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Rethinking Heritage.

Rethinking Heritage.
Lots of spools of thread.
A man wears a brown sweater.

Factory Photos: Conrado Aguilar
Studio Photos: Ray Spears

This is the second in a series of posts about the journey we’ve been on in the last year and a half. On the surface, it’s been about finding a way to keep going through all the uncertainty while sticking to our core principles. But it’s also about being open to a world of new possibilities.

As we continue our fall releases, we wanted to talk a little bit about heritage, how we’ve come to understand it better, and how we’ve applied those ideas to our work and products.

We’ve always been drawn to heritage. As an American brand, we started in our own backyard for inspiration and continue to take advantage of our region’s know-how to bring ideas to life. This is reflected in our core products: the jeans of the farms and factories that built our country’s economic stature, the fleeces and tees from our culture of athletics, and jackets and fatigues inspired by the military wear of generations of those who served.

Those products are the results of an industrial manufacturing system optimized to make highly durable goods. As we’ve developed our seasonal collections over the years, we’ve also learned that American factories can struggle outside their areas of expertise. That’s no knock on them because after all, the factory system is built on specialization and scale.

Two people work on a knitting machine.
A lady sews a sweater.

So while our California partners can sew up heavy duty cotton all day any day, they’re often out of their comfort zone once we start working with lighter weight fabrics that need different stitching techniques or textiles like nylon or tencel that can be slippery to work with. They’ll do anything for us and it breaks our heart to see them put their all into something they’re simply not set up to do.

As we’ve continued to embrace the challenge of making the best product we can make in one of the toughest times of our existence, we’ve found ourselves revisiting what heritage means. Our journey started out as a necessity as we tried to make products during a national lockdown. But it has since led us to new partners with skills so deep that we at 3sixteen are still learning how to best use them - a level of expertise informed by centuries of their culture making the most of the resources they had available to them. Or more simply put, their heritage.

A woven label is sewn into a sweater neck.
Closeup shot of hands of a man's hands.

As an example of where our journey has taken us, we’re really excited to showcase an upcoming addition to our knit program. It’s made possible by a new partner in Peru that leverages their country’s mastery of knit textiles dating back to the ancient Inca Empire. We're inspired not only by the way this factory approaches their work, but by the ways they actively invest back into their community and entire supply chain. This knitwear collection is entirely made in Peru from seed to sweater. There’s lots to dig into and we can’t wait to share more soon.

But this knitwear program, which launches on Friday, is just the latest instance of how our commitment to bring you the best products we can has taken us to new places. We are far from pioneers in this approach, as much of the fashion trade used to operate in this manner. Once upon a time, the best silk came from China, Belgium produced the finest linen and lace, and nothing beat durable cotton goods from America - all arguably the best at what they did, and eager to buy the best of what others did, too.

We feel that it's a perfect time to return to that mindset and appreciate other places for their accumulated knowledge and capabilities in the world we work in. Discovering the possibilities of Portugal, India, and Peru even as we double down on our made in the USA jeans and apparel has been a silver lining amidst the uncertainty we continue to contend with. We’re looking forward to continuing to show you what our partners - new and old - can do in this season and years to come.  

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