When I argued in June that we should all be buying local, I used restaurants as my example. I chose restaurants because it’s easy to see how buying locally produced food helps a city’s economy and because some Provo restaurants, like Communal, are using locally-sourced supplies at multiple levels of the business.
But buying local is a philosophy that can inform more than our food choices. Case in point: clothing and Perfectly Suited.
In case you haven’t seen it, Perfectly Suited is a small men’s clothing and suit shop in downtown Provo. It’s run by Garth Peay, who is knowledgeable, attentive and charming. (In the interest of full disclosure, I bought a suit from Perfectly Suited a couple of years ago as I was beginning professional job interviews. I eventually got the job I was going for, which probably wouldn’t have happened if I looked like a slob.)
In any case, I don’t think it even occurs to a lot of us to buy clothing from a locally owned shop. I know it didn’t occur to me until I had done it. Instead, the default tends toward the mall or places like Men’s Warehouse. Those places have a huge selection, but much like a chain restaurant, the quality can dip and the whole experience can end up being rather generic.
At a little shop like Perfectly Suited, however, the experience will be a unique one curated by an attentive and knowledgeable owner. And unless you’re planning on buying 300 suits all at once, any selection advantage from a chain clothing store is more or less irrelevant.
If you go in and talk to Garth, as I recently did, you’ll learn a lot more about why the experience of buying at his shop is better than buying at a big chain. The shop often has better prices, as well as better quality and more diverse products.
All of those things are great when you’re a customer, but the idea here is as much philosophical as commercial: buying local is better for the community, as well as for the consumer. As is the case with local restaurants, the money spent at a local clothing shop gets reinvested into the community. In an age of globalization, most clothing can’t be entirely local — Garth doesn’t sheer his own wool and process it into a suit, for example — but a shop that’s based in a community is nevertheless far more beneficial than a chain. Much like a really great restaurant, it’s also a local treasure that adds diversity and vibrancy to the city.
None of us will probably dress in entirely local clothing anytime soon. But the point here is that buying local applies to more than just food. And as Perfectly Suited and other local clothing stores prove, there are alternatives to malls.