SW Portland-based Showers Pass Clothing (4860 SW Scholls Ferry Rd.) has just released a new jacket that they tout as being the solution to the discontinued Burley Rock Point rain jacket. According to the official press release, “the new Showers Pass Touring Jacket has more features at a lower price than the Rock Point.”
As most of you already know, back in early September Burley Design Cooperative in Eugene underwent massive changes. They eliminated 39 jobs, got a new owner, and refocused their business strictly on making their popular trailers.
This news sent a scare through many cyclists because their popular rain gear was considered the best on the market.
For Showers Pass president Ed Dalton, it was a golden opportunity.
Dalton knew something was awry at Burley long before the news went public (the bike industry is always full of insider info), so he began to develop a comparable rain jacket long ago.
His new Touring Jacket is the result.
I haven’t tried it out myself, but if past performance is any indication, Dalton’s new jacket should be a winner. Earlier this year, the Showers Pass Elite jacket received a “Gear of the Year” award from Outside Magazine.
And yes, I realize Showers Pass does not actually make their jackets in the U.S., however I can vouch for Ed Dalton. I’ve seen him at the cyclocross races and I met him at the recent industry meeting at City Hall…so at least Showers Pass isn’t some nameless, faceless company.
Showers Pass jackets are available locally at the Bike Gallery, River City Bicycles, Veloce Bicycles, and at local online retailer VeloClothes.com.
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Unless they’re going to start making long-wheelbase recumbent bikes, they ain’t gonna replace Burley in my book. More’s the pity.
From the showers’s pass website:
We design our products in the Pacific Northwest, and source construction world-wide. Our contractors ensure good working conditions and pay the prevailing wage. We are more concerned about quality than low price, and we convey this to our factories, so they do not take short-cuts when sewing for us.
Jonathon, perhaps you can ask some questions for us. I’d like to know more about where the jackets are sourced and what the company is proactively doing to ensure good working conditions. Also paying a prevailing wage is not the same as paying a living wage, these are high quality, high margin items and I’d be much more likely to want to purchase from them if I knew they were serious about taking care of their workers.
We have one Shower Pass jacket in our house. It works and looks great. The tag says “Made in Vietnam.”
And what, precisely, do they mean by “the prevailing wage”? In Oregon, that phrase has a specific legal significance for companies involved in public projects; what does it mean in relation to outsourced manufacturing jobs?
Also available at teamestrogen.com, which is a local online retailer…
Okay. This is the sort of thing that bugs me:
I wanted to buy a Burley jacket and was willing to pay their premium price because the company was local and their jackets were manufactured domestically. When i asked at my LBS if they had any more Burley jackets THEN i found out that the company had downsized their apparel. Rats.
So Showers Pass manufactures them in Asia for pennies on the dollar and passes this saving onto consumers? Or do they charge a premium price like Nike does?
I think your headline for this post is quite wrong. Burley was about more than just making clothes, great bikes and trailers — it was about creating sustainable, local jobs.
This guy is simply continuing the current trend of outsourcing every job possible to the cheapest labor one can find elsewhere. More of the same free trade insanity.
It’s great that he’s some wealthy American white boy who is going to get even richer. And it is wonderful that he has an actual face. But that doesn’t change the facts.
Even if a new company emerges that manufactures rain-gear in the US, now they get to compete with this jerk who obviously has far higher profit margins and thus can afford to under-price them out. Of course the real criminals are the congress-critters who passed free trade laws allowing this insanity, but that’s a whole different discussion.
However thank you for including the bit about the jackets not being made in the US — you clearly presented context that most main stream media would of course miss, but still, I don’t think he’s doing much good for America. And the headline is thus quite misleading.
J&G Cyclewear in Eugene still makes all its products. http://www.bicycleclothing.com/index.html
In some ways I agree with you that my title is misleading. However I did not post this story with the intention of getting involved in a broader conversation of sustainable business practices and overseas manufacturing.
My intent was to simply inform the community of another, Burley-esque rain jacket that was developed by a local company.
I spoke with Ed Dalton this morning about these issues and encouraged him to address your questions directly in these comments.
He did tell me that he has been involved with overseas sourcing for over 20 years and works with only the best facilities.
Beyond that, I’ll let him speak for himself.
I love the refreshing maturity of Bjorn’s approach – asking first and not operating on assumptions.
I bought a Showers Pass Jacket for my husband last Christmas. It’s a great jacket. A lot of thought has gone into the design that makes it a really functional jacket. And the fabric and zippers used are good quality. It is a good commuter jacket as well as training jacket.
