Ibex plans to produce 100 percent of its clothing products in North America by 2014, the company’s founder and CEO John Fernsell told SNEWS Friday.
The Vermont-based brand of outdoor wool apparel already manufacturers about 85 percent of product in the United States and Canada, but will return its remaining offshore clothing production in Asia within the next two years. It’s been a steady shift back home from a low of 65 percent North American manufacturing two years ago, Fernsell said. Some of the company’s hats and accessories will continue to be manufactured in Italy and some gloves in Sri Lanka, Fernsell said. And Ibex’s seamless production will remain in Turkey.
“We’ve found that we get beat up from our customers when they buy something of ours that we manufacture in China,” Fernsell said. On the flip side, “the amount of positive feedback for our products made here has gone up significantly in the past few years.”
Ibex contracts its North American production of garments with factories in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., along with a facility in Vancouver, Canada.
“For us it puts us closer to work directly with the manufacturing process, and that results in a higher quality product,” Fernsell said. “We made such a small amount overseas that the price difference to bring it back here was minimal.”
The shift toward more domestic production comes on the heels of Ibex’s announcement last November that it began domestically sourcing some of its wool from sheep in Montana — a program that will continue to expand in 2012 and 2013, Fernsell said. He estimated about 12 percent, or 15 of Ibex’s midlayer products will feature the U.S. sourced wool by the end of this year. The bulk of Ibex's merino wool is still sourced from New Zealand.
“I think the U.S. consumer is screaming for U.S. made and sourced products,” Fernsell said. “For the outdoor consumer, it’s not just how the clothes perform anymore — it’s also about how and where it’s made.”
The increasingly educated outdoor consumer isn’t satisfied with just seeing “Made in the USA” or “Imported” on the tag either, Fernsell added. “They want all the information,” he said, and they are starting to get it via scanning QR codes on clothing or scouring company websites.
“Every one of our products on our website will tell you where the fibers are sourced, where the fabrics are sourced and where it was sewn,” Fernsell said. In addition, the company posted educational videos about its production process. “People want to know everything,” he said.