By  on April 8, 2008

Fashion producers reconsider the environmental impact of sourcing goods from far away.

In corporate boardrooms and tiny designer studios around the country, fashion executives are asking themselves a question they never would have posed even five years ago: Can we move our production closer to home?

In a trend just starting to take hold in fashion brands — some of the larger mainstream ones as well as small privately owned labels anchored in the green movement — companies are beginning to take another look at their supply chain as well as their fabric sources, and starting to explore the option of moving more production to the U.S.

"There is much more of a strategic thinking happening," said Rebecca Calahan Klein, director of program development for Organic Exchange, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that works toward expanding organic agriculture. "Companies are now asking themselves questions like 'Where are we processing, where are we selling,' and 'Is this in line with what is best for our business, our customers and the planet?'"

Her organization has been fielding requests from companies with established organic programs, as well as smaller brands and start-ups. Those who have already been sourcing in the U.S. are wanting to build on that base, looking to do more with fabric and construction. Other companies, especially the newer ones, are interested in sourcing locally.

"There's a lot of interest in finding local suppliers, wanting to know them, and many companies are at that stage of the business where they can be thinking about that," she said.

Sources say that there are numerous factors behind the trend — and not all of them are related to eco-consciousness. With the recent spate of bad press on toxic toys and other tainted imported products, the idea of having products made domestically is more appealing. Beyond that, the weakening dollar and the high cost of fuel is making it more expensive than ever to produce in traditionally low labor cost countries like China and India.

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