You can also purchase the jackets from http://www.bicyclinghub.com (another Portland based online retailer).
May I recommend a thick WOOL sweater. Everyone up here in SEATTLE wears them. They are breathable, keep the rain off your skin in the light rain that predominates in CASCADIA, and do pretty darn good in heavy rain too.
Easy to find at THRIFT stores, usually for less than $10.
As well they are more fashionable than this weird petrochemical stuff.
Everyone is a WOOL DOUBTER until they try it. Afterwards, you will LOVE it.
I tried giving these people a chance, but Im not sold. Talking to Ed I walked away with a very bad taste in my mouth towards Showers Pass. He tried telling me you couldnt manufacture in the US anymore. I told him I begged to differ and that many businesses such as Chris King were proof. I told him its all based on the idea of how much work he’s willing to put out to do the “right thing” and his expectations on making “enough” money. Ed also couldnt stop talking about all the HUGE businesses who’s production he is responsible for moving overseas. He obviously didnt pick up on the idea I dont care for the way big business is taking all their production overseas as he went through his “impressive” list. I cant remember all the businesses he listed, but Columbia Sportswear and Reebok come to mind.
Ed seems like a big-business-minded individual that was all quick on the idea to go overseas with this small local brand as he had before with other labels. I absolutely dont trust him after talking to him. I still have a decent number of Burley jackets in stock from last year and cant find a jacket supplier I feel good about yet, so Im going to ride it out for a bit and wait for something that feels right.
When I talked to Ed about wages, work conditions and environmental sustainability overseas he was more concerned in telling me he thought the quality coming from overseas was going to be just as good if not better. I preceeded to tell him a couple of times that I understood that, and that this wasnt my issue as I know manufacturing overseas “can” be top notch, but I wanted to know what he was doing to ensure eco and enviro controls. I got a response that sounded finely crafted by some PR firm… I didnt buy it with all I had heard come from the guy’s mouth.
I think they should put their business where their mouth is, buy Burley’s jacket manufacturing equipment and go to town locally.
When Showers Pass began in 1997, all of our products were produced in Arcata, Calif. We had since lost our ability to produce in that factory due to a large military contract. We have now partnered with a high standard manufacturers in Asia. Personally, I have developed, worked with and sourced footwear, and now apparel, for over 20 years in Asia for companies such as New Balance, Timberland, Red Wing Shoe Co., Cutter & Buck and Columbia Sportswear all under the highest standards and practices guidelines with regard to human rights, the environment, fair wages and clean and safe working conditions. We could always find the lowest priced factories and make greater margins, but we instead work with factories that follow strict guidelines with regard to their employees and do so with pride. Fair treatment of their workers is of utmost importance to them. Our factories treat their employees well and with respect. Their work force is well paid and cared for with good benefits and training. Our mission is to provide the cycling community with the best fitting, highest quality products for a fair price manufactured in a responsible manner.
The point is that the company is not exactly local. Their design/management staff (how many is that, 3 out of 300 or something?) are local, but their manufacturing is not.
This is not picking up where Burley left off. Companies like this are destroying the very fabric that has made America great, when they come in and fill market niches that used to create sustainable American jobs and off-shore them.
This is not fair business, but rather simple organized crime where politicians that make this possible are bought and sold. Unfortunately when you combine organized crime with the demise of a great company like Burley thanks to the apparent stupidity of their own management, you get disasters like this. But please don’t call it picking up where Burley left off. There is more to life than being able to buy the cheapest rain jacket ever.
I have it by good source that the Burly people used to play “Bike Polo” on a fleet of Bike Fridays…..
I have worn Burly coats, of course for a long time, and still have a number of them hangiing in my closet. I also have dreamed of making coats as fine.
While I have many of the resources available to do just such thing, I do not, for I feel if I cannot make it myself, here in town, and put the proper commitment in, I cannot do it.
We have plenty of resources to have coats resonably made for a company right here in Portland.
I do not understand.
Boy, I can’t wait for the shipping container of Daby Coats to show up so I can see how good of a job I didn’t do in making them.
My point is simple. Anyone can have something built overseas, throw a fancy label on it, and sell it.
My new computer drives me crazy.
It sent my last commment before editing, sorry.
I’m all for domestically or locally manufactured goods but Pandora’s Box has been opened and nearly all of the major players in the apparel industry are utilizing overseas sourcing of their products. To stay competitive you have to do this. Period. End-of story.
There are many companies that are incurring extra costs to insure that human rights and the environment are being safeguarded as best they can and most are paying better than the prevailing local wage. That insures they get the best available local labor. While not a perfect situation for everyone’s tastes, sewing garments for U.S. consumers is a far better existence for the predominantly female workforce than toiling in a rice paddy or working as a prostitute.
