In the food world, the concept of using local farms is appealing. It is associated with fresh produce, minimal transportation, and support for local farmers.
In the apparel world, locally sourced fabric has a whole different meaning. In fact, it could mean many things, depending on where you are.
In India, it is possible for apparel factories to use locally grown cotton. And in China, some vertically operated factories cultivate their own silkworms. However, garments from these factories are then exported all over the world, so these examples are not analogous to locally grown food.
The closest we can get to having locally sourced materials in our wardrobe would be to find clothing made from cotton grown and milled in USA. (The term ‘local” just became relative. ) But the kind of fabrics used in sportswear apparel aren’t woven here anymore— the great fabric mills of the South are long gone. Even denim isn’t made here anymore. Our only option would be 100% cotton knitted fabrics, like jersey for tee shirts. I would love to include sweats and hoodies, but those are typically blended with imported polyester.
And even then, there’s no easy way to know if the cotton in our tee shirts was grown in USA farms. The garment would need to be labeled as Supima cotton, which is only grown in the US, authenticated with the Cotton USA logo, or made by a brand that provides full transparency to American grown cotton in its products and shares this with the consumer.
According to my TikTok-educated teenage daughter, we should all be buying second hand clothes from thrift stores. Shopping at your nearest Goodwill store is an alternative way to get locally sourced clothing with low-impact materials. The imported materials in second hand clothes have already made their carbon footprint.
So, for those of us interested in clothing made from locally sourced materials, we’re kinda limited to tee shirts and leftovers.