Woolrich is the oldest continually running mill in the US. According to you, what are the major challenges faced by the US woolen clothing manufacturers?
Our greatest challenge is finding partners to do the finishing work at the volume we require. We can produce great wool fabrics twenty-four hours a day, but in the end there needs to be a place to pass it onto for the sewing and finishing. Much of this infrastructure was lost when manufacturers went over seas.
How do you foresee the future prospects of 'Made in USA’ woolen clothing sector?
We feel it's more than a trend, that it’s a movement that keeps gaining momentum. We are working hard to help with that momentum, and are doing our part to increase wool production here in the USA.
How big and important is the European market for your company? At what rate do you expect your company to grow in the coming years in the European market?
The European community is a very big opportunity for us. We currently have a great presence and excellent positioning in Europe, and feel that with some of our retail initiatives there is still a lot of opportunity for further penetration.
Do you think that future global trade will be driven by technological innovation, shifts in production and consumption patterns, and demographics? Can you expand on that a bit?
We do, but it is very speculative. We know the importance of innovation and we hope that Made in USA only becomes an even more important factor in consumer behavior.
Let me turn our attention to environmental sustainability in textile production. The challenges of working out whether textiles are sourced, produced or manufactured ethically are magnified by the plethora of eco-labeling schemes that apply to the industry. Do you agree? Please explain.
The ecological aspect of our business is always taken into consideration when we move forward. Today’s market is very polarized. Consumers are demanding more information about their products and manufacturers are being more transparent about their supply chains. Between that, our economy, and the tragedies in Bangladesh, we see it all pointing to an increase in domestic manufacturing where carbon footprints are reduced, oversight is improved, and we grow jobs.
Finally, what do you think is the importance of history in shaping a brand?
For us it is everything. Our history makes up the DNA of this brand and we are so lucky to have a brand that has been around for 180 years. That doesn't mean brands can't be successful without the same history, but they certainly don’t have the experience, stories, archives and inspiration that Woolrich has. Today so many brands are crafted and guided to success. When John Rich started Woolrich he saw a market opportunity for a product he could make and we are seeing a resurgence of makers in this country, not just marketers. And you’ll find with just about every great brand today that behind it was a maker of a quality product. And whether it’s of 5 years or 200 years it’s the maker’s story that provides the strength behind the brand.
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