It would be swell if all the apparel companies came home, allowed unions to call the shots, and paid seamstresses $50,000 a year to sew rain jackets. I’m sure that retailers would love to have consumers think nothing of coming into their bike shop and plunk down $300 for a jacket but that shall remain a fantasy. Did anyone ever stop to ask why Burley and others got out of the apparel business? Was it, dare I say, because they could not remain competitive or make their necessary margins with domestic labor? Or an adequate material sourcing supply chain? Or the added cost of getting technical fabrics from Asian mills to US ports, pay the import tariffs on raw goods, and then the costs of intermodal transport to the production facility?
Showers Pass is a tiny player in a very big industry. He didn’t cause Burley to drop jackets. He didn’t open the floodgates of cheap Asian labor. He didn’t neuter the unions in America or create the ozone hole. He’s just a guy making a living off his passion for cycling and doing what he needs to stay in business.
By the way, how do some of you sleep at night knowing the PC you view BikePortland with created lots of air and water pollution during manufacturing, is made with parts sourced from cheap labor markets in the Third World, with processors made by non-union workers, and made with chemicals and heavy metals that will pollute the Earth long after you replace it with a faster, cheaper machine?
Second that Bill and Vladislav-
I spoke with Ed Dalton personally and he seemed to think it was such a great thing that he could outsource this company too. he was so proud of the fact that he had outsourced thousands of american jobs and now we had jackets that are $20 less. Not a replacement. Not an ethical person. Not a good product, shame on you Ed Dalton.
Thanks for your reply, as it is quite thoughtful, but have you considered that it actually isn’t “period, end of story”? That we can pass laws that undo “globalization” and demand fair trade instead? That we can, in fact, have a viable democracy, one day, back to back with viable local living economies?
I sincerely doubt that Burley went down because they couldn’t compete, but probably because of basic mismanagement. The fact is that there are plenty of American, unionized apparel manufacturers popping up and not only competing, but thriving. They’re there. Another way, another world *is* possible.
The point I was making wasn’t about Showers Pass, as it was about the fact that this article is misleading. Showers Pass is not stepping in to pick up where Burley left off — they are merely yet another bird chewing off the rotting flesh. Unfortunately in the process, they are also helping to destroy the very fabric of the American Dream.
I think that the discussion has gotten a bit far afield from what I was trying to ask about. My question was simply if Shower’s Pass was sourcing from sweatshops or not, and had little to do with Made in the USA since they openly admit they aren’t a US manufactuer. The sad truth is that most of the people making our clothing in Asia are receiving less than 1% of the retail cost for their labor, paying a fair wage doesn’t mean paying 300 dollars for a jacket. I am willing to, and regularly do buy clothing that is more expensive because I know it was made according to fair labor practices, but the increase in cost is actually very small. Some things I look for when making purchases are a living wage, and union representation so that workers are able to freely bargain for other things that they want, including holidays and job security. Unionization does not fix all the problems in this world, but in the asian garment industry good working conditions rarely exist without one.
Ed offers assurances that things are great at his factories, unfortunately it is very hard to check into when the information provided is only that the clothing is sourced through subcontractors in Asia. Larger companies often use this contractor method to create a firewall between them and poor working conditions so they can later claim they are not responsible for violations. Im not saying that Showers Pass is using unethical production methods, I’m simply saying that I personally am not satisfied with Ed’s response at this point, and it seems that I am not alone. I hope that he will consider being more transparent about Shower’s Pass production methods especailly if they in fact are good.
It is possible to have real change in conditions in these factories when customers demand it. More than 140 colleges have joined the Workers Rights Coalition and created standards for the clothing bearing their logos because students at these colleges demand that the clothing produced for their universities be made according to fair labor standards, whenever possible I try to demand the same, sometimes that means buying local, sometimes it means not buying the absolute cheapest product but instead paying more for something produced abroad to reinforce my support for good labor practices.
Also as far as computers go I worry about that too and a great way to reduce the footprint of your computer use is reuse. A wonderful resource for computer reuse and recycling is based right here in Portland http://www.freegeek.org
“For Showers Pass president Ed Dalton, it was a golden opportunity.”
oof! couldn’t let that one go, could you? =)
I worry about computers as well. I think we as citizens need to put more pressure on that industry and support reuse and getting the maximum life out of the computers we have. Purchasing from small places such as Belmont Computers and voicing our opinions with them will help with this plight. I however am in the bike industry and as such I will do my best to work towards social change where I have the biggest influence. I firmly believe in the idea of vote with your dollar. I do reach out harder to some businesses we deal with more so than others because I think I can have a bigger impact with them. Others I know I have no hope in hell, so its best for me to just not promote them as a brand. However, I do my best to ask hard questions of all our brands.
