January 31, 2013 1 Comment
That’s our initial reaction to the announcement last week by Nicholas Brayton, president of Woolrich Inc., that the over 180-year-old company headquartered in the quaint village of Woolrich since 1830 plans to introduce a 100-percent, American-made apparel collection this coming fall.
Not that Woolrich hasn’t done this before.
But if ever there was a time when American consumers need to rally around a company that has decided to bring some of its overseas apparel manufacturing back home, it is now.
In a letter to all of Woolrich’s customers, vendors and employees, Brayton announced Woolrich also will:
– Increase the yardage of wool produced in the woolen mill in Woolrich by 50 percent this year.
– Increase the firm’s American-made product offerings by 2015, ensuring that more than 50 percent of Woolrich woolen garments “proudly include American made wool.”
“In the coming months, for Woolrich to set and accomplish these goals, it’s going to take more than a company commitment. It’s going to take support from our loyal customers as well,” he said.
Details, we’re told, will be forthcoming as The Express has asked for a direct sit-down with Mr. Brayton to discuss and then report Woolrich’s ambitious plans so far as the privately held company is willing to reveal them.
Dear readers, if you missed Mr. Brayton’s letter published here last week, his words should be revealing and, honestly, quite profound to you in an age when many U.S.-based manufacturing companies have their products made on foreign land to reduce costs.
That has, over the past several decades, taken jobs from Americans.
Woolrich has been no exception.
Faced with a tough sales environment and working to cut costs to remain (as Mr. Brayton said) “relevant, competitive and solvent,” Woolrich has, in recent months, reduced its employee numbers and moved its design team from its local headquarters to the fashion capital of New York City.
Licensing its brand and various products has been a lifeline created with its licensing partner, the Italian firm of WP Lavori. Federal contracts to provide apparel and blankets to the U.S. military also have played a key role.
It’s a darn shame Americans aren’t more loyal to “Made in the U.S.A.” products.
They profess they are, but when they walk into a store, well, the sale of imported products show otherwise.
“In today’s world, the hard reality is that making things here is hard to do,” Mr. Brayton said.
Bringing more wool to the local mill should breathe new life into the longest, continuously running woolen mill in the U.S., which has been operating with a skeleton crew.
Among other things, Woolrich must ramp up marketing of its American-made apparel line of men’s and women’s outerwear and, perhaps, sportswear – something that can be very costly.
It should be a risk worth taking.
The “Original Outdoor Clothing Company” has among the most famous brands in the world, born when John Rich traveled from camp to camp in a mule cart during the great logging era of Central Pennsylvania to sell woolen fabric to loggers and their wives to make clothing.
Woolrich Inc, the “iconic American institution with a heritage that spans over 180 years,” is proudly “eager to begin writing the next chapter of the American manufacturing story.”