Interview: Appalatch Apparel Sees Natural Dyes As An Ethical & Environmental Bonus


We are so excited to announce our recent collaboration with Appalatch Clothing. Appalatch told us, “One glaring place that we would love to improve upon is the use of natural instead of synthetic dyes which we know is more toxic to people and the environment. Unfortunately, we haven’t found an American industrial dye house that can consistently deliver naturally dyed clothes to us…. that is until we spoke with Botanical Colors. Because Botanical Colors has relationships with industrial dye houses that uses their dyes, we can implement natural dying of our clothing for the first time! Dyes, which are often made far overseas, can now come from plants harvested locally. This fits in perfectly with our completely localized, ethically built supply chain!”
We’re glad the connection was made too.

Check out all the beautiful work they do here and check out the interview we had with them below.

Where only 2% of clothing is made in the U.S. vs 80% 20 years ago, how are you able to find these makers?

American textile manufacturing was once the largest in the world.  As trade policies, globalization and cheap transport allowed for  production to move to lower cost countries, domestic clothing manufacturing was hit really hard in America.  Luckily, there are still some places around that has lasted because they have incorporated latest business practices and machines, have innovative products and/or produce really high quality products.  Additionally, with the Barry Amendment, where US Government has to prioritize purchasing American made products, there are many mills and factories that still stand today.  Finding makers has been challenging, but not impossible.  Although many are geared towards producing military products, it’s not too far off for many of them to transition over to making fashionable pieces… in fact, the mills and factories that we approach are hoping that with the resurgence of American made, they can sell more of their products to fashion brands looking to produce domestically.  We’ve been lucky in that way since they are looking to work with smaller companies like ourselves who in other times, may not be able to.
You say on your site that your garments have “techie outerwear engineering,”-how are you able to fuse this while still achieving a real classic and timeless style?
One thing that we are discovering in our historical research of fashion is that some construction was really techie back in the days. Because they didn’t have technology to weave or knit complicated patterns, or have synthetic chemicals to wick vapor away and keep people dry, fashion from the early 1900’s utilized cleaver engineering that ended up being lost. We are again incorporating this into our designs while also utilizing today’s technology.  For example, a prototype hiking jacket that we are developing for next year utilizes articulated arms in a traditional wool cavalry twill that is treated with an environmentally preferred durable water repellency.

Does creating slow fashion, heirloom pieces hamper your profits in that people don’t need to buy from you as often?

Some people say that we are bad business people — most fashion brands wouldn’t hire us because of our desire to break the idea of fast-fashion and planned obsolescence.  We have an idea though, which I think more and more people are getting back to these days: that quality is much more important than quantity.  The thing is, it is really hard to find high quality pieces of clothing that is made to last.  There are a handful of brands out there that are trying to bring this back but as we are finding out ourselves, the demand far exceeds the supply.  Big fast-fashion brands are starting to realize this hole and they are beginning to move production back to America where the production of clothing is higher than most any country in the world.
Talk about sustainability as a buzz word and how you don’t want the trendy labeling.
These days, you hear sustainability this, green that… It’s all over the place, and its used as a marketing gimmick.  Yes, we know that these claims help sell a product, but we believe that in the creation of products, it should be the goal of any brand to ensure that it is being made in a sustainable way that not only ensures social and environmental responsibilities, but also protects the bottom line.  For outdoor brands which requires a pristine environment and healthy people to explore it, creating responsible products only makes good business sense.  Unfortunately, many companies don’t have our point of view and are more interested in the short term rewards vs the long term consequences.  In the case of buzz words, companies apply marketing to products in hopes of selling more things without making a fundamental change in how they operate.  If “sustainable” goods aren’t profitable enough, then they go back to selling the same old things.

How hopeful are you about the future of U.S. manufacturing?

Pricing of goods matter, and it will always matter to the majority of consumers no matter how patriotic we are.  With advances in technology, energy becoming more expensive and the rise of wages in low-cost countries, it is making more and more business sense to manufacture closer to where consumers are.  We hear stories everyday of how big companies are coming back to America: from GE to Apple to Motorola.  Apparel though is a harder sell since its difficult to replace the deft hands of an artisan with a machine, but things such as going to direct to consumer via the internet is making it so pricing clothing that is made in America can be quite competitive!