Eric Henry is that friend or colleague that you want to call you. That you know will always have something exciting to share so you pick up immediately.
As the President of TS Designs in Burlington, North Carolina, Eric has rode the apparel industry roller coaster through two decades, watching business go overseas in the 90s and his business, a once thriving t-shirt hub making thousands of t-shirts for Nike, Polo and Tommy Hilfiger, suffer after the NAFTA trade agreement allowed for easy exports.
You might consider Eric in a place where he’s “been there, done that” in terms of seeing apparel move away from the U.S. and now he’s here to see it come back, albeit slowly. Ironically enough, it’s with yet another t-shirt but this one? Well, this t-shirt has a great story.
Farm Aid 2014
“Can you come down here for Farm Aid? We’re launching a special t-shirt,” Eric calls me and asks in his syrupy southern drawl.
“I’ll make that happen,” I said, and sure enough, a few weeks later I’m on a plane with talking points on my lap to teach me more about a pretty incredible little t-shirt made from farmers and dyers and manufacturing folks all in the Carolinas. A “Seed to Shirt” product that even Farm Aid documented on a first-ever concert t-shirt site for their recent show.
If you know anything about Farm Aid, you know the focus is mostly food and never about clothing so this was a pretty big deal bringing clothing into the mainstream consciousness. When you consider the weight of “point of origin” in the food industry, with this t-shirt, the same people can begin to consider the correlation between where your clothing comes from as well. In a world steeped in fast food and fast fashion, the two are truly inextricably linked.
Back to the t-shirt, which the Farm Aid site now offers a fully transparent supply chain story on, meaning that customers can track their product, dirt to shirt. Wearers of the shirt can see each step of the process via an interactive map available at nc.farmaid.org. The supply chain itself took place within 750 miles across the Carolinas and supported more than 500 jobs before it hit the merch tents via a TS Designs truck I followed at 5:30 one Raleigh morning….
Read the full story by Amy DuFault here.
All non-fuzzy images from Becky Parker photography