Though, Lee was founded in Kansas, USA. Their jeans and other clothings are made in 8 main countries: Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, India, Japan, Myanmar, Nicargua, and Mexico. And in market you could find a few made in Italy and Czech Republic.
A Short History To Check Where Was Lee Founded?
In 1889, Henry David Lee along with 4 business partners set up The H.D Lee Mercantile Company in Kansas. In the beginning phase, the company was focused on creating work jackets and overalls. In 1925, Lee entered into denim business with Lee 101 (denim for men) and 101B (denim for boys). However, the true jump in the jean market happened in 1947 when they launched jeans for women.
It is the year 1954 when Lee’s denim shifts its attention from workwear to true pop culture fashion. After seeing the success and the potential that it holds Kontoor acquired the brand in 1969 and undoubtedly it was a great decision as it had net revenue of $2.5 Billion U.S Dollars in 2021 (source).
Let’s See Where Exactly Are The Lee Jeans Made? (Manufacturing Locations)
Lee jeans are not made in just one country, they’re well-diversified. As per my research, all Lee jeans (inclusive of all Lee stores around the globe) are produced/manufactured in America, Bangladesh, China, India, Vietnam, and others. The majority of factories in these countries are from Primary Tier & Licensee, and a good chunk is from the subcontractor tier & sourced.
Here’s the breakdown by percentage:
|Lee Manufacturing By Percentage
Data is 100% accurate as it is provided by Kontoor Brands which owns Lee Clothing
Ok so you know where most Lee jeans are made but what about which country tops in terms of primary/subcontractor tier factories that Kontoor (Lee parent) has partnered with?
I am also providing you a chart for all countries where Kontoor Brands have factories to produce their apparel. This data does not include their accessories or footwear and is limited to all apparel that Kontoor is manufacturing for Lee, Wrangler, and their other brands. Based on data, the United States Of America only has 1.7% apparel factories of 100% yet Kontoor Brands says that they procure 35% of production to America. It is possible if factories have the resources to produce more jeans/apparel with just 9 factories in the USA.
The above data is based on the filtered Kontoor Brands Factories List. Kontoor is the parent company of Lee & Wrangler Jeans so rest assured the countries with the most factories inevitably account for more production. If not, then why does Bangladesh have 119 factories while the US has only nine? Is it all for nothing? Economically, of course not.
If we truly want to purchase sustainable products, we need to make sure the manufacturer and supplier are also sustainable on all levels, not just for one particular brand. Where on one hand, they are not killing animals to make sustainable and ethical products for brand A but hiddenly doing for brand B (Inclusive well-being is far more important than filling pockets exclusively).
Michael K. CEO & Founder of Outdoor Favor
Can’t Lee Manufacture All Jeans In the USA? Why?
Lee can’t manufacture all of their jeans in the USA only. And here are some shocking reasons based on market facts:
- Manufacturing a pair of jeans costs $5 in Bangladesh, $5.50-$6 in China, and the same will cost more than $9 in the US depending on the quality. The price will increase or sink based on how many units you’ll order. So the point is when the same quality can be bought for $5 why does the company solely manufacture in the USA only? And this is why more than 40% of Lee (Kontoor) clothing is made in Bangladesh.
- Cost is the biggest factor but the next reason can also shift the decision: by manufacturing jeans overseas in countries like India it will be close to the Indian market, yielding many benefits.
- I like this: According to NCBI, The ultimate objective of a global sourcing strategy is for the company to exploit both its own and its suppliers’ competitive advantages and the comparative locational advantages of various countries in global competition.
Should I Even Buy Non-American Lee Jeans?
Why not, tell me if I gave you three options:
- A is made in America & B in Bangladesh but both are equally high in quality
- A is better in quality than B
- B is better in quality than A
Which jeans would you buy: of course, they provide excellent quality if you think wisely then the Bangladesh one will be cheaper so why should you not buy the one that is of greater quality and cheaper? Just because of the “Made in ?” label, it’s just in your subconscious!
However, don’t pat the belief that “Made in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, etc” will always be higher or lower in quality as it largely depends on material & craftsmanship.
Related: How To Identify Original Lee Jeans?
Michael is heavily inclined towards traveling to natural places and documenting cultures/people from different parts of the world. He also loves hiking and camping and is spirited toward all outdoor activities. He will share his passion for outdoor life and brands or products we use outside our homes. He has good research skills, and that’s why you can see why his articles are packed with info that is factual and not readily available. He also has the vision to travel the whole world and share it with all readers of Outdoor Favor.