Made In The USA: Allen-Edmonds And The “Artisans Of Freedom”

A few weeks ago, my brother sent me a picture of some “Le Tigre” shorts he’d seen at a yard sale. Le Tigre was, to be a charitable, a budget brand back in the Eighties; one of our best friends at the time endured a few weeks’ worth of vicious ribbing because he showed up to school wearing their stuff. Perhaps “junk” would be a better word for Le Tigre, actually. And yet the tag on those shorts that Bark found read “Made In USA”. Yes, there was a time when even our cheap and junky stuff was domestically produced — and until we get back to the days when “Made In The USA” does not almost always correlate to “expensive and upscale” we won’t really have a manufacturing renaissance in this country.

In the meantime, however, we have the Artisans of Freedom, a charmingly (if haphazardly) arranged group of high-end clothing and accessory manufacturers assembled like the Justice League by the nice people at Allen-Edmonds. The “Artisans Of Freedom” watch by Weiss sold out almost immediately, and given what I know about production quantities in Cameron’s two-man shop it will be quite some time until the orders are filled. That’s exciting in and of itself, but there’s more to the Artisans than a very handsome manual-wind watch.

Not all of the links in the new Artisans Of Freedom site actually work, but the ones that do bring up some very handsome products, including a pea coat from Southwick and some sharp bags from Korchmar. I’m stoked that Allen-Edmonds is leading the charge here and bringing some smaller companies to the attention of their fairly broad customer base, although I’m sure they aren’t doing it for free. Here at Riverside Green we will continue to seek out and share American manufacturers and American-made products with you. As always, if you know something we don’t, share it in the comments!

21 Replies to “Made In The USA: Allen-Edmonds And The “Artisans Of Freedom””

  1. JustPassinThru

    We had cheap US-made stuff 30 years ago, because those were our options. Remember, outsourcing jobs to Third-World nations, often has other costs. The Ford plants in Mexico, had to put in the most-basic of infrastructures…roads, water, reliable “clean” (consistent-voltage) electricity…to open their plants.

    Those costs have to be balanced against whatever wage differentiation or future pension-liabilities are gained.

    China is an interesting case. I support free trade with free people – that’s how Japan was taken from wartime destitution and rubble, to one of the West’s economic powerhouses. Japan, its people hungry and industrious but with industry ruined, did what they could – they made cheap toys and trinkets with their primitive equipment, and sold their wares at ridiculously-low prices. Soichiro Honda, remember, a trained engineer, was reduced to making bicycles in the first Honda shop in those years.

    Then came the outsourcing. I remember that, personally. All the Woolworth’s gimcracks, all the gizmos that young war-veteran dads loved…suddenly the same units had MADE IN JAPAN stamped on them. Often sold alongside NOS inventory – some American made, some Japanese.

    It was still crap.

    Then came the Deming push to improve quality, and the Japanese glommed onto Edwards Demming’s methods of quality control. By 1970, Japanese products were not competitive with American – they were superior, and the prices reflected that.

    That’s Free Trade. China, by comparison, is a prison-factory compound, run, not by businessmen, but by government commissars and the cronies who front for them.

    Prices are low because workers are not paid the value of their work. They often have little choice as to whether to work where they are at. Employment-at-will is not a Chinese value, today.

    The materials are often shoddy – pot metal used in critical fixtures – and put together by people fearing for their lives. Packaged cleverly; manufactured in job-lots by transient companies. When the stench of the inferior nature of the product and its “company” becomes overpowering, the company is liquidated – and reorganized under a new name. The same widgets in a different trade-dress.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Where many trade-partners embraced the principles of capitalism, value-for-value, China does NOT. Its managers and its management’s American partner-enablers, exploit the Chinese workers (they are not “employees” as we know them) and American buyers – and the American economy.

    And this all came to be because a certain Arkansas pol, who did what Huey Long wanted to but could not…thought it would be a slick idea to open the trade channels between this prison-farm nation and the Big PX.

    Because, of course, that Arkansas politico, at heart, was one of THEM. As much a supporter of collectivist totalitarian as the Chinese Communist rulers.

    Reply
  2. -Nate

    And here I thought President Nixon (being he who opened trade with China) was from Whittier, California .

    Live and learn I guess, for some at least .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Nixon normalized POLITICAL relations with China.

      You might say that was a prerequisite, preliminary step. Well, I don’t have a lot of admiration for Nixon, either – today he’s made out to be a great Cold-Warrior Communism fighter. Au contraire, he was FASCINATED with Communism. He slapped our allies in Taiwan with his recognition of China, under China’s terms. AND he “sold” (gave away; did it for IMF borrowed money which was never repaid) wheat to the USSR when their collectivist communes were not feeding the people.

