Things I Used to Buy That I Don't Love Anymore, Part 2

RIP, my unconditional love for 7 for All Mankind jeans. We had a good run.

Poking around some shops yesterday, I looked into buying another pair of Seven jeans. Sevens are definitely pricey (around $165 a pair full-price) but in the past I've always found them to be worth it. The denim is really high quality- thick, soft, really luxurious feeling- the colors are rich, the fit is flattering, and they hold up for years and years.

All the Seven jeans I've owned were made in California. I was under the impression that the primary reason Sevens are so expensive is because they're made here in the US. As you may know, I'm happy to pay a premium for things that are made here.

But the Sevens I saw for sale yesterday felt very different from ones I've seen before-- the material was flimsy and rough, and something about the fit was off. They just seemed cheap. Then I looked at the tag, and cursed out loud.

The Seven jeans at the store (apologies for blurry camera phone photo)

I was really surprised to find that Seven has started making (or "assembling", whatever that means) at least some of their jeans in Mexico. 7 for all Mankind has been in business since 2000; why would they start offshoring to boost profits now?

Well, a quick web search confirmed that Seven has gone the way of Nature's Gate: In mid-2007 the company was acquired by VF Corp., a publicly-traded apparel conglomerate, and cost-cutting changes ensued (stock market shareholders can be a pretty demanding bunch.) Of course, Seven hasn't passed down any cost savings to the customer-- the price tag on this pair still read $165. VF doesn't break out profits brand-by-brand in their earnings reports, but I have to imagine that they really started making a killing, margins-wise, when they shifted Seven's production south of the border. I mean, most Levi's are made in Mexico, and those retail for $50 or less.

Apparently there are still some Seven brand jeans made in California, but they're sold mostly on Seven's website and in the brand's own boutiques-- which makes sense since they don't have to pay any retailer fees there. I guess it's good that some pairs are still being made here, but it's a bummer that I'll have to be a stickler about checking tags going forward.

So the search for ethically-manufactured jeans that I enjoy wearing resumes (sorry, American Apparel, you fit the former requirement but definitely not the latter.) If anyone out there is interested in starting a company and sticking to their original principles, I swear I'll be a loyal customer!

Things I Used to Buy That I Don't Love Anymore

I recently read a few scary articles about all the bad stuff in normal sunscreens and shampoos.  Please note: I've linked to the articles there for reference, but if I were you, I wouldn't read them.  Ignorance is more blissful (and a lot less expensive) than obsessing over ingredient lists and buying only all-natural personal care products.

Anyway, I didn't think it'd be too hard to find all-natural hair products I liked. For years, I almost exclusively used conditioner from an all-natural brand, Nature's Gate, not for fear of chemicals but because I just loved the smell and how shiny it made my hair.  I'd kind of forgot about Nature's Gate and hadn't used it in the past couple of years, but I figured it'd be easy to buy a couple of bottles at my trusty neighborhood health food store and get back on the wagon.

Well, they had Nature's Gate products, but they definitely weren't the same.  First of all, the brand has a new slick look, which was disappointing, since I loved the old hippie bottles. 

But the really awful part was how much they've changed the formula. This is the ingredient list from the old Nature's Gate conditioner:

Purified Water, Extracts of Chamomile, Nettle, Ho-lien-hua, Nelumbo Nucifera, Comfrey Root, Cherry Bark, Schleichera Trijuga, Kusambi Bark, Burdock, and Yucca, Vegetable Emulsifying Wax, Coconut Oil, Methylparaben, Myrrh Oil, Lavender Oil.

This is what goes into the stuff that's now sold under the Nature's Gate label:

Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Quaternium-87, Polysorbate 60, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Root Extract, Lilium Candidum (White Lily) Bulb Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera (Sacred Lotus) Flower Extract, Quercus Alba (Oak) Bark Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Caramel.

What's up with that?  Well, a little digging seems to shows that the formula changes got under way in August 2006, about a year and a half after Levlad, the company that's always made Nature's Gate, was acquired by a private equity firm. Surprise, surprise.

Don't get me wrong: I know M&A can often be a great thing for brands, but what the acquirer did here puzzles me. Why would they buy Levlad only to make so
many unpronounceable additions to its flagship product right now, as more and more people are scrutinizing ingredient lists?  The new formula may be cheaper to make, but I'd personally be happy to pay double what I used to pay for Nature's Gate just to have the old formula back-- and I'm sure I'm not the only disappointed former fan.

Oh well, it's back to the haircare drawing board for me.  Any suggestions for *truly* all-natural shampoos and conditioners are very welcome!