Long before L.L.Bean went Signature, Lands End went Canvas, or J.Crew went Red Wing, there was Left Field NYC. Founded by Christian McCann, the Brooklyn-based label has been churning out rugged, American-made goods since chambray was still putting the blue in blue collar. “We have been in business for over 10 years,” explains McCann, “and have always strived to make quality, made in America clothing at a fair price.” Unfortunately, being so ahead of the curve (just think about what you were wearing in the late ’90s), meant that the majority of people who initially took advantage of those fair prices lived elsewhere. “The Japanese have been great supporters of our brand,” notes McCann. “And, they’re a good litmus test for authenticity.” Despite the lack of a domestic audience, McCann believed enough in what he was doing to keep his label going, never deviating from his original vision.
Fast forward a decade, and McCann’s vision seems almost prescient. Heritage-inspired goods – especially those made in the U.S. – are now a hot commodity. A lucky turn of events, it would seem, what with McCann’s decade-plus experience making the stuff. But, McCann’s memories of the pre-Americana menswear landscape are still too vivid for him to fully embrace the current boom. “Making clothes in America has been a nightmare. Supply chains have been falling apart ever since Nafta was conceived. Countless mills, dye houses, and sewing factories have all closed down… Every year more and more companies in the apparel industry go out of business due to manufacturing being moved overseas. It makes it that much harder to compete when the structure you have built your business on is constantly falling apart.”
What’s worse, is that as Americana has gotten more mainstream, McCann is suddenly finding himself in direct competition with the very companies that, by ceasing their domestic production, destroyed his label’s supply chain. “Companies are trying to cash in on the trend because it’s a new way to sell more product,” says McCann. “They advertise everything as ‘vintage,’ but the product is still not made in America, or only a special group is made in America and then sold at inflated prices… It would be nice to make a lot of money with garments made overseas for nothing. But, our brand is inspired from American history so it’s very important for us to make the product in America.” He goes on: “There’s not a problem with companies suddenly going green and spending millions of dollars telling everyone they are. Unless, they’re squashing the small grass roots companies that were developed on those ideals by doing so.”
And yet, for the all the decreased supply chains and increased competition, Americana’s rise has brought about one undeniable positive, and that is an increasingly educated consumer base. “People are searching out the companies that have always made their products in America. Consumers are educating themselves about the quality of the production and fabrics. People care about these things now and are willing to pay a premium for it. I couldn’t be happier about that.” And so, while justifiably cautious of Americana’s newfound place at the top, McCann remains as committed as ever, ready to face whatever comes his brand’s way, be it success or obscurity. “I do what I have to to survive without compromising,” he says. “I think people respect Left Field because we have never sold out. We never choose margins over brand integrity and that is why we are still in business.” He goes on, “I am not promising to save the world, just to give you great American-made product at a fair price while helping to keep fellow Americans employed.” Who wouldn’t be happy to be able to say they do the same?
All images from the Left Field AW10 lookbook (and no, that’s not Christian in the photos).
For price and purchase info, visit Left Field NYC.