      It was about 1993 when President Priapic removed quotas and punitive tariffs on Chinese. Remember the hush-hush when opponents suggested that the PRC had given money to his campaign war-chest? Buddhist monks, envelopes full of cash, no paper trails…?

      If you’re a conspiracy theorist, this is payback. Whatever your opinions, the Chinese crappy televisions, et al, started arriving in the mid-1990s.

      Reply
      • mdm08033@aol.com

        Here’s consumer video observation. The FCC was all hot to adopt a digital televisions standard. Zenith and RCA were at the forefront of digital TV R&D. It’s kinda funny how digital TV killed the domestic manufacturing of televisions.

        Reply
        • JustPassinThru

          Correlation is not causation.

          For what it’s worth, the domestic television industry was deader than Elvis LONG before digital tevee signals were mandated The first wave of Chinese televisions came in the mid-1990s; long before it was clear whether or when the changeover to digital would happen.

          First the Japanese, and then Korean products, killed the domestic industry. I doubt it was cost-savings; lower cost of production might have helped the Japanese initially. But the higher quality was what established the region’s brands, even when Japanese wages rose above Americans’.

          My ex’s father had a view similar to Jack’s (one I sympathize with, but don’t accept without question). The family needed a new front-room television in the mid=1980s. The only American-made television brand left was Curtis-Mathes; and he ordered one. At a premium.

          The thing burned out, in normal use in a clean family room, nine months later. Angered, and with no warranty, he chopped the guts out of the expensive wood cabinet; finished the inner parts, and set his new Sony plastic-case big-screen television inside the frame.

          As a reminder. There’s plenty of examples of this sort of mis-management, even mal-management, in American industry. Bethlehem Steel: Forty years they invested NOTHING in their plant or process. They PLANNED to go out of business – paying out profits to shareholders, as long as their obsolete mills could produce profits and their sales staff could find buyers for the inferior product.

          When they no longer could, they locked up and filed for bankruptcy. They apparently viewed the economies of investing in a world where on the one hand they had to fight the EPA and the Greens; and on the other end, were getting raped by militant unions. So, why bother? As with textiles, 70 years earlier; as with Studebaker, thirty years earlier…just give it up. Close down, lock up, let the lawyers clean it out.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            Sad but 100 % true .

            By the way, ELVIS ISN’T DEAD ! I saw him getting a double order of chili cheese fries down at the burger pit the other day, he’s looking very old now =8) .

            -Nate

  3. gtem

    Your Le Tigre story really resonates, my mom always fondly recalls being able to shop at our downtown Woolworth’s in Ithaca NY when we first immigrated in 1992 and being able to buy excellent quality Fruit of the Loom cotton underwear and shirts, always made in the USA. The Woolworth’s became the public library with a LGBTBBQ safe space and where homeless people go to jerk off (it’s Ithaca), and Wal Mart came in with all of the best of China. We used to also have a textile mill right in downtown Ithaca that operated until the 70s-80s(?). We had the Emerson Transmission chain plant on South Hill, Ithaca Gun with its famous smoke stack to the East overlooking Ithaca Falls. All gone. Their departure was insulated by Ithaca being a college town (Cornell and IC) which hold the local economy up. Most other small NY towns did not have that luxury. Most recently, Ilion found it it’d be losing their famous Remington plant, not helped in the least by the anti-gun antagonism from Cuomo and his Albany cronies. I specifically bought a new 26 inch 870 Express in classic walnut made in Ilion last winter.

    -concerned American citizen and legal (colluding) Russian immigrant

    Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Oh, wow.

      I had some tenuous connection with Ithaca, which I’d rather not go into; but I was there as a kid, about four times in the 1960s-70s. Nice college town. Typical Finger Lakes settlement and environment.

      Last time I was there was in 1979, when a friend was starting grad school at Cornell. Obviously since he and I were on different trajectories, we went separate ways; but I can’t imagine Ithaca with the urban ills of homelessness/chaos.

      But then, NeYuck State has been on a downward spiral for many years.

      Reply
      • PDQ

        Where are you now? A sprawling, thriving metropolis with lots of guns in a state like Michigan? Wisconsin? Kansas? Oklahoma? Indiana? Ohio? Mississippi or Alabama? Yeah….much better than NeYuck.

        Reply
        • gtem

          I’m in Indianapolis now working in big ag, which is great for job opportunities and lower cost of living, but damn do I miss the nature and lakes and all the outdoors stuff of back home. Awesome hiking and mountain biking and cross country skiing just a 10-15 minute drive from the house. I like the people out in the Midwest more, generally speaking, although rural NY was really no different. There are people in my parents’ suburban neighborhood with “Black Lives Matter” yard signs (there are almost no black people in Ithaca, or in that neighborhood in particular), just plain weird and deranged IMO. The one time my folks put up a yard sign it was for Ron Paul in 2012, but they generally just keep a low profile in these environs and focus on their hobby farm out in the sticks south of town.

