Prairie Underground is a populist apparel manufacturer committed to designing modern uniforms that evoke sensuality in daily self-expression. Every garment is made to be durable and adaptable. We’re committed to ensuring our garments are ecologically and ethically sustainable. These values are an essential consideration in any contemporary creation. We want to empower our customers to articulate their singularity while nurturing their bodies and the ecosystem.
Creation itself should be a sustainable practice. Social, environmental, and economic resources are not unlimited and it’s always been our mission to offer adornment that respects human rights and the natural world. Our clothing has always been manufactured in Seattle within fifteen minutes of our warehouse. We are steadfast in supporting Pacific Northwest garment production in an ethical manner that respects the rights and lives of sewers. Our sustained commitment to domestic U.S production has insured higher wages, safe work conditions, and a workforce with agency and opportunity for advancement. Our collaboration with skilled sewing contractors upholds a deep historical tradition of American manufacturing knowledge. Every garment in our collection is intended for distribution and wear. We believe in our design propositions even when it means producing less than 50 pieces of a garment. Production of our clothing has always been made-to-order and is most often limited production runs of fewer than 300 garments. This spirit of limited production reduces waste associated with manufacturing an excess of garments and shifts the focus to integrity and uniqueness. Limited production assists in seasonal sales forecasts to avoid waste at every stage of the manufacturing chain. It results in a higher value of the laborer’s work and makes small-scale vertical manufacturing possible.
Textiles are the foundation of any garment. Fiber composition represents the fundamental integration of a sustainable ethos into clothing. Beginning with our launch 2005 we have incorporated fibers made of Hemp and Organic Cotton in every collection.
As one of the oldest sources of textile fibers, hemp has many advantages over traditional fibers used in clothing manufacturing. It’s a quick-growing, renewable crop and able to be cultivated in as little as 100 days.
Hemp is incredibly durable and has a tensile strength greater than that of cotton. It’s rustic and soft at the same time and considered to be hypoallergenic and UV resistant.
Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests and grows tightly, reducing the need for pesticides and herbicides. The cultivation of hemp requires significantly less water than organic cotton. Due to domestic regulation, there is currently no industrial commercial hemp production in the United States, requiring it to be imported.
Several states have introduced legislation to allow domestic production and we support those efforts.
Conventional (non-organic) cotton is one of the leading textile fibers in the clothing in-dustry. Nearly half of the fibers used to make textiles worldwide come from conventional cotton. Although it is a reliable crop that yields a durable, soft fiber, conventional cotton is not sustainable. It accounts for 2.5% of land worldwide, but is responsible for 10% of pesticides and 22% of insecticides used globally.
Organic cotton cultivation yields textile fibers without relying on ecologically damaging toxins, while employing sustainable farming practices to continuously enrich soil fertility and biodiversity. Organic cotton agriculture exhibits a better immunity to severe climate conditions and sustains up to 30-50% more moisture than conventional cotton, requiring less irrigation to grow.
Organic farming’s reliance on more natural practices makes supply unpredictable. The result is that organic cotton is more expensive than conventional cotton fibers to pro-duce and manufacture. Understanding these difficulties, we remain committed to cotton and seek to offer options that pose the least damage to the environment.
We have always balanced our ecological concerns with accessible price points by offer-ing a selection of styles in organic and conventional cotton. Every fiber we use is noted on the item description as well as the care and content label on every garment.
We also routinely use recycled and sustainable fibers such as REPREVE and TENCEL® in our garments. Often those are combined with Hemp or Organic Cotton.
REPREVE is a brand of recycled fiber that is produced from salvaged, post-consumer materials such as recycled plastic bottles. The goal is to offset the necessity to produce new synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon, and thereby conserve petroleum-based resources. REPREVE is currently evaluated to conserve approximately 6 million gallons of gasoline on average per year. For every yard of REPREVE used instead of a more conventional, non-recycled synthetic textile, forty fewer pounds of greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere. Since 2010, Unifi, the manufacturer of REPREVE, has taken shards of clean, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET)—the material from which plastic bottles are made—and melted them into a yarn. More recently, Unifi has also begun to utilize post-industrial scraps, including leftover REPRE-VE, rescued and recycled from factory room floors.
TENCEL is a proprietary plant-based fiber harvested from wood pulp in Forest Steward-ship Council-certified forests and processed through a closed-loop system that recycles 99% of the solvent used to treat the fiber. TENCEL fibers are 100% biodegradable and are able to decompose within eight days if given the right environmental conditions. In addition, TENCEL has a soft, luxurious feel that can translate into beautiful, wearable garments. The downside of this textile, however, is that it does not dye very easily and has a tendency to fibrillate when wet.
By utilizing these fibers in our textiles, the use of toxins and pesticides are reduced, water and energy are used in more economical ways, and the impact on humans and the environment is significantly less than with conventional fabrics.
Most of our garments are industrially dyed in Los Angeles using tertiary recycled water and fiber reactive dyes. This remains the most environmentally-conscious large volume dye process to achieve a depth of color that is less susceptible to fading. The low heat requirements of reactive dyes save energy and use less water than other dye processes, however they still include synthetic petrochemicals and result in effluent with high salt concentrations.
We continue to research more sustainable dye techniques and offer alternatives in the collection to maintain the quality and sustainability of our offerings. Several times a year we offer styles in their natural color that have not been dyed.
Dyeing domestically in the United States reduces harm associated with garment manufacturing as ordinances since 1981 have regulated disposal of pollutants.
Our industrial dye process also allows our garments to be machine washable without damage, extending the sustainable life cycle to the end user. Spot cleaning, infrequent cold-water washing and air-drying is less harmful to the environment than chemical cleaning and will extend the life cycle of all clothing.
The majority of our textiles are knitted in the United States and we make a point of sourcing domestically whenever possible. Sustainability remains a pivotal feature of our textile sourcing and design practice.
We commonly use first quality, factory remnants of conventional textiles from other companies in an effort to reduce waste while not expending additional resources for our production. In this way we are able to work with phenomenal textiles suitable to our smaller scale of manufacturing that require almost no additional resources to create. We feel this is one of our most sustainable acts as manufacturers.
We firmly believe that we thrive most dynamically when we find inspiration in one an-other. We shape the world together.
At Prairie Underground, we work to create a different culture, one that forges new ways for people to interact with apparel manufacturers. Our commitment to sustainability is one of many beliefs we share in with our customers.
Sustainability is not only about changing the ways in which clothing is made but also about transforming the ways in which it is attained and cared for.
We promote a practice of ethical consumption, educating end users on ways to extend the lifetime of their clothing and instilling a sense of pride in caring for garments.
We resist the carelessness of fast fashion and the concept of disposable apparel that causes a profuse amount of pollution and waste.
Our clothing is constructed to withstand the duties of an active lifestyle with nobility that makes them worthy of preservation or handed off to a second user.
All of our garments are labeled with instructions to wash in cold water and hang to dry. This practice will preserve the longevity of the garments textile and color.
Our waste reduction extends to our warehouse. For all shipping, we use minimal interior packaging and clean second-use boxes.
We are dedicated to an atmosphere of recycling and repurposing and hope that our practice galvanizes our customers to do the same.
In addition to creating long-lasting garments and habits of ethical consumption, we also passionately support the integration of secondhand clothing into one’s wardrobe and have introduced our first assortment of vintage clothing through a partnership with Adria Garcia and her boutique Indian Summer.
A selection of intriguing vintage pieces have been merchandised with our own collection to tell a greater story about apparel design and manufacturing that also provides suggestions on ways to mix Prairie Underground with other pieces in your wardrobe.