A few years ago, a lady friend of mine introduced me to Touch Of Modern. I wish she hadn’t. “ToM” stocks a variety of utterly fascinating design-y stuff that, by and large, I don’t need and would not actually use were I to purchase it. And when you do order something from them, it usually takes four to six weeks to arrive, just like you were ordering from Sears Roebuck back in 1905. Half of the time, what you get is broken or wrongly sized.
Despite these continual disappointments, I still read through their spam with devoted attention. Two days ago, ToM alerted me that they had a limited supply of sustainable, high-net-worth beach towels. I checked out the description on their site, and because the descriptions on ToM are wrong as often as they’re right, I checked out the description of the towels on the manufacturer’s site.
Then I got suspicious.
The Nomadix towel website is a masterpiece of doublespeak marketing obfuscation. Their motto, “Own less. Do more.” seems oddly unsuited for a company that primarily sells $64.99 towels, but perhaps their mission statements will clear things up.
We live for adventure, for the experience. To make the journey possible,
we need a few things to help us along the way. Nomadix aims to fulfill these
simple needs and minimize the amount of gear needed to enjoy the experience.
Our products are designed with 3 principles in mind.
We believe in owning the process. We’re a small team that handles every aspect
of the process from design, testing to manufacturing. Combined with feedback
from other adventurers in the field, we craft some of the best stuff you can find.
If it doesn’t perform, we don’t sell it, simple as that.
I’ve bolded one sentence because you will see a variation of it on the websites for ninety percent of the enviro-friendly, totes-recycled, hipster-friendly clothing and accessories out there. There’s always a call-out to the “small” or “focused” so-called “team”. And you’ll often hear quite a bit about the location of their corporate headquarters or their annual retreats. You’ll also hear about sustainability or sourcing for the materials…
We are pushing for higher industry standards, when it comes to environmental
impact. The best way to combat wasteful manufacturing processes and the use
of harmful materials, is by supporting businesses that take the initiative to ensure
you are getting a sustainable product.
Some day, centuries from now, archaeologists will cite this paragraph as an example of complete and utter meaninglessness. Pushing how exactly? Pushing who? When? Under what circumstances? Do you have examples?
The Nomadix website is full of shit like this, but there’s one thing missing from all the flowery prose and descriptions of sandy beaches: the minor detail of from whence the towels come. So I emailed them, and received this reply, which I am copypasta-ing in its entirety:
Our towels are produced in China. A lot of people get turned off by Chinese manufacturers. But we were very careful in choosing our manufacturer. The one we’ve partnered with is leading the Chinese market in environmental standards. They are a coal free facility and they treat their employees very well. It’s very similar to an American factory.
Partnering with factories like ours is a huge step towards improving Chinese labor conditions and cleaning up the area, from an environmental perspective. We’re all on this planet together and cleaning things up over seas is just as important as cleaning things up here at home.
Thanks for asking! Let me know if I can help you with anything else.
The Nomadix Team
Props to Nomadix for giving me an immediate and honest answer. But I already knew the answer, as soon as I saw their boast about the “small team”. Guess what? You can’t make towels with a “small team”. The manufacture of towels is a labor-and-materials-intensive operation that requires a big factory and long supply chains and dozens, if not hundreds, of hands.
When Nomadix brags about their “small team” and neglects to mention their “big factory in China” they are telling you a couple of things:
- They’re ashamed of making towels in China. As they should be. There are plenty of places to make towels in this country and those places pay fair wages and workers comp benefits and adhere to workplace safety regulations. If the “small team” doesn’t have time to find a place that can do it, they can ask me and I’ll suggest a few.
- Their concept of the “team” doesn’t include the factory. It’s just the Americans, doing awesome things with their small team, sipping lattes at awareness-enhancing spiritual workshops while the faceless people in China live in a Simpsons-Banksy nightmare.
- They don’t want you to do the numbers and see just how much profit there is in a “Baja CA” towel from China.
Furthermore, when Nomadix takes the time to lecture me that “we’re all on this planet together”, what they are trying to convince me is that they believe they are doing more good by having “sustainable” towels made in China than they would by providing jobs to American workers, who are out of work in record numbers. I hear some variant of this speech again and again every time I ask unpleasant questions of an “eco-friendly” company that sources from China.
I’ve come to believe that this is an issue of identity and empathy. The gentle people of Nomadix, whether they would admit it or not, don’t care much for American proles. After all, American proles drive pickups trucks and listen to country music and believe in Nine Pound Baby Jesus. Giving those people an employment opportunity sticks in their craws because they are, fundamentally, at war with those people for the soul of the United States. It’s aid and comfort to the enemy.
Better to source from China. You visit a factory once, the faceless inscrutable Chinamen say something comforting, and then you never think about it again. You never think about the conditions under which those people are working, you never think about the fact that you are denying jobs to your neighbors who are in need, you never think about the fact that the outrageous margins on your towels represent an outright theft from the workers who should be involved in their production. You especially don’t bother to verify the claims about recycling and sustainability. That might prove embarrassing. You just drive your Range Rover to a seaside restaurant for brunch and you sketch a few towels on a napkin and then you take a few meetings.
So, in short,
fuck those towels,
and fuck the people who make them.
This morning, I went on Amazon and bought these towels instead. They don’t look very adventurous, and they don’t have any California designs on them, but it’s okay. If I need adventure in a towel, I’ll try to provide it myself.