Our Thoughts on the Closure of Cone Mills White Oak

Posted by Tony Patella and Pete Searson on 19th Oct 2017

Our Thoughts on the Closure of Cone Mills White Oak

When our friend and manager of the Cone Mills office in San Francisco called on the morning of October 18 and asked us if we were sitting down, we knew what he was going to say. The big surprise came a few months ago when we learned that we were the fourth largest customer at White Oak. We thought: "if this is the case, where are the big brands?" Of course, we all know where they are -- chasing down the lowest cost production around the globe to satisfy the demands of their customers -- who care about quantity over quality, price over provenance.

If White Oak is the size of a football field, the Draper looms that make the selvedge denim take up the space of half of an end zone. The mill depends on selling a large volume of fabric produced on their modern looms -- the exact type of fabric large brands and retailers use. As these brands and private label producers moved their production out of the U.S., there was no way they would ship fabric from North Carolina to Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. Many thanks to Cone Mills for fighting the good fight and keeping White Oak afloat as long as possible.

We visited White Oak in Greensboro a couple of years ago and met the people that, in many cases, had been working at Cone Mills for decades, some right alongside their parents. We saw the beautiful antique looms humming along, producing some of the most coveted denim in the world. We saw the spun yarns taking dips in indigo baths. We witnessed the pride the workers had in being a part of something historic, something important. The faces of these people and the memories of meeting them are the first thoughts we had when we heard of White Oak's closure.

In the meantime, remember that entities like White Oak are businesses not museums and if you care about them, support them with your wallet. To that end, we have plenty of our core denim products made from our 12.5, 14.75 and 16.5 oz White Oak selvedge denim in stock, in work and rolls of fabric ready to use at our factory in San Francisco. Tellason is almost nine years old and during this time we have built up tremendous respect for makers in all categories that pursue quality and timelessness with their products. The same goes for the next mill that will produce our selvedge denim in 2018 and beyond.