Menswear Brands React to the Cone Mills Closing

This past weekend, The New York Times spoke to several brands and industry professionals about the forthcoming shuttering of the legendary Cone Mills White Oak plant.

While the plant’s employees were no doubt hit hardest by the news (all 208 are being laid off), the announcement has left customers and brands feeling distressed as well.

“It’s a national tragedy,” A Continuous Lean founder, Michael Williams, is quoted as saying in the article. “When the plant closes, Americans will have lost yet another piece of our national identity.”

As for the many brands who have been forced to find new denim sources (“Tellason, Buck Mason and Taylor Stitch all said in interviews that they planned to look to Japan for their denim, once their Cone supply runs out”), reactions differ.

Some feel that the shuttering is emblematic of hypocrisy among American consumers: “[customers] simultaneously complain about imported products, job loss and low wages, and then buy their jeans at Costco,” says Tellason founder, Tony Patella. While others seem more willing to accept the shuttering as the price of globalization: “As much as the Trump administration is touting ‘America First,’” says Michael Maher of Taylor Stitch, “we believe we live in a global world, and provenance is becoming less important.”

Either way, one things’s for sure: the Cone Mills closing feels like more bad news in a year that’s been full of nothing but. As our own fearless leader, Brad Bennett, is quoted as saying, “considering just how bad the news has been lately, the Cone Mills closing is easy to feel unfazed by — or, at least, to lose in the fray. That’s not to say it’s not still a colossal bummer. But compared to mass deportations, senseless spree killings and environmental decimation, it’s small potatoes.”

You can read more about it at The New York Times.

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  • probs

    That’s an interesting comment from Taylor Stitch- I noticed in one of their recent product surveys that all or almost all of the products on which I could vote were going to be produced in China. That’s not a criticism- I think the “made in USA” thing is more ethically confused than it’s made out to be, and I saw elsewhere on their site a write-up of the good working conditions for a made in China product of theirs. I’ve wondered recently if a lot of brands that started with a generally made in the US hook/orientation will move more production elsewhere, and whether consumers will notice or care. Hopefully most people’s interest is in decent conditions for workers.

    • S.O

      I don’t think that’s on their site anymore, but it is a similar hypocrisy.

      It’s one thing to lament the loss of the last denim mill stateside and another to blame it on customers. A number of factors led to what happened, chief among them were the private equity transactions of the business. I’d like to think a better understanding of private equity and the people behind the sale would’ve led to a different comment.

      @probs I agree with you, decent conditions and wages are something I hope for all workers.