Monday, March 5, 2012

These boots are made for...

My husband found a pair of boots that he fell in love with at a thrift store. Worn, but with much life left in them, he brought them home. Upon further inspection we discovered they were Made in America! They are Chippewa, and although we are just learning about them they have been around for over a century.
Chippewa Boots was founded in October 1901 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The name comes from the Indian tribe of the region. The company's mission from day one was to manufacture the finest boots and shoes in the United States. It employed 175 employees, mainly women, and produced 1,200 pairs daily.
Chippewa was one of the first outdoor boot manufacturers to offer ladies outdoor boots. It was also the first footwear manufacturer to use Vibram® outsoles, which were imported from Italy at the time. The continued use of Vibram® outsoles is consistent with Chippewa's commitment to the utilization of quality components.
I just can't believe we didn't know about them sooner! Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a worker, or you just like how they look. Chippewa has a boot made for you.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

More than Beautiful

According to Kalon Studio's website, "The name Kalon is derived from the ancient Greek concept of ‘to kalon.’ To be kalon is more than being beautiful; it is having a beauty that both is and inspires excellence." And their pieces live up to that name. Their smart, thoughtfully designed pieces are minimal and timeless.
And Kalon Studio's commitment to sustainability is unmatched. Their finishes are people-friendly, non-toxic and food-safe. Their materials are eco-friendly, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable, and sustainably forested. Their production is low waste and energy efficient. Their products are made domestically and by hand. You can feel good about filling your baby's nursery with these thoughtful, environmentally responsible pieces. And the quality is such that these can become heirlooms in your family.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

NPR Talks to Keen Shoes

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
And I'm Robert Siegel.
President Obama wants to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Insourcing was a theme of his State of the Union message. And we're going to hear now from a CEO who opened a plant in this country recently.
James Curleigh runs Keen - K-E-E-N - the Portland, Oregon, company that makes footwear, bags and socks. Welcome to the program.
JAMES CURLEIGH: Hi, nice to talk to you.
SIEGEL: And in 2010, you opened a plant in Portland to make work boots. I read that it employs 30 people. I want you to run us through a bit of the calculus that made you decide to open domestically rather than, say, in China.
CURLEIGH: Sure. I mean, we're an 8-year-old company, born in this century. So we looked at all the technical dimensions that we deal with - and that can be areas like duty rates; it can be transportation costs; it can be intellectual property; it can be development costs. And when you put it all together, and you look at it in the context of what we need for our business and our brand and our products, from a costing perspective it starts to make sense.
But the broader picture is looking at the dynamics, what's happening over in Asia and other parts of the world, where we see labor rates increasing at a significant rate. We also see vertical integration of our factories being closer linked to commodities and materials that basically, tie us into some deals that might not be in the best interest of our product build, or our product business.
SIEGEL: But you still make most of your footwear in Asia. Does this logic change that? Or should we expect to see some of that production, and some of those jobs, coming back to the U.S.?
CURLEIGH: Yeah, I mean, we've already started it. And I think it's the classic, you know, one small step for insourcing and America, and one giant leap for Keen - where we decided to embark on a new category that we call Utility, which is our steel-toe shoe.
So when you think about a category of steel-toe, you think about built in America; you think about Americans building things. But also, what we recognize was when it comes to intellectual property and innovation, beyond the technical cost of the product, the cost of protecting your brand and some of your innovation is becoming increasingly more important. So...
SIEGEL: I'm surprised that you attach that much importance to intellectual property. I remember asking the manager of an American shoe plant about 25 years ago, how long does it take you from the time you steal the design in Paris, to the time that that ladies' shoe is in shoe stores? And the answer wasn't very huffy - it was a month to six weeks. I thought that shoe business is all about taking other people's designs.
CURLEIGH: Yeah. Well, I think when it comes to new categories and trying to, you know, say to our fans that we're going to bring you breakthrough innovation, we have to make sure we can control that innovation. And also, I think there's the balance point of innovation and quality control. So by building a factory here in Portland, Oregon, we were able to say we completely understand labor dynamics, overhead dynamics, the shift from manual to automation.
And as a result, not only for our own factory but when we speak with our other sourcing partners, we're much more educated to be able to make better decisions in the interest of, you know, cost reduction and quality improvement.
SIEGEL: Are we reaching a point where automation and computerization of production has reduced factory workforces by so much that wage differentials just don't matter that much anymore? If it's only 30 people, what's the big deal?
CURLEIGH: Yeah, I think we're getting there. And this always sounds a little controversial but one of the challenges that I think we see on a, you know, global economic level is that sometimes when labor is too cheap, there is no incentive to automate to improve productivity. So the kind of vision we had was, can we improve the quality of the job, the quality of the labor, and actually introduce some automation to improve productivity?
And what we're finding is that we're starting to see that balance point already at our factory in Portland.
SIEGEL: You speak of the fan base - I went to the Keen website, and there's an ethos to your company. You talk about hybrid lifestyle. And this has to do with work and recreation, and integrating our lives.
Do you think that that means that actually for people who buy Keen shoes or boots, the fact that it's made in America, you think, will actually be a plus; it's a marketing advantage to you?
CURLEIGH: I think to a certain fan, they actually do connect with the fact that we're a young company, and we're trying things. And just the fact that we have an effort and a very real business and brand effort that creates product in America, I think, is important.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Curleigh, thanks a lot for talking with us.
CURLEIGH: I appreciate it.
SIEGEL: That's James Curleigh, speaking to us from Portland, Oregon, where he is the CEO of Keen, which opened a factory in 2010 in Portland.
Copyright © 2012 National Public Radio®