          Reply
        • JustPassinThru

          I’m in a town in Western Montana – which would have been considered a village twenty years ago; but which is an urban area of 60,000 – plus residents, and growing explosively.

          Nor is my metropolis alone. Over the state line in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho…thirty years ago it was a ghost town. Never totally abandoned, since I-90 went through it and there was a logical need for gassing facilities, etc; but mostly, it was an old mining town with century-old, derelict buildings.

          Now it’s an area that’s bigger than my own.

          What causes this? The beautiful scenery aids it. Modern technology which makes a comfortable life possible in wooded mountains, also. Then, modern work, which in many cases can be done at home by telecommuting.

          But the draw is, low crime and none of the social toxins that are seen in the likes of Buffalo, NY. Or, now, apparently, Ithaca.

          Reply
          • Matt

            Gtem, you’ve caused Ithaca to be a bit mischaracterized, don’t ya think? Ithaca and maybe 2 other towns in upstate NY are the only places left with good economies. Great restaurants, entertainment, recreation, and short commutes. Watkins Glen, wineries, craft beer, all nearby. Yes, Emerson and Ithaca Gun are long gone as you mention, but come on, Borg Warner is still here, as well as several tech firms like CBORD, Incodema, Advion and many, many others. Boo Hoo, ya gotta deal with a few liberals and some homeless. They are symptom of the town’s success, not any perceived decline. Ithaca’s economy and quality of life are the envy of almost any other town in upstate NY.

          • gtem

            ” Ithaca and maybe 2 other towns in upstate NY are the only places left with good economies.”

            That was exactly my point. Ithaca thrives due to its academia connection, with all the hand-wringers living in their bubble where they get to worry about things like LGBT safe spaces, while the rest of Central/Upstate/Western NY/Southern Tier has been decimated with deindustrialization. The Finger lakes has done a great job of focusing on tourism as well, with wineries, etc. Again, I agree with your assessment, from a quality of life perspective, Ithaca is absolutely stunning. I often catch myself wondering when my wife and I visit my parents “I’d really like to move back here” and I’d just hold my nose at the local inhabitants, state politics (gun laws are particularly odious in NY) and taxes. Having been subjected to Ithaca’s public schools (Belle Sherman elementary, where even in the 90s fully half the staff was lesbian or gay and we had a mandatory “learn about homosexuality in 5th grade” day), I shudder to think what the current students are being taught. If I could have my kids go to an outlying rural school (like Caroline) for K-5, that would be alright I suppose.

            I just have utter contempt for people, supposedly compassionate/worldly folks (per their own understanding) who claim to support every oppressed niche group and every weird “cause,” but are either unaware, or worse turn their nose up at fellow Americans left behind (read: “deplorables”). The common Ithacan bumper sticker is “Ithaca: 10sq miles surrounded by reality,” and it is spot on.

            This random article I found in 10 seconds of googling that quote captures the essence pretty well:
            https://www.fusionmagazine.org/ten-square-miles-surrounded-by-reality/

          • -Nate

            Wow, the Finger Lakes region of New York .

            I spent some summers @ Green Cove on Canindagua (SP I’m sure) Lake in the early 1960’s, it was very nice, rural and quiet, lots of Vinyards even back then, the hills made for strenuous hiking but I loved it .

            Sad to hear upstate New York isn’t doing well .

            BTW : no one mentioned the stink from the paper mills in Buffalo, they could be smelled 100 miles away, they’re prolly gone now too, right ? .

            -Nate

          • JustPassinThru

            Nate, the industrial odor of the steel and paper mills in Buffalo, is long, long gone.

            I remember that smell as a kid. I grew up in Cleveland but my mother’s family was from Oneida County, NY; and we were up there regularly. The Thruway was new then – and I remember the stench would creep into the car right about the time we’d see the DEPEW exit. That’s the kind of irony that little kids love.

            Later, working for Conrail, I lived in the Angola area for three years, and in Chautauqua County two more (and many years in the 1970s). The smell of industry is as gone as the rustle of fat pay envelopes. The ten biggest employers in Erie County, now…are all government agencies.

          • -Nate

            Thanx J.P.T. .

            I assume there are still pig farms to surprise and delight the kiddies passing through ? .

            For those who don’t know, pig farms smell worse than human sh*t .

            -Nate
            enjoying warm fuzzy memories of Normbegua Park (SP I am sure) in 1962

  4. erikotis

    No idea if your wife is in to handbags (it’s about the only ‘girlie’ thing my wife obsesses over) but if so, next time you are up at Ray’s consider stopping by Fount (http://fountleather.com), their store is only a couple miles away from there. All their leather goods are made right in downtown Cleveland from Italian and American sourced leather. They unabashedly call their bags heirlooms and based on the quality of the one I purchased for my wife’s 40th birthday, they have every right to.

    Reply

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