Founded in 2012 by Natalie Patricia, Harvest & Mill makes organic cotton clothing that is entirely grown and milled in the USA and sewn in the Bay Area. Their “seed to stitch” model is devoted to rebuilding American supply chains with clean and ethical practices. With a background in organic farming and art, Natalie designs and makes clothes that are beautiful in their design and origin – comfortable and modern basics that emphasize the natural beauty and texture of raw cotton. Here Natalie shares insight into Harvest & Mill’s holistic and sustainable model as an antidote to the exploitative practices of the global apparel industry.
By making our clothing entirely in the USA from seed to stitch, Harvest & Mill is creating a better way to produce clothing. Our sustainable model brings a holistic approach to fixing the fashion industry by addressing all three Pillars of Sustainability.
1. Economically, we are supporting our local farming, milling and sewing economies. By having an entirely USA domestic supply chain, we can ensure all our workers are paid fair wages, work happens only in legally-binding safe work environments and resources are kept within our communities. In the process, we can help diminish the demand for global sweatshops, low wages and hidden working conditions.
2. Environmentally, we adhere to some of the strictest chemical use and disposal regulations in the world for farming and manufacturing. The USA is one of the safest and cleanest places in the world to make yarns and fabric – thanks to the EPA, OSHA and a strong regulatory framework. By creating an entirely domestic supply chain we significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our clothing and the travel distances between factories.
“The United States once had a robust apparel manufacturing economy. In the 1990’s, clothing companies left the United States in search of cheap labor and fewer environmental regulations.”
3. Socially, we are supporting our local sewing community and building diverse and satisfying jobs that encourage human productive creativity in safe spaces. Did you know? The Harvest & Mill family includes team members that have a background in organic agriculture and sustainable systems and who work side by side with our designers. We are serious about creating a more equitable and healthy fashion industry.
• In 1960, 95% of clothing purchased in America was made in America.
• Today, just 2% of clothing purchased in America is made in America.
• In the United States, between 1990 and 2011 alone, 750,000 apparel manufacturing jobs were lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
• In 2011, apparel workers in China earned $1.24/hour and apparel workers in Bangladesh earned a mere $0.25/hour
• In China, 75% of diseases and 100,000 deaths are attributed annually to polluted water, the textile industry being the largest offender
The Story of American Manufacturing
The United States once had a robust apparel manufacturing economy. In the 1990’s, clothing companies left the United States in search of cheap labor and fewer environmental regulations. The U.S. manufacturing sector collapsed, many Americans lost their jobs and a new wave of exploitation began in developing global regions.
In the past few decades, Americans have consumed increasingly more and increasingly cheap clothing. Why is that clothing so cheap? Because that system is extractive – it demands maximum output from human labor and the environment without replenishing it (similar to oil being constantly pumped out of the earth yet, our bodies and our biosphere are the greatest nonrenewable resources). The secretive and unscrupulous world of textile manufacturing in developing nations is unacceptable.
Pollution from unregulated agriculture and textile industries continue to destroy the ecology of developing nations. These developing nations suffer the brunt of environmental pollution that devastates the environment and health of the communities. These regions are being exploited by big clothing companies. Still, the toxic chemicals also end up all over the world in drinking water – those dyes and finishes leach out of clothes when we wash them and end up in our local water systems.
The United Sates is the biggest exporter of cotton in the world. The vast majority of American grown cotton is shipped to China and Southwest Asia to be processed and/or sewn, and then returns to the U.S. to be sold. A typical t-shirt that is shipped back and forth around the world has an astounding carbon footprint.