According to a recent Forbes article, manufacturing is still the largest industry in the U.S. excluding real estate. And many people might be surprised to learn that Los Angeles is the largest manufacturing center in the country with nearly a half-million jobs in the sector, outnumbering employment in the film and television industry four-to-one.
As more consumers demand local, sustainable, and ethical goods, many brands are realizing that having their products manufactured on U.S. soil offers a competitive advantage. Three hip fashion companies that have made the choice to manufacture in LA are Aviator Nation, Bromelia Swimwear, and Ma’am Shoes.
1. AVIATOR NATION
Aviator Nation is a 1970s-inspired lifestyle brand with retail locations in LA, Las Vegas, Austin, and Honolulu among other cities. Paige Mycoskie founded the brand in 2006 when she began making clothes for herself out of her Venice Beach apartment. “Aviator Nation started completely organically in LA because that was my home,” says Mycoskie. “As my passion turned into my career, it only made sense to open a factory in my backyard of Los Angeles.”
The quality of the garments is Mycoskie’s top priority and she feels it would be impossible to maintain that by producing overseas. She also enjoys making decisions daily based on the way something looks or feels in her hands. “When I look around today and see the team I’ve built, I know that I made the right choice,” she says. “Not only do I get to do what I love in a place where I can still surf in the morning, but now I have a family of 350 employees that I take pride in supporting. What could be cooler than that?”
Manufacturing in LA is definitely more expensive, Mycoskie says. Customers pay a little more and she makes a little less. But these days, more consumers are deliberately supporting made in America brands. “I do my best to contribute to my country and to take care of my team. I am proud to say that not a single employee on my team went unpaid through Covid. Aviator Nation is my way of spreading love by giving people clothes that make them look and feel good. Aviator Nation will always be a made in America company.”
2. BROMELIA SWIMWEAR
Bromelia Swimwear began in Rio De Janeiro, when California native Lauren Quinn decided to blend a responsibly-made product with her fondness for that Brazilian “live in your swimsuit” lifestyle. Quinn lived full-time in Brazil for several years in order to immerse herself in learning the country’s treasured techniques for creating swimsuits.
“I didn't start Bromelia as an ethical brand,” says Quinn. “To be honest, I had no idea what an ethical brand was. I just thought that fair-wage practices, treating people with dignity, and giving an honest chance to every deserved person were what one did in business. So, when we launched our first collection, people began to comment on our ethical nature and we embraced that. For Bromelia, sustainability begins on a human level. ”
During Covid, Bromelia decided to move all international manufacturing from Brazil to LA. The intention was to create more jobs for women from underserved communities in the local community. “The brand is seeded in empowering underrepresented communities because I don't want them to have to fight for what they already deserve. Our production is all done in LA because this is where we live and swim,” Quinn says.
3. MA’AM SHOES
Ma’am Shoes offers sustainable, luxury footwear made from premium materials that are meant to last you season after season. With classic silhouettes, modern details, wide cylinder heels, and wearable colors, these shoes are durable, comfortable and stylish. They’re designed to get us as a society away from toxic “fast fashion,” which exploits both workers and the planet.
Every pair of Ma’am Shoes is ethically made at a local LA production facility that cuts back on carbon emissions from international freight shipping and ensures a healthy, fair-wage work environment for its talent. In October 2021, the brand is launching its very first boot. For every pair of the Shirley boots sold, Ma'am will donate $10 to Baby2Baby, a nonprofit organization that provides children living in poverty with diapers, clothing and other basic necessities.
“It was really important to me to manufacture our shoes locally because Ma'am is a Los Angeles brand at its core,” says founder Sofi Newmyer. “I wanted to support our city's talented local artisans and growing design industry. Additionally, manufacturing in LA has allowed me to be very hands-on in the design process. I can pop over to our factory to provide feedback in real time and talk to the team making our shoes as we tweak the design. This allows the design process to be much nimbler and more efficient.”