When I first decided to create a handbag line I knew one thing – I wanted it to be made in the US. I really missed the quality of what that meant and I was tired of fashion I loved breaking on me. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when you find the perfect handbag and six months later it breaks on you. Oh, I’ll just buy another one – you can’t, they don’t sell it anymore!!!
It turns out “Made in USA” only means that the LABOR is done in the USA. Materials can be from ANYWHERE and that’s where it gets tricky. In my experience, it’s not so much the labor that’s at fault then it’s the materials. Many people have told me that it’s okay to use third world parts and just label it Made in USA, but that just left a pit in my stomach. If I used third world parts, I would be half-assing the quality, and I don’t do that. I don’t believe it. Nope.
The Internet is an amazing invention. You can find anything with the touch of a mouse – bazillion recipes on margaritas, a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby, or even your doppelgänger from across the world. What you can’t find are US manufacturers for handbag parts. Why? Because like the panda, they are an endangered species. I scoured the internet and talk to supplier’s suppliers to try to find materials made in the US. Every call was the same:
Me: Hi! I’m wondering do you guys carry hardware made in the US?
Hardware supplier: You mean China, India or Pakistan? Yes, of course. Very good quality.
Me: No, do you have anything manufactured in the US?
Hardware supplier: Yes, China.
Me: No, USA? America?
Hardware supplier: Yes, we ship to America.
Me: Is anything made in the USA?
Hardware: [laugher ensues] Silly girl. No. All China.
The globalization of the fashion industry was suppose to help third world countries along with helping developed countries with cheaper manufacturing cost. However, due to the competition to gain the cheapest labor and third world countries wanting to gain clients, corners are cut, people are taken advantage of and living in poverty. The scariest part is people are dying to provide you with cheap fashion. Here in the US, manufacturing has plummeted in the last few decades. So not only are we taking away jobs from our own, but we are killing others in impoverished countries. How is that helping anyone?
In the end I found the best materials I could to craft a bag that lasts but also services the modern woman. It’s taken me too long for me to find a trusted shop in the US for labor and hardware but I have. I’ve work closely and personally inspect each product. Output has been limited for quality control. The imported leather from Italy has been certified and put to the test to ensure durability and longevity. Can’t have a timeless piece of fashion that doesn’t last, right?