The Story of Soft Goods

May 21, 2018

The Story of Soft Goods

 

The soft goods and textiles behind ACS Home & Work come with rich history and a sense of nostalgia.

Soft goods are fabric products, typically used in hospitality, which range from pillows to bar mops. Specializing in soft goods requires having a robust, close-knit network of suppliers who specialize in various types of fabric, fill and assembly. In order to offer the highest quality, most sustainably produced products as well as the most cost-effective wholesale pricing, we work with factories across the US, the Americas and Asia.

So, what exactly is the story of the soft goods we sell at ACS? It’s a story that begins with the frugality of our great-grandparents, and all-American ingenuity.

Between the 1850’s and 1950’s, nearly all consumer goods were packaged in tightly woven cotton bags known as flour sack. Transporting everything from flour and sugar to chicken feed, sausage and voting ballots, traditional American Flour Sack material became as valuable as the goods it packaged. In times when consumer goods were hard to come by and household budgets were tight, thrifty housewives quickly discovered that this tightly woven, 100% cotton material was not only re-usable but vastly versatile. They would wash and bleach these flour sacks, then cut and sew them into underwear, pillowcases, toys, dresses, and – most commonly – kitchen towels. The legacy of re-using flour sack was passed down from mother to daughter over the years.

 

 

Despite the popularity of repurposed flour sack soft goods, textile mills didn’t catch on and mass produce the material into household goods. The commercialization of flour sack towels began with a Russian immigrant living in Chicago. He would scour the city’s dumpsters for perfectly good flour sack, then process and resell them as kitchen towels and other goods. This was exactly what rural housewives were doing, but the Russian-born entrepreneur tapped Chicago’s large market of homes and businesses, and he quickly grew a flourishing business. Even after flour companies switched to using paper sacks, flour sack towels remained a part of daily life in dime stores across the country.

With the industrialization of consumer goods in the 1950s, however, the importance of thriftiness and recycling everyday items disappeared, and flour sack towels were replaced by paper towels and disposable products. Despite the fade in their popularity, traditional American flour sack towels offer absorbency, cost-efficiency and lint-free performance that modern products have yet to match.

Today, our old-world quality soft goods are sourced in much the same way they were when our grandparents and their parents used them. We’ve built close relationships with the small handful of textile mills around the world with the legacy expertise to produce flour sack material the way it was made in its hayday. We know exactly where our products come from, and how they’re made at each step in the supply chain, from the soil to our doorstep.

Most of our mills’ cotton is grown in the warm sunshine of Indian cotton fields, and is then harvested and woven by local farming communities which have perfected their craft over generations. The factories and mills we do business with work only with cotton farmers who have taken every precaution to protect the land on which cotton is grown and the livelihoods of the employees who harvest it.

Many of our customers want to know if the cotton products we sell are “certified organic”. While the short answer to this question is “no”, there’s much more to the story. The farmers and mills we work with have not undergone the vastly expensive, logistically complex process of gaining official organic certification. In many cases this process is simply too cost-prohibitive, and would price their products out of the market. Instead, they rely on the same holistic, sustainable farming methods which farmers have used for generations to produce both a quality product and healthy land for future generations. The mills and factories we purchase from have built long-term relationships with the farmers who supply them, and sustainability is key to how they do business.

Each cotton mill and factory we work with specializes in producing specific types of soft goods. Some of these are in the USA, while others are in China, Brazil or Canada. We choose factories and mills which offer a combination of a) the highest quality product, b) the most ethical, sustainable practices, and c) the best price point, which we can in turn offer in wholesale to our customers.

After we purchase soft goods in bulk from our longstanding suppliers, we process them, customize them, and inspect them for quality. In the case of American Flour Sack Towels and many other products, these goods come to us in “raw” form. They’re hemmed, but aren’t yet washed. In their raw form, flour sack towels are stiff and non absorbent. To ensure our products arrive to our customers in perfect quality and ready to use, we process flour sack towels and many other materials by bleaching them, vigorously washing them twice and lightly ironing them. Natural products aren’t bleached during processing.

 

 

Processing and laundering is performed in-house at our own laundry facility here in West Michigan.

Next, we cut, hem and sew our raw goods which require processing – like the flour sack table runners we offer. Cutting and sewing services are provided by contractors who live and work from their homes right here in West Michigan.

Embroidery and screen printing are performed by a small number of trusted service providers, also here in West Michigan. Many artists who sell custom screen-printed craft products rely on us to customize, print and even package their products for end users. Like our factories and sewing contractors, we’ve developed close relationships with these service providers, and can guarantee our customers the best combination of quality and cost-efficiency – while investing in our local economy.

Last, each and every one of our products is sorted, inspected for quality, prepped and packaged here in our Coopersville facility. Business operations, order fulfillment and customer service are also conducted here in Coopersville.

From the sunny fields of India to a self-employed West Michigan seamstress all the way to your own home’s kitchen, ACS Home & Work ensures that you and your customers will not only love your soft goods, but will feel good about owning them.





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