Brooklyn Industries began making vinyl messenger bags in 1998 out of our factory on North 11th St. and Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg. However, we faced the tough decision to close it in 2000 as we started opening up stores. We didn’t really have a choice as prices out of Asia at the time were considerably less, and our customers didn’t want simple bags for the price of a sophisticated bag they could buy for the same price. Thirteen years later, this has changed. First, foreign factory prices have skyrocketed, and secondly, awareness and desire for artisanal, local product has grown.
Now, Brooklyn Industries is once again planting manufacturing roots in Brooklyn. We began a resurgence of making products locally in 2011, with the reopening of our bag factory at our headquarters in Dumbo (later moving the factory to our warehouse near the Brooklyn Navy Yard). This process of moving as much of our manufacturing back to the New York area as possible continues.
But how do we make clothes and bags here when the costs are still significantly higher? We have been grappling with this issue for several years, doing tests with local factories and searching all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to find manufacturers to work with us. Along with bag production in Brooklyn, garment production in NYC, and t-shirt printing in Queens, I am proud to say that as of mid-2014, we are making 50% of our T-shirts within 150 miles of Brooklyn. We are knitting yarn in Clifton, NJ, dying the yarn in Shoemakersville, PA (no, there are no shoe factories there) and then sewing in small shops in Allentown, PA and Brooklyn. In addition to the local approach, we are using organic, recycled and bamboo yarns almost exclusively. It is a micro, small lot approach to making t-shirts, but we think it will work! - Lexy Funk, CEO