We dont need more bike jacket brands! there are plenty of jacket brands out there and they all seem to build overseas. Why buy Showers Pass? because they are located in Beaverton even though they do nothing there other than take orders and make orders? no way! I dont want to support more of the same, I want to see a brand that is doing something truly different and doing something right! Proving sustainable manufacturing CAN be done and that it CAN be profitable. Try and tell Chris King you cant make hubs and headsets in the US with all the SUPER cheap competition overseas (Ed, I believe he has it much worse than you in respect to this, but he’s doing well)…. If it costs a bit more, then so be it. I know I can sell and would buy a $200 “made in the US” jacket and I dont think it will need to be $300 to make you profitable (Rockpoints were $150).
Ed, the thing is, you didnt even try, you just moved it overseas as you did with all the other brands you told me about! Its easy and the most profitable. Would you live in one of the countries you manufacture in and take a wage youre offering them? would you live or work in the same conditions? Its not about hitting status quo or just the next bit over so you can say youre offering a prevailing wage and make yourself feel like youre making a difference, its about making sure youre providing them with a living that will offer them all the benefits and comforts you have, or dont go there!
The thing of it is you dont have to have the cheapest jacket, and as Bjorn said, it wouldnt have to cost that much more to make it in the US. I talked to the Burley rep and he said they shut down the jacket production because it wasnt making much money and with all the restructuring, they dont know yet how they want to handle everything. They just knew they wanted to stick to their roots, and do the trailers.
Burley couldve charged $20 or so more for each jacket, people wouldve bought it and that small dollar amount wouldve made a HUGE difference towards making it attractive to produce. So, dont say it cant be done, youre just not willing to go the extra mile after seeing the “success” youve had taking your big labels overseas. I will not reward you for that!
Ed writes: “Our mission is to provide the cycling community with the best fitting, highest quality products for a fair price manufactured in a responsible manner.
Showers Pass ”
Is it uncanny that within a blog where we are predominately talking about human rights Ed lists “responsible manner” last?
With what Ive been reading Im thinking they do make a great product and they focus heavily on garment quality, but that the social aspects truly arent as important as theyd lead one to believe. Thats not good enough for me. too many brands already offer this.
“…some wealthy American white boy…”
“…this jerk …”
“…Not an ethical person. Not a good product…”
My goodness. So much vitriol and outright venom directed towards Mr. Dalton and his company. Childish and unfounded.
Brad’s post contains much truth.
The vast majority of Americans wish to buy goods (preferably the highest quality goods) at the lowest possible price. Fair enough.
These same Americans want to work short hours at high wages, with long vacations, deluxe health care benefits, etc., etc. Again, fair enough.
However, as labor costs are typically a significant factor in the price of a manufactured item, the products produced by expensive American workers are naturally quite pricey and cost more money than many (most) Americans are willing to pay.
Thus, manufacturers go offshore to produce high quality products at low prices to satisfy the demand from American consumers.
This is all pretty basic economics.
Perhaps Burley could have stayed in business if they charged an additional $50 per jacket. I don’t know. But clearly, they could not charge enough money to make that jacket domestically, while making enough money to pay fair wages to their US workers and still make enough money to stay in business. Would Burley’s customers have paid and additional $50 per jacket? Indeed, some would have. But many people would have shopped around for a less expensive alternative, driving down unit sales, and once again making the jacket a money-losing proposition.
Finally, going offshore does not necessarily mean the product will be shoddy. (Just as American-made does not automatically mean high quality). Nor does it necessarily mean the workers will be underpaid and overworked. In fact, as demand for goods produced overseas increases, more jobs will be created for previously impoverished workers. Demand for labor will rise, and workers will, over time, be able to demand higher wages. Standards of living will increase. Economics teaches us that, left to the free market, without government interference, standards of living around the world will eventually adjust into equilibrium. If you don’t believe that, then look at China. Many many millions of Chinese have moved into the middle class with lifestyles not that different from the average American. This trend is being replicated throughout the world.
Bringing this back around to Burley and Showers Pass….
I’m sorry to see Burley discontinue making apparel. They produced a high quality, well fitting garment that worked very well, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. They will be greatly missed.
I also wish Showers Pass much success. They produce a high quality product with very nice features at a reasonable price. I hope that they can accomplish this with fair business practices, as so many other companies do.
