Ahh, the T-shirt. You’ve all got one. Actually, a drawerful may be more like it. There’s one from the last 5K race you ran. Another you picked up at the bank when you opened a free checking account. One, jammed way in the back, that certifies as surely as any diploma that you did indeed graduate from West Rowan High School.

Have you ever stopped to think — really think — about those T-shirts? Where did they come from? Who stitched them together? Just how did they make their way to you?

These days, the answers to those questions often involve faraway people in faraway places like China or Vietnam, Guatemala or Mexico.

The T-shirts made by Greensboro-based Mindful Supply Co. come with a far different story.

The cotton is grown in Stanly County soil by Ronnie Burleson on his family farm in Richfield. It’s ginned by his nephew Wes Morgan down the road at Rolling Hills Gin in New London. From there, it makes its way to Mark Leonard at Hill Spinning in Thomasville, where it’s spun into soft yarn that’s later knitted into fabric at Contempora Fabrics in Lumberton.

Then the fabric finished at Carolina Cotton Works in Gaffney, South Carolina, and sent on to Hemingway Apparel in Hemingway, South Carolina, where it’s cut and sewn. At this point, now that it looks like a T-shirt, Mindful Supply Co.’s owners and graphic artists, Derek Glass and David Grubbs, design the art and pick the color. Then they send the specs to Eric Henry and Tom Sineath at TS Designs in Burlington for dyeing and printing.

See the difference in that story? It’s full of local people in familiar places, all with a hand in making that Mindful Supply Co. shirt. And all of it — every step — happens in North and South Carolina.

“This entire production process is local by design,” says Grubbs, who cofounded Mindful Supply Co. two and a half years ago with Glass.

With professional backgrounds in design and textiles in North Carolina, the duo witnessed the fallout as production shifted rapidly from the United States to foreign countries.

“Cotton and textiles were such a huge part of this state,” Grubbs says. “People and their families were crushed as the industry left.”

With Mindful Supply, Grubbs and Glass want to prove that local production of clothing — from dirt to shirt, as they like to say — is still possible. And it can still make good business sense.

“The businesses that work with us to produce these shirts employ more than 700 people in North and South Carolina,” Grubbs says.

With the click of a mouse, you can see just how it works. Each Mindful Supply Co. T-shirt is trackable online. By entering a thread color or tracking number on Mindful Supply Co.’s website, a customer can follow the path their shirt took during production, and they can meet the people who made it.

That local process is at the heart of every Mindful Supply Co. T-shirt — along with the story of the people, none of them too far from home, who put that T-shirt in your drawer.


You can purchase Mindful Supply Co. apparel online at mindfulsupply.com.


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Laurie Weaver is a freelance writer in Greensboro.