Making Decisions in a Changing World
For more than 20 years prAna has focused on domestic and even local manufacturing options, and not long ago the majority of our goods were made right here at home. Alongside many other American businesses, we feel that the U.S. economy, its industries and job market should be priorities, and so we continue to source domestically at a far greater rate than our industry does as a whole. Historically, sourcing decisions were also in direct response to the human rights abuses hidden behind the opaque supply chains that made their way back to developing nations.
Today, workers’ conditions have certainly improved, but the overall issue of sourcing goods has become increasingly complex. Thanks to the rise of global citizenship and the policies that have improved the welfare of workers everywhere in the world, purchases can now be made in much better conscience, generally speaking. There is no room for complacency, however, and businesses must diligently and constantly monitor the factories they use. Fortunately, there are reliable methods for determining and enforcing compliance.
What drives sourcing today is a simple market reality and not the glaring humanitarian issues of the past. Those concerns were the original arguments against imports from certain points in Asia and beyond. But, now more fundamental consumer demands around quality and price are shaping the decisions of any company producing goods for the American market. To best serve our customers, prAna must now look past the “Buy American” mantra to see that progress in second- and third-world regions has not been limited to ethical concerns. In large part, the once-rogue regions and factories have changed their ways, but have also been busy meeting the needs of America’s very discerning shopper, causing expertise in fabrics and production techniques to relocate to distant and even unlikely places. The products landing back on our shores are no longer just better-priced, they’re very often of better quality than their American counterparts. More and more, the justification to keep production in the U.S. is to make a patriotic point. But, that does not fully serve the customer.
Quality was a major reason prAna resisted, for years (and for much longer than many brands), the temptation to import. Quality is also the reason that we must now send parts of our production to where the skilled labor, investment dollars and even the innovation have been newly rooted. There was a time when a “Made in China” label meant compromise and, in many places, exploitation. But, on this point, the vast ideological and cultural chasm that once existed between the U.S. and places like China continues to close quickly.
While the apparel industry makes a mere 2% of its goods in the U.S., prAna will continue to keep more than 20% of its production at home. Our decades of desire and effort to keep dollars and jobs here have brought about some incredible, long-standing relationships that will allow us to produce certain fabrications competitively for the foreseeable future. Of course, a time might come when that ratio again must change, in either direction and in direct response to the priorities of the evolving customer landscape.