Ramblers Way is Sustainable Clothing Made in the USA

Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Entrepreneurship, Green

ramblerJJMy father’s mother, Grandma Hazel, was a modest, practical woman. Truth be told, as an adolescent I found her to be obnoxious, opinionated and stuck in her ways. (Twenty-five years later, and I’m pretty certain after a glass of wine or two, my inner circle may describe me with these same three words.) Her home was simply decorated, her fashion sense non-existent; she couldn’t care less about trends or technology. Every Christmas, she’d politely ask what I would like to receive. Eagerly, I crafted a detailed list of apparel and accessories: Adidas sneakers, tube tops and fringe vests from Urban Outfitters. Every Christmas, she routinely bought me boring, useful items like school supplies and savings bonds. She was polite for the sake of politeness; there was zero intention of indulging me in my “extravagant” requests.

“We owned two dresses,” she constantly reminded me. “One for church and one for school. Each dress had its own hook. We wore these dresses until the hem rose above the knee and then passed them to the next sister.” Every time she told this story, I rolled my eyes. Every time I rolled my eyes, she’d say,

“Someday you’ll understand the value of quality versus quantity.” Dramatic eye rolling proceeded again.

My grandmother passed away 15 years ago, but almost every time I consider purchasing a new dress or pair of shoes—or mostly anything—I hear her telling me this story. And I pause: Do I need this dress? Will it pill and fray in one season? Am I living my values with the purchase of this dress?

Ramblers Way, a new clothing line, pauses, too.  When Tom Chappell, co-founder of Tom’s of Maine, decided to launch an apparel company, he proposed to form a values-driven company that my grandmother would have appreciated. Ramblers Way, a three-generation family company, pauses to consider quality, natural and human resources in every aspect of the supply chain, production and marketing. In fact, this is how they define themselves as a sustainable, apparel company. In an interview with Nick Armentrout, the Supply Chain Leader, I was reminded that there is hope for the infamously “dirty” fashion industry—but only if our personal orientation to clothing shifts. Ramblers Way should help with that shift.

“Traditionally, clothes were expensive, hand-made items that were treasured,” explains Armentrout. “The modern textile and apparel industries are large polluters and generators of post-consumer waste, in large part due to the push to create fast, cheap and disposable clothing. Discussions about sustainable textiles shed light on the hidden costs of cheap clothing—like the often harmful impact on people in the developing world. It is vital that clothing companies adopt emerging green textile technologies, and help develop solutions to their environmental impacts. Likewise, consumers need to demand greater accountability from brands and manufacturer.”

A 180 degree turn away from fast-fashion, Ramblers Way produces all of their clothing in America, with a close pulse on every stakeholder in the process. From how the sheep are cared for the wool that goes into their sweaters, to the use of sustainably grown, Californian Pima cotton, Ramblers Way rigorously pursues the higher road. They work with their suppliers to reduce environmental impact. For example, some of their partners use primary and secondary waste treatment facilities to return the water to natural bodies of water in accordance with all local and national (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) water treatment regulations.

Oh, and did I mention they are committed to transparency? Anyone in the apparel business will tell you this is an incredibly rare value choice. Not only do they have firsthand relationships with the ranches and factories across their supply chain, they are open about their journey. For example, Armentrout acknowledged that organic cotton is a more sustainable choice than Pima cotton. Organic cotton production uses less energy and water, helps sequester CO2 in the soil, and produces 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally grown cotton. Ramblers Way isn’t there yet, but they are working on it. They hope to build a 100% US supply chain for GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certified, organic cotton. As a targeted conscious consumer, their transparency about “not being there yet and there are better choices” means just as much to me as does the organic cotton. This proves the integrity of the brand, the humanity of the journey.

The big, hairy audacious goal of Ramblers Way is be the leading sustainable apparel brand, always improving their practices, always learning to make beautiful, timeless clothing.

“The more we can do to advance responsible, accountable practices through our journey, the better,” says Armentrout.

If my grandma Hazel were still alive and still asking for my Christmas lists, I think she may have considered a dress from Ramblers Way a practical gift. And maybe, fifteen years later, I’d pause to ask myself if I even needed it in the first place.

Read the story of the Ramblers Way supply chain. Pause first and then decide if you need to buy a new dress. Get social with them.

Julie Fahnestock

Julie lives in Cambridge, MA and is currently pursuing her MBA in Managing for Sustainability at Marlboro Graduate School in Vermont. She has a background in international development and grassroots organizing and is passionate about equitable wages, labor rights and the global income disparity. Julie is also a new blogger for Just Means and Socialearth. If you can't find Julie in Cambridge, she's probably on the beaches somewhere in South Florida.

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