By Marin Preske
When it comes to the fashion business, Scott Luirette, founder of the new LA-based clothing line Civil Smith, is having trouble shaking some numbers from his head. “In 1965, 95 percent of garments sold in the US were made in the US,” he explains, quoting stats from the HBO documentary Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, which he recently watched with his wife, Jana, the brand’s creative director. “Today it’s around five percent.”
While most business owners might lament the facts but still opt for the most bargain bottom line, Scott—a lawyer-turned-clothing connoisseur (he was the COO of Von Dutch before it was sold)—is doing more than bemoaning the loss of American production to offshore competitors. Having launched Civil Smith last fall in high-end stores like Fred Segal and Atrium, he’s now focusing his energy on setting up a manufacturing plant on California soil—in a place that desperately needs it.
Just north of the Mexico border lies the city of Calexico, in Imperial County. “It has the highest unemployment rate in the US,” says Scott. With the goal of moving Civil Smith’s manufacturing to Calexico, he has been working with city officials to develop a facility, screen potential employees and establish the area’s first garment factory.
But as busy as the Luirettes currently are with the bricks-and-mortar aspect of their business, they haven’t forgotten their main goal: to turn out classic, vintage-inspired separates for men and women that are easygoing and affordable. “I want people to recognize our brand without a logo,” says Jana, who also left a legal career behind to become a clothing designer.
The spring collection embodies their American workaday aesthetic: sun-faded chambray tunics and worn-in gingham button-downs for her, hickory-striped reversible jackets and distressed jeans for him. In fact, the new Civil Smith line is the perfect excuse for a spring shopping spree, and a guilt-free one at that.