A few weeks back I headed up north for a weekend of rest and relaxation amongst nature. The trip coincided with some seriously severe weather and as much rain as I have ever seen in New York City. The FDR turned into a few miles of standing water that must have been about two feet deep at some points. Not exactly what you want to drive through at five in the morning. Eventually we made it up to Maine most of the rain had all but subsided by the time we stopped in Kennebunk to visit the folks at Ramblers Way, the Maine-based clothing maker and the its Rambouillet sheep farm. The Maine farm produces a portion of the fine rambouillet wool that Ramblers Way eventually will have processed into fabric, organically dyed and then eventually sewn (in Fall River, mass.) into a line of super-fine worsted wool garments.
Ramblers Way was founded by Tom and Kate Chappell — the same people that started the Tom’s of Maine in 1970 — with the mission to produce a collection of wool apparel that is comfortable, natural and entirely sourced / produced in the United States. That’s how I was first introduced to the brand actually, through research on domestic manufactures for The American List.
Tom Chappell’s family has a history in the New England textile industry and was an early victim of globalization and the off-shore production shift that the American apparel industry faced in the past few decades. This is one of the reasons that Ramblers Way has decided to source and sew every single garment it makes in the United States. It is also this shared mission that led Ramblers Way to partner (as an advertiser) with ACL to help get the word out.
In addition to the small flock of sheep Ramblers Way has in Maine, it also sources a significant amount of wool from ranchers out west. Its interesting to learn that the large majority of wool produced in the United States is shipped to China, where most apparel is made these days. So when Ramblers Way approached these ranchers about buying wool to make garments in the US, the wool producers were obviously pleased to see their products stay in a complete domestic cycle, all the way to the end consumer.
Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me. To see a pioneering entrepreneur like Tom (someone who started making organic soaps and personal care products in the 1970s; think about that!) invest so much in producing clothing entirely in America. To me this signals a huge endorsement and potential for the American garment manufacturing industry. If my math is correct: entrepreneurs + Rambouillet sheep = comfortable wool clothing and American jobs. Win win. [Ramblers Way]