Grey State Makes Clothes From American Cotton

It offers a new spin on "made in USA", even if the sewing occurs overseas.

Grey State apparel
Shorts and a romper made by Grey State.

Grey State (used with permission) 

Sustainable fashion takes different forms. Sometimes it is made with recycled materials, such as water bottles turned into stretchy gym wear. At other times, it features upcycled fabrics, repurposed after a previous garment has worn out, or organic natural textiles that will fully biodegrade someday without leaving microplastics in the soil. A garment made overseas by a Fairtrade-certified artisan could be considered sustainable, as could an item made by a local tailor you've met personally. 

Another approach, though less common here in North America, is to source domestic materials. This is why a company called Grey State is interesting. We don't hear often about fashion brands prioritizing U.S.-grown cotton, but that is Grey State's whole M.O. The company says that "truly great fashion starts with truly great materials" and American cotton stands out when it comes to quality. 

Grey State is a female-owned and operated company that makes cotton basics for women, that are "trend-relevant but not trend-driven." The fabric is soft, comfortable, and long-lasting, thanks in large part to its American provenance. Founder and CEO Saima Chowdhury told Treehugger,

"Cotton USA has the strictest government enforced regulations which means that farmers are held to peak standards. Every year, the US cotton industry seeks to improve its standards and reduce its environmental effects. Future goals include reducing energy usage by 15 percent, increasing water usage efficiency by 18 percent, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent. The US cotton industry was the first to test 100 percent of its bales – which means total transparency. When you wear Cotton USA you know exactly what you’re getting."

The cotton that Grey State uses is not organic, but the company believes it's further ahead ecologically by buying locally than sourcing organic cotton from faraway. 

Grey State's clothing also incorporates "slub yarn" into its fabric, which is yarn with an uneven consistency that's typically rejected. Grey State views this inconsistency as a benefit. Chowdhury said, "The unevenness (or thick and thin) in the yarn creates a gorgeous, unique texture when the fabric is dyed. We love the fact that this fabric is imperfectly perfect. We worked with our mill to create a unique slub texture and gave it a special treatment for an incredibly soft, yummy feel."  

The clothes are produced in Bangladesh, which may feel like an anomaly in light of the emphasis on local textile sourcing, but it's really no different from all the companies that proudly proclaim to be "made in USA" (a.k.a. sewn) while using textiles produced overseas. Grey State's Bangladeshi factories are OEKO-TEX and LEED-certified, with the mostly-female staff guaranteed fair wages and healthy working conditions in accordance with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

These 17 SDGs provide a framework for many of Grey State's decisions. They are used to "map all manufacturing processes, sustainability efforts, and charitable giving," in an effort to reduce environmental impact. From the website: "We are not perfect, but we believe that the choices we make matter and small actions can have a big impact."

These are wise words that we'd all do well to adopt. We, too, can make better ethical and sustainable decisions by choosing to support companies that prioritize good practices when we need to make purchases.