanics and seamstresses, Ribner said, meaning that her manufacturers oftentimes struggle to handle heavy workloads. “Sometimes stores want really fast re-orders but we can’t turn things around in a week,” she said.
It hasn’t hurt her business, however, and stockists span the likes of Anthropologie and Shopbop online to such independent boutiques as Life Curated in New York, Veridis in Seattle, Portland’s Communion and Bell Jar in San Francisco.
While Loup is firmly rooted in the U.S., the brand’s aesthetic comes from overseas. Named after the French word for wolf, the line is steeped in effortless Gallic chic á la Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin and Francoise Hardy. Classic cuts and vintage details are infused with contemporary designs to bow such wearable wardrobe staples.
For Fall ’15, Ribner mined the ‘70s for inspiration, presenting a collection that’s chock-full of “dream items you would want to find at a vintage store” in an array of rust shades and worn-in denim. Prices retail for $80-$200. “Buyers are really into our wide-leg cropped pants, culottes, denim jumpers and overalls,” she said, adding, “Denim does really well for me because I don’t really do jeans — I do skirts, dresses and tops in denim and people love that.”
Ribner doesn’t believe consumer demand for domestic goods is on the up, or that shoppers are willing to pay a premium for homegrown apparel, but discovering that something has a Made in America tag does add some value to a purchase. “At the end of the day, people want things that they like and are affordable but I do think for most people, knowing something was made here is exciting,” she said.