Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where are Brooklyn Industries' stuff made?

I recently sent this letter to Brooklyn Industries:

Dear Brooklyn Industries people,

Recently while inspired by a sense of Brooklyn pride (which I have much of) I walked in to your Atlantic Avenue store to purchase some Brooklyn products. I thought, of course I want a Brooklyn sweatshirt. I looked around and saw that your products are on the pricey side. But that's fine. After all Brooklyn Industries is imbued with a sense of communal responsibility, and giving back. So being a Brooklynite, if I give to you, I get back. But I looked at all your products, and I could not find anything that was made in Brooklyn. That was incredibly disappointing.

I found sweatshirts made in Macau, sweaters made in Hong Kong, bags made in China, T-shirts (one of which I purchased) made in Canada, etc. I did see one nice acrylic colorful cap with a big pom-pom on it made in the US, but that is about it, and I do not look good in pom-pom hats.

So I ended up with a Canadian BI T-shirt.

It strikes me that the best way to give back to a community is to employ people in it. Then you generate jobs and income. If all your manufacturing is outsourced, how much are you really giving back? I would love to see more products that are inspired by Brooklyn and made here too. There seems like no greater way of giving back.

If not the manufacture of the clothing, what part of the industry is really about Brooklyn?

--Karl Czemer, Brooklyn

UPDATE: They responded with this letter quite promptly. I thought I would share it with you.

Hi Karl,

Thanks for inquiring about our Brooklyn Industries merchandise. I’m sorry that you were disappointed in not finding anything in our store that was made in the USA. Please note that all of the t-shirts in our Retrospective exhibit are in fact made in the US.

I would like to offer you a further explanation about our products:

Some of our merchandise is not made in Brooklyn. It is true that all of our products are designed here in Brooklyn, and many of our t-shirts are also manufactured here. However, we do have the more detailed clothing and bags currently produced in Turkey, India, Canada and China. For years we tried to make additional clothing categories here in New York. Many of our customers were unsatisfied with the results and often didn't pay the higher prices that those garments needed to have.

Unlike companies with products that are made in the USA that we are compared to, such as American Apparel and Manhattan Portage, we are a design company and as such we seek the best quality and standards to make our innovative product. Bags could not be made in NYC and have the same quality and function. Our intent is not as a manufacturer but as a design based company. We have standards that must be met, and we seek to only produce our product in factories that have high standards, that also meet international law for labor etc.

People often equate overseas labor with poor working conditions, but the president of our company has been to our three factories in China to make sure that they meet high US standards. In fact, he commented that all of the factories had much nicer environments than the factory that we use locally, he stressed that they were very clean, that the workers were getting paid well and that international law was being met. Overseas, we do our best to seek good manufacturers. That being said, we are a tiny company and our voice is very small. We would love to make more product in the US but have been unable to due to closing of factories, high prices, and there being a complete shortage (and in some cases non-existence) of manufacturers able to make clothing within the price point that our customers are willing to pay.

As far as our connection to the local community, we are very dedicated to our Brooklyn/NYC area and do our best to offer support. We live and work here, we design all our products here, we build our stores here, and we also donate to local causes.

I hope the overseas assembly of our clothing does not take away from all the local Brooklyn effort that went into creating it.

In our increasingly global economy, this question isn't as simple as a lot of people think it is. We think visiting the factories to ensure decent working conditions, supporting local charities here, and staying connected to local artists is a great way to run a responsible business.

Please email me if you have any further questions.




Anonymous said...

Ironic that I should read this entry now when i just happen to be wearing the only Brooklyn Industries t-shirt i own! They used to have a store next door to a pilates joint i used to frequent in the slope and went in only cause they were having a sale. I just checked and mine was made in the USA at least. I am surprised however by your discovery and am glad that you have not taken this lying down.


Anonymous said...

just admit that you have a deep (although closeted) love of Canada.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I am one of the founders of Brooklyn Industries and want to address your comments because it comes up quite often in the store. My partner and I did own a factory in Brooklyn for 3 years producing, designing and manufacturing bags. We employeed about 7 sewers at the time and ourselves. What we found is that it became physically and economically impossible to produce bags. We could not find enough workers with skills to make the bags; most of the mills we bought fabric from went out of business (literally) and we were unable to make the quality bags that our customers expected. In other words we could not compete in the market. We now source from many different places. We do still make some products in Brooklyn, mostly hand made in our studio in Williamsburg. We had our t-shirts manufactured for awhile in Sunset Park but the quality was not good.
We have chosen to not become a manufacturing company but a design/retail company where the emphasis is on design, our stores and participating in the communities through local events and schools. We are still small, we employ 62 people at last count. We offer health benefits to everyone who works for us and hope to provide a creative and exciting place to work.

I hope that this answers your question.

Lexy Funk

bec said...

actually, all of their stuff is made in brooklyn--iowa.

Joclyn said...

Lexy Funk?