We sat down with Anthony Circosta, known as multimedia maestro at the brand Local Clothes, to discuss using hemp to produce sustainable clothing, mitigating the environmental impacts of importing, and having more control over the manufacturing process by keeping it local.
Are all of Local’s clothes made in the United States?
No. Unfortunately, hemp is illegal to grow and manufacture in the United States. So, a foreign source was our only choice.
How did you go about finding apparel factories that could meet your needs and were aligned with your goals for creating an environmentally and socially responsible business?
Local’s main goal is to operate a truly sustainable clothing company that benefits the community. Our original intention was to offer a custom line of hemp apparel because it’s the most sustainable clothing fabric.
However, like many start-up clothing companies, Local began making products using goods purchased through a distributor-and hemp wasn’t available. So, to kick start our operation, we began working with organic cotton tees and sweatshirts. For the last year we’ve purchased organic cotton products through a distributor who sources their blank tees from a socially/environmentally responsible supplier in Central America. But, cotton is a very resource heavy clothing fabric, so we continued to seek custom hemp clothing from the US.
We had a friend hook us up with a fair trade supplier in Europe. To show our customers our hemp manufacturer was legit, we made a documentary video our quest for fair trade hemp and published it on our website. You should check it out. Our new line will arrive at our warehouse in Santa Margarita, Ca, in a couple weeks.
For the organic cotton, we wanted a secure, totally transparent supplier, fair trade, good treatment of employees. We weren’t that confident in our original supplier so we took a trip to Central America and hooked-up a with a non-profit that helped us find an authentic supplier of quality, fair trade, organic cotton products.
The sustainably produced hemp comes from Europe, and our organic cotton products come from Central America. All of these “blanks” arrive at our warehouse in Santa Margarita, California. To make up for the emissions from shipping, we plant a tree for every item sold through a program called Trees for the Future.
In our solar powered warehouse the Local team designs and prints graphics on the organic cotton tees and hemp products using a non-toxic digital printing technology. We don’t use plastisol or other environmentally damaging compounds common in the t-shirt printing industry. Local’s finished products come with recycled paper/soy ink hang tags and are placed in recycled boxes, then shipped to shops in bio-fueled vehicles.
Local operates a truly sustainable action sports clothing company, so we do everything we can to minimize our impact on the environment while provided our customers with edgy, natural products.
What have been the greatest benefits of developing and manufacturing products in the United States?
Not using China for everything, and knowing Local Clothes don’t contain synthetic materials common in mainstream surf industry products. It’s also great to establish strong, meaningful relationships with everyone involved. We get to monitor the environmental impact of our products every step of the way and make improvements immediately when necessary.
What have been the greatest challenges?
Not using polluting, low wage sweatshops like most companies do in the surf industry. The customer wants a rad organic product, and they want it cheap. It’s hard to balance those two things.
How has sourcing and creating your apparel locally allowed you to minimize the company’s environmental impacts?
Every aspect of Local is oriented to minimize environmental impact. By creating our product locally, we’re able to control and monitor virtually everything that goes in and out of our business.
Within the action sports industry, to what degree do you feel consumers value goods made in America?
I think most people just come to expect their trinket or whatever is made in China or elsewhere. If they SEE it’s made in the USA these days, they’re stoked. However, if it’s a sustainable surf product, hopefully it doesn’t really matter where it’s “made”. We’re all for patriotism and national support, however, the USA is the second highest grossing polluter on the planet, second only to China! Our business focus is to protect the environment and the people who produce goods for the citizens of this planet.
How sustainable is the product’s life cycle and is it made from organic materials? Is it produced in a fair labor factory? Who am I supporting with my money when I purchase this item? What are they doing for the world? These are the kinds of questions we believe action sports consumers should consider when looking for new surf and skate products.
Even if the product is being made in America-where underground sweatshops do exist-it doesn’t make necessarily a “good” product, as the company could still be treating their employees poorly and operating with reckless disregard for the environment. We all share Earth’s resources and ecosystems, and the action sports industry is exploiting both. Our goal is to operate a business that ensures these pristine places and resources are around for future generations, and to ensure a bountiful future for the action sports business.
Anything else you would like to share?
We just found out Local will be featured (alongside other people from companies such as Lost, Volcom, Quicksilver, SIMA, etc) in documentary about sustainability in the surf industry. The film is called “Manufacturing Stoke”. You can find more info at www.manufacturingstoke.com
Unleash your Alter-Eco at www.localclothes.com
Go Organic with Local’s Tree Tees and other sustainable hemp apparel. Check out our Hemp Surfboards and eco-printed Bamboo skateboards too. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email us at [email protected]