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Brittney and Brian Kelley Share What Owning an American-Made Company Means to Them

Photos: Courtesy of Breanna Kneiss

Britteny and Brian Kelley are co-founders and co-owners of Tribe Kelly, an American-made clothing brand dedicated to ethical manufacturing. 

What was your inspiration for starting Tribe Kelley?    

Brittney Kelley: ​I was 19 when I met Brian, and I was shipping my handmade jewelry and clothing from my college apartment. When we got married four years later, I transitioned to living on a bus year-round, touring the world with him and his band. I knew I wanted to create an ethically made clothing brand alongside my husband. 

Brian Kelley: ​Brittney has always had a lifelong passion for making and creating anything — jewelry, dream catchers, leather goods, clothing. Once we were married, we pretty much went right on tour together and found ourselves having fun customizing my outfits for the shows. The tour bus provided a unique, creative setting, and that exploration led to the birth of Tribe Kelley.    

How important was building a brand in the United States and with American-made supplies?

Brittney Kelley: ​When we first started doing our research into manufacturing, it was almost immediately the obvious and most ethical decision to have our products made in the United States. After reading about other countries’ labor laws, or the lack thereof, we decided we would have the most control over our designs, and the well-being of who was helping us create those designs, if we produced them here in the United States. It excites us when we are able to source American-made material and items even down to our threading, which is made with the highest quality and care in North Carolina.     

Brian Kelley: ​After doing our research, we knew we wanted to be an American-made company, and it was extremely important to support our economy and community locally. There’s a degree of quality control that we get by making our clothes here that we wouldn’t achieve elsewhere. We know for certain that our workers are paid fair wages and are working in a safe environment.     

What are some of the trends you’ve seen with manufacturing and producing goods in the United States? 

Brittney Kelley: ​Right now, I think bringing medical supply production back to the United States might be one of the most exciting trends right now. We’ve seen so many of the industry’s American-made manufacturers, including our manufacturer, step up from day one to start sewing the necessary products needed. I think at one point our factory was only running medical supplies. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced while producing in the United States? How did you overcome that challenge?    

Brittney Kelley: ​I think one of the biggest challenges you face producing in the United States is that there are so many quicker lead times and lower prices marketed to you from overseas. Staying American-made and paying fair labor prices in comparison to brands who don’t may seem like a long, grim road to success in terms of financially profiting. But when you stop and listen to your customers’ feedback, you hear that people really are asking about where their clothes are coming from.    

Brian Kelley: ​Pricing here in the states has been challenging. It costs more to produce here, but it’s worth it to us. Finding a trustworthy and efficient production partner was challenging as well, but ultimately, that’s the key to success.     

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