The Made in America movement has some solid new evidence behind it.

This story first appeared in the July 24, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Cone Denim’s historic White Oak mill facility in Greensboro, N.C., the oldest operating denim mill in the U.S., is installing additional American Draper X3 looms in response to the growing demand for Made in the USA selvage denim. The expansion will increase its production of authentic vintage selvage denim by 25 percent. White Oak is currently the only mill in the U.S. producing narrow selvage denim on fly shuttle looms that date back to the Forties. The installation is expected to be complete by the end of August.

“Demand continues to grow for authentic Made in the USA selvage denims and has exceeded the capacity of our current X3 looms,” said Kara Nicholas, vice president of product development and marketing at Cone, which had preserved a number of shuttle looms back in the mid-Eighties and over time had pulled them back into production. “With no more looms in storage, we began searching. This is an extraordinary find for us.”

The discovery of the additional looms came after an exhaustive search that took the Cone team through scrap yards, grassy fields and abandoned mills and eventually led them to South Carolina.


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“In some ways, finding the looms may have been the easiest part,” said Nicholas. “The restoration of the looms has been tedious and would have been impossible without the expertise of our technicians, many who worked on the original X3 looms.”

Work has included overhauling and reassembling the looms and fabricating many of the accessories parts in-house. The reclaimed X3 looms will operate beside White Oak’s previously restored shuttle looms that were brought back into operation in the late Nineties, the company noted. Coveted by denim aficionados around the world, White Oak selvage X3 denims have a depth and dimension different from other denims. Skilled workers carefully tend the looms, which sit on turn-of-the-century wooden floors that move in a rhythmic sway to create vintage denim constructions reminiscent of the early 1900s.

“We recognize the unique capabilities of White Oak and the growing demand for Made in America denim fabrics and garments,” said Ken Kunberger, president and chief operating officer of Cone Denim and parent company International Textile Group. “It is exciting to strategically invest in our U.S. manufacturing base and to further the White Oak legacy. Our customers and the consumers’ passion for authentic American selvage denim, coupled with the history and heritage of White Oak, continues to grow.”

Cone Denim operates as part of ITG, with manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Asia and Mexico.