Vince Chu believes a better pair of shorts can be made without sacrificing American jobs. Through Yesler Apparel, the Seattle-based startup he founded, Chu aims to design, source and produce athletic apparel in the United States without sacrificing quality.
"Yesler is sending the message that 'Made in USA' can be done," says Chu, who named the company after Seattle founding father and pioneer Henry Yesler . "That American manufacturing has a rightful place alongside engineering and finance."
Over the past two decades, U.S. apparel companies have moved manufacturing operations overseas in an effort to cut costs. Today, less than 2 percent of athletic apparel is made in the United States. The outsourcing trend has shored up company profits; it also gutted the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry. Since 1990, apparel manufacturing jobs have dropped 85 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While it might be cheaper for Yesler to make garments abroad, the company's goal is to design and produce high-quality clothing here in the U.S. And "Made in America" it is. The fabric is sourced from North Carolina, the trimmings come from New England and Missouri and the clothing is cut and sewn at a family-owned factory in Seattle, according to Yesler.
The retail price of the first two products—shorts and capris—will be $64 and $78, respectively. The products are cheaper if ordered through the company's Kickstarter campaign. The retail prices are inline with other high-quality brands that manufacture overseas. Yesler achieves this cost parity using minimal, yet effective designs, Chu says.
The Yesler team is led by technical designers who got their start at Nike and Eddie Bauer and an ex-Amazonian who is trying to make a local impact.
Here is Chu's take on innovative design, technical fabrics and quality construction with American craftsmanship.
Why manufacture Yesler in America?
Making Yesler here in America has been our mission from the get-go—it's the way we assure quality. Furthermore, we love sports here, but it's unsettling to think that we hardly make much of our own gear anymore. We want to change that.
What makes Yesler different from other fitness apparel?
Fashion trends and design elements come and go, but things like quality and performance will never get old, and that's where our focus will be. For example, I don't see ourselves making 50 different athletic tank tops in four different colors that change every three months. We're more likely to make 3 to 6 that serve a specific purpose, and make them well.