When my old roommate first moved here (NYC) from California, she had to buy a winter coat. She got a cute coat that fit well and kept her warm. Midway through the winter season, though, she came to the realization that having to wear a coat every day, every time you leave the house, for months at a time gets a little old. One day she remarked, "It's like wearing the same outfit, all winter long."
And in many ways it is. I have two or three coats I wear on rotation. They are black. I deal with the subway and snow that doesn't stay white for more than 5 minutes in NYC so I just don't do color on coats, really. I wear my black Vaute Couture Emily when it's very cold and my black Spiewak* Sloan when it's not that cold. (Both are machine-washable.) I do like to do color with hats, gloves and scarves though.
In honor of us being mid-season of "wearing the same outfit, all winter long" I'm posting what my Spiewak looks like these days. It's a little matchy-matchy but I like it.
hat/acrylic knit by my mother
coat/Spiewak NO POSITIVE LABOR STANDARDS NOTED
shoes/Keep Company, vegan & monitored non-US labor
socks/Maggie's Organics cotton, monitored non-US labor
bag/organic cotton Baggu, monitored labor, China
Now that I have my trusty coats settled, I only need to update my winter wear by switching out scarves, hats and gloves. I like that I don't need to think about the coat part and that the other items are small and common enough that I can find pre-loved (and washable!) vegan versions or fair-labor, "green"-friendly new materials. (This year I didn't get any new winter accessories, though, because I still have a bunch I barely rotate through.) That is one of the benefits of neutrals for me - they're a nice background and not noticeable enough for me to tire of them quickly.
VAUTE COUTURE is US-made and many of her coats have textiles with sustainability cred (recycled materials, organic, etc). While these coats carry a higher price point, if you sign up for their mailing list, there are often 50% off sales (whether pre-order or end of season sales) so if you think you could only afford half a coat, I would keep an eye on the email list. When I grapple with consumerism vs spending money to support vegan, fair-labor businesses, Vaute Couture is exactly the kind of business I mean.
SPIEWAK does not make an effort to note their current manufacturing or labor standards, although their site's history timeline does highlight their start in NYC manufacturing. I first found them randomly in a Brooklyn store at a time when I needed a warm vegan coat and when I was not so strict with labor standards and before I had encountered Vaute Couture's line. In 2009 I was naive enough to think that since they started manufacturing in NYC (and never mentioned that they left NYC) and they had govermental contracts for uniforms, surely they are still made in the USA. Maybe. Now I am not surprised to know they're not. And, in fact, they have had some issues with complying to labor standards set forth by a uniform bid they received. (The Milwaukee Police Department had agreed to a non-sweatshop policy for uniforms after some local pressure and Spiewak ran into some trouble proving that they could actually provide it - and once they got the contract they ran into trouble again over accusations of the labor standards not being appropriate.)
So, why am writing this now? Since I was naive enough in 2009 to believe that they might have decent labor stardards because of the reputation they had cultivated for themselves, I mentioned them many times on this blog without any disclaimer regarding labor standards. If someone searches "Spiewak" and ends up here, I want to make sure that this is noted. And I think it's also a good reminder that companies are not always what they make themselves out to be. Sometimes we just want to believe they are because it's easier for us.
I still have my Spiewak coats because I believe the longevity of an item is important regarding sustainability. It doesn't gross me out the way animal hair and hide products do because it's still technically "vegan". (I do get rid of animal hair and hide products if I accidentally end up with them.) But I will not mention Spiewak as a coat brand with vegan options again unless I specifically note they have very suspect labor standards in the future.