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hat's Off: Sonja Rasula and State of UNIQUE

At the State of Unique festival this weekend, I saw a ton of smart, crafty small businesses making cool stuff stateside. Started by Sonja Rasula, the great brain behind Unique LA, State of Unique's mission is simple. According to Sonja “I want to bring modern Made-in-America design to the masses. My goals are to help designers and small businesses grow and become sustainable, to support the local economy, and to teach shoppers the value of conscious consumerism.” The etsy-generation at its best, with inventive jewelry, clothes, stationary, foods that make you go, "Man, I should have thought of that!" Design Patriot has tried to cover companies that employ at least five Americans, either themselves or through their manufacturing, so these smaller artisans are out of our usual purview. So, it was inspiring to see so many creative and talented people embracing the US manufacturing revolution. And I got a lot of holiday shopping done from vendors I can feel good about!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Modernism Lives

Vessel USA Inc. was founded in 1998 with the purpose of reviving "stunningly simple planters and other ceramic designs that brought acclaim to the Architectural Pottery Collection", a Los Angeles company founded in 1950 by Max and Rita Lawrence. The spare, geometric pottery was a favorite of local mid-century architects. It was so forward thinking, the pottery was exhibited in MOMA as early as 1951. Vessel USA produces modern planters, containers, sculpture and garden accessories from its studio in San Diego, with an eye on the past and one on the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Brooklyn Tradition

A couple in Brooklyn started Hammersmith Copper Cookware out of a love for cooking, an appreciation for the durability and efficiency of copper, and an interest in bringing the glory of what they considered the best cookware to the public. After searching for some time to find copper cookware made in the states, they found it "hasn't been made in America for over a generation, but the last of it was made right here in Brooklyn." A series of happy accidents lead them to Jeff Herkes and his Bushwick shop, who at that time was fabricating the parts needed to restore the HighLine elevated rail line turned public park. "Jeff had acquired all the old chucks and other tooling for the Waldow line of copper cookware when he bought his fabricating shop in the 1980s. It was all there, along with the metal-working talent, ready to be resurrected."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

HOLLA if you love Southern Style

Holler Design is a small furniture making company in Tennessee. (if the name is familiar you may have seen them recently featured on collaboration of husband and wife team Matt and Melissa Alexander, two southerners who "have left home and returned with an imperative of what it means to be southern, and a desire to share that view with others."  Inspired by rural forms and textures, their pieces are rustic, minimal, and pleasing in their simplicity and how the honor the wood. On their website they write, "Our objects exhibit a 'love of making,' retain a subsequent intrinsic value, and utilize a production process that is inherently sustainable, but which is grounded more in the tradition of craft than in the ‘green-washing’ of current systems of manufacturing."