Friday, August 16, 2013

A Tennessee clothing factory, still doing things the old-fashioned way

Cathy Horyn reports in the New York Times today from Bristol, Tennessee, where the family-owned L.C. King Manufacturing Company has been doing its thing for a century now. The King Company's "thing" is making clothes and doing so the old-fashioned "cut and sew" way.  Horyn describes the company's bread and butter, which are sold under the label Pointer.
Pointer makes work clothes that are part of the rural South: a light canvas jacket worn into the field in the morning and removed as the sun rises, dungarees and overalls of various types depending on well-marked preferences: low-back in Kentucky, high-back in Georgia.
Aha! I knew I knew the Pointer brand from somewhere.  My grandfathers used to wear their products.  They were sold at the feed store, I think.  

Horyn had mentioned the Pointer brand in a story a few years back, reporting then that (an apparently famous designer) Junya Watanabe "had modified some Pointer jackets for his men’s line." Horyn observes:
These changes, funnily, were not unlike the careful and ingenious improvements that farmers used to make on their old clothes, except the Watanabe deluxe versions started at $800.
Before NAFTA, the company employed 130 workers. It is down to 28, several of which are pictured in this accompanying slide show.  Several of the workers say the factory is like home, and they are like family to one another.   

Horyn's story features lots of Appalachian atmospherics and is worth a read in its entirety.  

Bristol straddles the Tennessee-Virginia state line, in far eastern Tennessee. The city's population is 26,675, and it is in metropolitan Sullivan County.  

1 comment:

Ben C. said...

Thank you for the mention! Our place in Appalachian culture is larger than us, we have come to realize. In a way, we are helping to preserve something important about our regional (and national) history.