Thank you for accusing me of being childish and my accusations of being unfounded. However please explain to me why American politicians should be promoting the quality of life of Chinese workers (other than that they are bought and sold by people who make tons of money by sending American jobs overseas?).
With all due respect, American politicians are elected to serve American interests, not Chinese. Sending American jobs overseas is simply un-American.
And the fact remains that many countries have working conditions far better than the United States, yet their economies are doing just dandy. Americans do not need free trade, we need fair trade and taxes places on all imports to equal out the cost of living as well as environmental protections that are not present in China and Vietnam.
Look, free trade is killing America. It is good only for people like Ed who are making lots of money from it, and perhaps the Vietnamese workers who are making his garments. But it is not good for Americans. You can’t just say ‘oh it’s a cheaper product’ when it also means American jobs are lost and our citizens no longer have money to afford to buy products.
Free trade is wrong. Fair trade and taxes on imports are a simple must. Unfortunately for either to happen, we must first get money the hell out of politics.
Susan I respect and understand what you are saying, but you are dead wrong. Get out of your little sandbox and go take a cross-country bike trip, talk to the people actually *affected* by Free Trade. It is wrong. Dead wrong.
Burly did make enough to produce the jacket locally, that is not why they went down. Its the new owner that isnt restarting that division as he plans to focus directly on the trailers for now. We’ll see in time what happens with it all. who’s to say what it would take to make the jackets attractive to produce, but there is a mathematical equation somewhere that would work. You have to believe, or you just give up and say its too hard, then the WalMart mantality wins and the quality of life for many goes down.
I dont believe that American wages are too high (many are, but too few arent high enough. mind you, this is coming from a small business owner…) just as I dont believe two weeks vacation is too much to ask and nobody deserves to live without healthcare in a wealthy society such as ours. We just all need to look out for our community and respect everyones’right to make a fair wage (not just ourselves..) and not be so wrapped up in how much we can get for soo little. That may be the majority American mantality, but that doesnt mean its attractive and certainly not one Im going to promote by staying silent and saying “fair enough”.
it is a shame people arent willing to pay for the quality they want and still provide a livable wage for those that make these items… Especially when we are so well fed, cared for and given the wealth of this nation in comparison to what we see around the globe. It seems America doesnt want to pay the “real” price of anything. If each driver had to pay the health and environmental costs of a tank of gas, more people would respect alternative forms of transportation more. This world would be in a much different place..
I had the same reaction as you did to Vladislav Davidzon’s comments. I thought he was a troll, but here’s some info on him:
His politics have gotten in the way of basic consideration and respect for other people. Sad. And very, very immature. (Maybe we should take a look at the values and ethics of his business?)
I also wish Ed Dalton success in his business. Bravo to him for posting here about his business practices. I hope he doesn’t think that most Portland-area bicyclists share some of the opinions expressed here.
“ThinkHost, Inc. was founded in 1999 by Vladislav Davidzon, a talented technical professional and peace advocate.
This is best summed up by our mission statement and by our Executive Director and Founder, Vladislav Davidzon:
‘I founded the company based on 3 simple principles – Honesty, Integrity and Trust.'”
Peace advocate? Integrity? Trust?
And I dare you to ask him how much he pays his employees, all the way down to the secretary. While you’re at it, ask him if he has to contract out any services (which he does since thinkhost is not a primary provider) and if he knows everything about those subcontractors, their subcontractors…
Contrary to some beliefs, business people can be ethical and moral while outsourcing (since thinkhost does outsource by its own admission, I assume Vladislav already knows this). Is Showers Pass one of these business? I don’t know and since I’m not in the market for a rain jacket, I’m not going to take the time to find out.
As far as the vintriol goes, becoming a protectionist state didn’t work all the previous times it has been tried in history (thank you sophomore U.S. history). Of course neither did becoming an imperialist state. (Dubya, buddy, are you hearing me?)
Unions were effectively neutered when transporting raw materials overseas and finished goods back became a financially reasonable business mood (morals and ethics aside). The only unions left with any real power are all industries where the work cannot be outsourced like transporting goods within our borders and goverment. Fortunately for all you PBR drinkers out there, Miller Brewing, owners of the Pabst brand, are in fact a union shop. Coors, on the other hand, not so much.
History has shown that there are two things man has – from time immemorial – traveled the world over and killed thousands and destroyed civilizations for:
1. Gold (money, and lots of it)
2. Slaves (free labor, or really cheap labor)
U.S. business will either outsource labor or import cheap labor through human trafficking (slavery) which is all around us. Remember Typhoon!? That’s just one very minor example) and illegal immigrant labor (almost slavery because they have no voice; they fear deportation).
