Rob McMillan in his factory, posing in front of a roll of premium stretch denim loomed in a high tech Georgia mill.
Shopping at local businesses is a no-brainer. According to a study conducted by Dan Houston and Matt Cunningham of Civic Economics, "locally owned businesses generate 70 percent more local economic impact per square foot than chain stores." The problem is that buying locally produced goods can be more expensive, but Dearborn Denim & Apparel founder Rob McMillan has a solution: cutting out the middleman and shipping to the consumer straight from his factory, located in an old industrial laundry in Garfield Park.
After working as a trader, McMillan decided to start his own business. "I found something about manufacturing appealing," he says. "Probably because less and less of it is going on in the USA and my employment as a trader was the exact opposite—so there was something exotic about it. In high school I ran a silk-screening company out of my parents' basement. That experience is probably what led me to look into apparel manufacturing specifically."
In 2014, when he started researching the business and stitching with a 50-year-old sewing machine, McMillan realized it was possible to make an exceptional product at affordable prices and still turn a profit. The process hasn't always been smooth: the machinery he bought didn't really work at first (he learned how to fix it himself), and he had a hard time finding competent staff. But so far his enterprise has been a success.
"People are really responding to our message", McMillan says. Right now Dearborn is selling mostly high-end denim at fast-fashion prices: each pair costs $49 and is made with a premium stretch denim loomed in Georgia, "at one of the most technologically advanced denim mills in the world," McMillan says. "Our jeans are exceedingly comfortable and durable. Through traditional retail, they would cost over $150." Dearborn charges a flat rate of three dollars for shipping and offers free exchanges and returns—its sizing system is surprisingly accurate. Watch a video of the Dearborn Denim & Apparel factory and see some of its products below.