The fashion world, as usual, is abuzz. But the topic isn’t new collections or red carpets—it’s the working conditions in overseas factories. After the recent factory fires and building collapse in Bangladesh, several of the world’s biggest apparel brands (H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Zara) signed a pledge to fund factory repairs and renovations in the country, spurred in part by an online petition with more than a million signatures. But much like feedlots and chicken factories inspired socially conscious eaters to buy local, modern shoppers seek supply chains they know.
In Portland, a growing number of manufacturers churn out thousands of pieces of apparel and accessories per month in clean, safe environments. While big clothing companies consider new safety standards and higher wages (the minimum wage in Bangladesh is US$38 per month), these smaller players already pay their workers livable wages and offer benefits.
Sure, you might pay $210 for, say, a pencil skirt from Portland Garment Factory’s HouseLine brand, compared to $118 at J. Crew—but you’ll also know that the worker who sewed HouseLine’s products made a competitive salary and had benefits and paid time off. Meaning you’ll look good and feel good while wearing it.
Meet three local companies leading the way:
Operating since: 2008
Manufacturing space: 1,400 square feet, 9 machines
Makes: Folly’s own clothing line, Sarah Bibb, sold in the Folly boutique, including 22 styles of dresses, skirts, tops, and belts
Operating since: 2008
Manufacturing space: 5,000 square feet, 30 machines
Makes: Churning out an average of 7,000 units a month, PGF’s niche is high-end women’s wear and tailoring, including its own HouseLine and bridal lines Twigs & Honey and Claire La Faye. It also does special projects for big names such as Levi’s and New Balance.
Operating since: 2011
Manufacturing space: 5,000 square feet, 19 machines, and a robotic cutting table
Makes: Specializing in accessories, Spooltown makes bags and soft goods for more than 50 clients nationwide, including bags for local company Queen Bee.
Want to see the made-in-PDX goods? Check out our slide show of bags, dresses, and other stylish items made by these companies.