This world has not changed and I don’t think it ever will. We’re a weak and inferior species. All I can do is apply my beliefs in my personal life. It’s impossible to live in this world without harming others one way or another.
A previous post mentioned WOOL. I’m definitely a wool lover, but it doesn’t dry quickly enough after a downpour, but you will stay warm even when it’s wet. I prefer my Burley for rainy weather.
I do shun synthetic (gag! and you can’t find anything but in bike stores) in the summer and wear cotton and hemp (which is odor resistant) and which dry quickly. Who needs synthetic in hot weather?
Have a nice day.
I use my full name in posting because I am incredibly proud of my record on these issues and have nothing to hide. I run ethical companies, which are members of Co-Op America Business Network, and operate to the highest ethical and legal standards.
We reinvest our profits in supporting various social change causes,from bike advocacy (Shift, Filmed by Bike, many others) to international human rights (International Solidarity Movement in Palestine, War Resisters League and many others) and democracy projects. And yes, all for-profit companies I run absolutely pay living wages where we operate. It simply makes good business sense.
The thing is that my beef is not so much with Ed or his company, as it was with the title of this post and the benefit Ed will reap from misguided posts like these. He is *not* picking up where Burley left off because Burley was creating sustainable lively-hoods (rather than even jobs), while his company simply sends them overseas. My hat is off to him for even considering social responsibility in how he operates however.
Many people can make a great jacket. However very few can do what Burley did — create local, sustainable jobs.
First, Burley’s clothing manufacturing division was not sustainable, otherwise it would still be in operation. Taking the isolationist line of closing our markets would have simply taken away the supply of textile used in their manufacturing operations. Isolationism and protectionism never work.
I can guarantee some the things Vladislav’s companies use were manufactured under conditions he deplores as untenable for those foreign workers. (It does still take computers to run an internet company, doesn’t it?) I can also say with certainty that slapping a logo saying you are a member of such-and-such organization promoting workers’ rights doesn’t mean that every item used in every facet of business complies with those same standards.
We all strive to make the world, not just this country a better place. I would hope we would recognize that *all* of us can do better.
BTW, Vladislav, I did note you mention only your “for-profit companies” when it comes to living wage. This means *none* of your employees in your for-profit ventures qualify for food stamps but the same rules don’t necessarily apply for your non-profit ventures, right? And it means you don’t subcontract janitorial or secretarial work to companies who pay them at a low enough wage they qualify for food stamps, right?
I can absolutely state that my for-profit companies pay living wages at all levels. That is key to retaining qualified people. Yes, you point out correctly that I said for-profit. The core reasons I got out of the non-profit world was due to the salary issue — what you can afford to pay, and the motivations of people you get as a result.
We are not perfect, nor do I claim us to be. Like any other company, we have our issues — but we are a socially responsible company. And like Ed’s company, we do try. And as I’ve said my beef isn’t so much with Ed’s company. My beef is with the fact that his company is *not* filling in the void left by Burley. Any claims otherwise are simply false. It is not just about the product, but the jobs created in making that product that matter.
As a consumer, I *do* check where products I buy are made. If I have a choice between buying American made products and Chinese, I will choose American whenever I have the option and can afford to do so. I know that many other conscientious consumers do so as well. It simply is in my best interest.
Lastly, your point about protectionist policies is simply dead wrong. American jobs were doing quite alright until President Clinton signed this thing called NAFTA, which was passed by a republican congress, alongside other bills promoting free trade. This is what led to the destruction of the American middle class.
Go travel the country, talk to the people losing their jobs. And perhaps then perhaps you may start to understand why most of America is in such dire trouble.
Re: what you said about protectionist policies is dead on, I totally agree. It is, quite simply, the rules of the game that were changed over the last 10-20 years that have decimated the middle class. Put simply, we don’t make much of anything here anymore. And what’s worse, we’re forgetting how. How’s that for national security.
But folks, it’s not Ed’s fault that he makes things overseas. He is dealing with an environment created by laws, taxes and international corporations. The problem isn’t Ed. People like Ed (and I’ve talked with him) would much rather make their products here, but the deck is severly stacked against them. He’s competing against HUGE companies that squeeze every last penny out of every garment.
To those of you who say he should just buck up and still make things here, I say, okay you do it. Seriously. You get the capital, find the factories, deal with all the environmental regulations (which are NOT a bad thing by the way) that the factories in China do NOT have to deal with.
Come on, step up to the plate.
chirp, chirp, chirp.
