In 1994 Sir James Goldsmith predicted the future with eerie accuracy in an interview with Charlie Rose. The interview was about his opposition to the upcoming General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade round that was set to liberalize trade between the US and many countries in Asia. One of the things that makes Goldsmith’s argument so compelling is that he was a billionaire businessman with interests all over the globe. He knew exactly what would happen when these trade agreements were signed because he was an actual businessman, not an academic economist or politician. When these companies moved manufacturing to low wage countries, they broke the social contract that kept the American economy working for the majority of people. The income inequality, wage stagnation and the toxic, outsized role finance, insurance and real estate of our present day economy can be attributed in large part to offshoring our manufacturing.
We believe that globalization is the root cause of many of the issues our country faces today. This should not be viewed through a partisan political lens. Both parties are complicit as they are funded by massive corporate interests that have reaped nearly all the benefits from globalization. In fact, partisan politics has become one of the wedges used to divide and distract the population from understanding the real issues that are hurting the majority of Americans. They’ve done such a good job making the public believe that this anti-competitive form of “free trade” is the only way our economy can exist that it seems inevitable and unstoppable. It is not.
The outdoor industry has certainly not been immune from globalization of production and the financialization of our economy. Like most industries, large firms dominate, especially in apparel. For the most part they all use the same factories and have a well oiled machine of production in place in Asia that allows (and requires) them to over-produce an astounding number of garments. The majority of these companies are publicly traded, large conglomerates, or owned by private equity.
We could have thrown our hands up and just accepted that this is the world we live in. But as avid climbers and outdoors people we are used to believing that the hard way is the only way. So in 2010 we rolled up our sleeves and started NW Alpine. In 2014 we bootstrapped our own contract sewing factory, in Oregon, where we manufactured hundreds of thousands of pieces of apparel and paid our workers millions of dollars in wages over nine years. Last year we had to shut down our factory and now our focus is using what we learned to make the best outdoor apparel we can here in the states. We know that not everyone cares about these things and that's fine. We aren't for them. We're here for the people who understand that the current way of doing things isn't sustainable and want to be part of the change.