Good Clothing Company, a burgeoning ethical and local fashion movement in Mashpee, has opened and the owner says business is good.
Kathryn A. Hilderbrand, the owner of Stitched in South Cape Village, opened Good Clothing at the end of February and within three weeks has considered tripling her workforce as well as expanding into an adjacent space that dwarfs her tight room in the Deer Crossing shopping plaza.
“We have a crazy amount of demand,” Ms. Hilderbrand said. “In an industry that was defunct, we are creating jobs locally. We’re bringing jobs back here.” Sleep on the other hand has been hard to come by, but to Ms. Hilderbrand and the five seamstresses she has hired so far, she said that that is a good problem to have.
The premise of the business is that clothing can be made with eco-friendly fabric, farmed by fairly paid farmers in the United States and sewn locally in Mashpee by local seamstresses who are paid fairly.
A customer can receive one item produced at Good Clothing and made from a personal design, or a business could receive a shipment of 500 or so garments. The small shipments allow smaller businesses to sell a line of clothing.
The hope is that the business, which has so far seen positive results, will steer shoppers away from buying cheap clothes, made with ecologically unsound practices by underpaid and oppressed workers. And like the farm-to-table movement, Good Clothing supports local tailors and fashion designers and eco-friendly clothing, creates awareness about where much of American clothing comes from today, and brings jobs back to the US.
Inside the Good Clothing shop are a line of six sewing machines and a large table where rolls of textiles are cut. An assortment of fabrics is stored underneath the table and spools of thread are neatly organized on the shop’s walls. The seamstresses Ms. Hilderbrand has hired, which include production manager Jeanine M. Duquette and production assistant Bree Billiter, both Cape Cod residents, have learned to work together to meet the high demand.
So far, Good Clothing has 25 to 30 clients. They have manufactured a line of organic woman’s underwear and produced four samples of dresses for a Boston fashion company that could lead to the production of 400 dresses. They have manufactured 50 leather and canvas tote bags, beach chairs, yoga clothing, and other apparel.
Companies so far include Alchemy Detroit; Fisherman’s Daughter, a women’s clothing company out of Chatham; La Fille Collette, a Boston-based company; innerglow yoga of Mashpee; Everything Enamour out of New England; and companies as far away as France and Singapore. Ms. Hilderbrand said that high demand is proof that there is a demand for ethical and local consumption.
“That whole era where manufacturing was done here is slowly coming back,” said Scott W. Nagle, a Yarmouth resident who recently took a beach chair design to Good Clothing for production.
Mr. Nagle produces a beach apparel line called Brohaun. He has opened a shop in Deer Crossing.
Producing locally has also been a driving force for Mr. Nagle and his small business. Instead of cheap clothing, he hopes to brand an ethical line, a movement in the fashion world he has seen grow. “It’s turning from how cheap can I make something into how well can I make it,” he said.
Mr. Nagle worked as a designer for Cuffys of Cape Cod, a local T-shirt store. He said that the store’s manufacturers were in Pakistan, which he said was a “nightmare.” He said that because the products were not well made and because of the language barrier, working with the manufacturers was difficult, albeit cheap. He said he spent hour upon hour sorting through poorly made samples. Working internationally also leads to further restrictions on the type of materials and coloring for a design, he said.
With Good Clothing, he can take a quick drive when a seamstress has a question. A seamstress can also contribute to the design or a type of fabric. “It just makes sense,” Mr. Nagle said. And while he might not be able to pay 50 cents, like he could for a T-shirt made in China, he said that his customers can get behind the shop local idea.
Mr. Nagle is looking to produce the fabric for his beach chairs with Good Clothing. The wood for the chairs is milled locally in Yarmouth. This year he hopes to make 50 chairs, but if his project takes shape, that could grow to 200 in the future.
Currently, Mr. Nagle teaches design at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich but if Brohaun takes off, he hopes to devote himself full time to it. “My goal is to make the transition from a small business,” he said. “I want it to be my sole job.”
Ms. Hilderbrand says that Mr. Nagle’s brand could be the next Vineyard Vines, a thriving fashion company that has stores across the Cape. Good Clothing, she said, allows smaller businesses like Brohaun to start and in an ethical fashion.