It’s really easy to blame the players in the game. But the fact is that they are playing by the rules that this country (inc.) helped form.
Free trade is a crock. Corporations can have an international presence and play one country off another, initiating that great proverbial race to the bottom. Laborers? Is there an international labor union to compete? No. Heck, it’s become almost impossible to form a union just in this country. Almost every protection offered new unions has been systematically dismantled.
Enjoy your weekend? Brought to you by unions. Enjoy not being in danger at work, thank the existence of OSHA, brought to you by unions. Like the fact that we were able to win WWII? Don’t forget that we still knew how to make everything here back then.
WE consumers are the problem because we want $9 t-shirts. Old Navy, it’s so cute!! We want cheap cheap cheap. And it’s on someone’s back.
If more people put thought and money into their purchases, it would make the market friendlier to products made here. Buy less, but buy better.
Think we’re improving life in China? It’s really easy to drive an economy forward when you have no environmental regulations or safety regulations to speak of. Google “mine disaster china” and see what you find.
Put your money where your values are. Support your neighbor and they’ll be there to support you. Your dollar means more than your vote ever could.
History doesn’t bear out the facts as far as NAFTA being the evil killer of the middle class. As a union leader myself (board of directors of my local), I agree that workers’ organizing powers have been undermined and that many of the acheivements of unions have been forgotten by the current “Me” generation.
That said, the middle class has been in decline for more like 30-40 years. The numbers bear it out and the union power and activity bears it out as well. In fact some of the last great, innovative union actions have been here in the Northwest.
The fundamental questions are posed by society and answered by business. Want to buy things on Sunday? Okay, then somebody has to work Sunday. Want to buy things on the cheap? Okay, somebody has to work on the cheap. We undercut ourselves for the sake of price and convenience.
But it’s more than that. We also stopped teaching the skills to do the manufacturing to anyone who wanted to learn. We have systematically stripped nearly all vocational education out of most public schools in the last 20 years. Select schools now have select programs and if you want to take one of those classes, you must transfer and pay to transport yourself to that school. Community colleges are trying, but exposing kids to a range of skills and concepts is the core of the public school system.
We neutered ourselves. I think Ed would be hard pressed to find a volume of skilled labor to make his jackets her no matter what he paid them.
Unfortunately, protectionism still won’t solve the problem.
As a nation, the *world* can barely supply our demands and I’d be hard pressed to believe we can or should crawl into our little box. We want to empower foreign workers for better wages, working conditions, environmental protections, etc., we need to go to them, educate them, help them rather than pretending we are somehow more important than them, that we must protect *our* workers above all others.
You are right in that we must spend our dollars at home in order to best help our neighbors. That’s the best way to preserve America’s workforce.
I kind of started this whole mess by simply asking for a bit of information about the manufacturing methods of the jacket. I would like to reiterate that I did not do so to embarrass or damage the showers pass brand or any of that companies employees, in fact I had hoped that the opposite would occur and that we would all hear from showers pass about the work they have done to improve conditions. Unfortunately so far we havn’t heard anything concrete, I hope we will hear something in the coming week. I do feel like I need to respond to Susan though.
Susan is also a member of the apparel industry, and her comments reflect a part of their advertising that I am very much so at odds with. Specifically the idea that goods produced under non-exploitive working conditions are much more expensive than those produced under good conditions and are therefore undesirable to american consumers. The price diffence is very small, and I believe that if a person were to be presented with the idea that they could pay 5-10 cents more for a T-shirt and that would provide a worker with a living wage vs a prevailing wage most americans would want to pay the extra nickel. A living wage allows workers to do things like save, afford basic medical care, or pay for their children to go to school. The problem for the apparel industry is that marketing on price is so much easier than actually doing the work to be able to certify that a garment is produced under fair conditions. This problem has parallels in the organic food industry, but those problems can be overcome through truly independant auditing and enforcement. If certification were possible then responsible companies would be able to advertise around their compliance.
That is an effort that I as a consumer want to be able to expect, right now it is very difficult to tell good products from bad. It is pretty hard for me to tell a huge chain store or a major brand that I want this, because they do not listen. It is a lot easier for me to open this dialogue with the a company the size of a showers pass or even with Susan’s company Team Estrogen. So to any apparel or other manufacturing industry person who might read this, I am a consumer, I want the people who work to make things that I buy to be treated fairly whether they were born in the same country as me or not, and I want companies to work towards making it easier not harder for me to tell what kind of factory conditions produced these goods.
also in the interest of transparency, I work for a big multinational electronics company that produces equipment in Malaysia. In Malaysia most workers are protected by laws allowing them to unionize but in order to attract big businesses the electronics industry is specifically exempted. I believe this exemption is wrong, and I do consider myself to be a part of the problem. Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step towards trying to find a solution though.
do you guys just argue for the sake of argueing?
What can I say about all the activist out there. There is a big difference between a living wage in Asia and America. While there is a problem out there with outsourcing so big companies can make a buck, there is also the reality out there with stagnant wages and rapidly rising health care and education costs, the average American consumer has to look for lower cost alternatives just to maintain their buying power.
Now there is another argument about wages and companies that I will not get into, but for goodness sake, you need to calm down and direct your activism to things that are more pressing (the war in Iraq comes to mind here or other frauds that are being committed by corporate officers) than a local small business owner trying to bring a quality product to the cycling community. If it were not for the millions of American demanding lower prices the problem of outsourcing would certainly be decreased. If you want to go after someone for bad labor practices just go to your local Wal-Mart and direct your venom there not some poor local guy.
I do own a Showers Pass jacket and think it the best jacket I have ever owned. I had a Burley about 10 years ago and while it worked fine a keeping me dry, it did not vent very well so I got wet from sweat instead of rain. So I still ended up wet. The Showers Pass jacket does a great job at keeping me dry and properly vented.
A disclaimer: Yes, I work in a bike shop. No, my views do NOT represent those of my co-workers. I can be opinionated all by myself.
1. I have met with Ed on a couple of occasions and have had a very good look at some of the Showers Pass jackets. Ed is a smart and delightfully engaging fellow with a passion for cycling and a willingness to listen to retailers and customers to make his products better. In addition, I found his candor refreshing. He is the FIRST person to admit to me that in the non-GoreTex price point, there is NO “breathable” jacket that can retain its waterproofness indefinitely. He recommends — and I agree, after checking with my local dry-cleaner and fabric expert (he’s in the family, and yes, I get my dry-cleaning for free) — that such fabrics as Entrant, Exalt and the like need to be re-treated with NikWax or a similar proofing agent once or twice a year. This treatment preserves the water resistance and keeps the garment cleaner.
1a. The only truly waterproof jackets out there are sweatier and require lots of built-in vents to be reasonably comfortable. Burley’s Rain Rider was such a jacket, and among the best of its kind. So is J & G’s (though on a lesser scale because you have to seal your own seams).
2. SP’s “Touring” jacket looks VERY similar in appearance to the late Rock Point jacket. However, the fabric is different (a little sturdier on the SP jacket) and the cut is a tad fuller (great for layering underneath). For the money it’s not a bad deal at all.
3. Speaking of J & G: it’s important to note that, although the jackets are built in Oregon, the fabric can (and often does) come from outside the US. J & G, like a number of other US-based rain wear makers, was caught off-guard by Burley’s little implosion and they are scrambling to make stuff as fast as they can get the fabric.
4. Our shop makes every effort to sell things made in the US. If we can find stuff made locally, that’s even better. But some stuff simply is no longer made here. Inner tubes? China. Tires? Mostly from Asia (with a smattering of fancier stuff from EU countries). Burley hasn’t hand-laced their own trailer wheels in forever. Get my point?
5. Large-scale manufacturing has moved largely overseas bceause, in my opinion, Americans are spoiled rotten and insist on buying cheap stuff. To keep it cheap, you have to pay your workers less. That is simple economics. By changing the location, you change the economy of scale.
Want proof? Timbuk2’s non-custom bags are all made in China now. This enables them to keep a price point that is lower than their US-made counterparts; and still frees up money for R & D (as seen in their recent switch to a lining that is still waterproof but doesn’t give off harmful CFCs in the making or the deterioration from prolonged use). If they hadn’t moved most of their manufacturing to China (their custom messenger bags are still made in the US) the prices would’ve skyrocketed. Compared to Chrome, Baileyworks and ReLoad, they’re a bargain. And by the way, where do the US bag makers get their fabric from? Worth asking.
6. If all this bugs you, you can do what I did (and even though he openly hoped to get me into one of his jackets very soon, Ed did admire my resourcefulness): If you find a product you really like, take good care of it and fix it when needed. When it really wears out, then you can replace it.
My Burley Rapid Rider (the Rock Point’s immediate predecessor and IMHO a far better jacket) is stained; the once-bright yellow has faded; and there are two smartly-applied patches where I had a run-in with some barbed wire a few years back (my neat and tiny hand-stitching is seam-sealed, of course). It’s not good for our consumer-based economy to conserve and wear things until they wear out, but it’s good for lots of other things, especially the planet.