The TS Designs team has been working hard all year and supporting our endeavors to make the best darn t-shirt with a trackable supply chain, all made in the USA from dirt to shirt!
Facility & Technology
Color Lab / Pyrotec 2000
We acquired a Roaches International Ltd Pyrotec machine (and now have a second one as of this year) that helps us dye and match colors in much smaller batches, which in turn, greatly improves the time it takes for us to work with our customers who want us to match a specific color for their t-shirt or custom dye orders.
The Pyrotec also allows us to experiment with natural dyes in a much more efficient way. By optimizing our processes to use fewer labor hours, materials, and water, we are actively working towards our mission to minimize our environmental footprint. Our commitment to reducing resource consumption aligns with our goal of creating a more sustainable impact on the planet. Contact us if you have any color-matching projects in your future!
Print-on-Demand with Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing Services
We released a Print-on-Demand service that utilized our recently acquired DTG printer (which uses water-based inks) to bring your unique designs to life one shirt at a time on our premium 100% cotton tees. Whether you’re looking to showcase a new logo for your business, promote an event, or want personalized artwork on a t-shirt, we’ve got you covered.
Other Facility Milestones
- Water-Based Pad Print Inks: We transitioned the ink used on our pad-printed neck labels from solvent-based to water-based. Marabu Inks in Germany reached out to us because of our shared values to test their water-based pad print ink. We did test it and have moved it into production.
- Water-Based Metallic Inks: When Satish Hodage with Verdant Innovations contacted us about a water-based metallic ink they developed that contains no metal or plastics and is derived from natural sources, we tested the innovation and put it to use. Our Production Floor Manager, Doug Murphy, has found that this new metallic ink “prints well, looks great, and is a breeze to clean up.”
- Dye House Expansion: Our sample tub capacity has expanded from 2 tubs that hold 7.5 lbs to 6 tubs that can hold up to 25 lbs of clothing. This allows us to be more efficient in our dye house capabilities.
- DTG Pretreatment Optimization: Moving this treatment needed for DTG printing in-house from our dye house makes the process faster and more efficient.
Natural Dyes & Fibers
Our garden which was once used to benefit our employees is now in transition to be a natural dye garden (although, employees still benefit from CEO, Eric Henry’s home garden when he brings seasonal treats in to share).
Our natural dye expert (and Brand Manager for Solid State Clothing) Courtney Lockemer, along with Joshua Humphreys of Croatan Institute, Eric Henry, and Liana Stachowicz, our new part-time farm manager, are discussing plants to grow, site prep and planning schedules to create local natural dyes for our retail brand Solid State Clothing.
Black Walnut Natural Dye
Although our black walnut project was initiated in 2022 with the black walnut tree adjacent to our facility’s conference area, we have now devised a multifaceted revenue stream to harness the millions of pounds of black walnuts that annually go to waste on the ground. Beyond using black walnuts for natural dye production, for our clothing, our scalable process aligns revenue streams and processes to repurpose all parts of the black walnut into products like abrasion materials and food items.
In addition to mapping out this plan to commercialize natural dye from black walnuts, students of the University of Vermont’s Sustainable Innovation MBA program are conducting their practicum on our black walnut dye project and exploring the broader implications of circularity it can foster.
This fall we visited the farmer who grows the cotton for our Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirts, Andrew Burleson, of Thurman Burleson and Sons Farm in Richfield, NC around 75 miles from the TS Designs facility. The visit was impactful to employee Emily Stasiak who wrote this blog post, I Met the Farmer Who Grew My Shirt about the importance of TS Designs’ efforts at sustainability. She says, “By promoting transparency, sustainable practices, and ethical considerations, we aim to revolutionize the apparel industry.”
Interested in visiting the 2024 cotton harvest? Stay tuned as we are planning something big!
Solid State Clothing
Solid State Clothing is our retail brand, and it’s our way to bring our meticulously crafted, locally grown, and made shirts directly to your wardrobe. Solid State releases small batches of premium-quality t-shirts that are durable and versatile for work, play, and everything in between. It’s also our platform for experimenting with new materials like natural dyes and creative collaborations with regional artists and makers.
2023 was a productive year for us, including launching our new website. When visiting be sure and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know about sales, when we launch a new natural dye, and more. Plus save 15% on your first order!
The brand has continued to grow for its third year in a row, as more folks prioritize clothing of quality that is made in the USA from dirt to shirt. Solid State Clothing is now carried in three retail stores in Greensboro, NC, Charlotte NC, and Wimberley TX. If you are interested in being a retail partner for Solid State Clothing reach out to us.
The Marigold Beanie
Solid State Clothing’s Marigold Beanie won the Our State Magazine’s, Made in NC 2023 Style Award and was nominated for North Carolina’s Chamber of Commerce, Made in North Carolina Holiday Gift Guide.
The Marigold Beanie is made in NC and naturally-dyed with marigold flowers to a golden yellow. It was a collaboration of a team of North Carolina small businesses – Carolina Textile District, Fonta Flora Brewery, and Solid State Clothing — who care about local, crafted production.
Solid State Clothing at the Hempsmith Runway Fashion Show
Last fall we were honored to show off creative ways to wear Solid State Clothing at The Hempsmith Runway’s Fashion Show at The Plant in Pittsboro, NC. Models included our employees, Jessika, Diego, and Emily in addition to a group of talented young folks who brandished our sustainably made clothing.
TS Designs in the Media
Our CEO Eric Henry continues to be asked to speak or contribute to multiple publications and podcasts over the year.
- Eric Voler’s On the Porch: A Converstion with Eric Henry
- The Fashion Connection: Cotton, A Spinning Supply Chain
- NCMEP.org: When Style and Consciousness Collide
- The Mindful Marketplace: Pursuing Ethical Practices: The Synergy of Profit, People, and Planet – Part 1 (recorded in 2023 release this week).
Publications / Blog Articles
- Green America: A Single Tree Is Helping This Small Business Benefit Its Community
- Going Glocal: The case of the 10,000-pound cotton “dirt-to-shirt” project by Jayanth Jayaram, Vidyaranya B. Gargeya, Eric Henry, and Vashkar Ghosh
Our customers understand the importance of our sustainability model, and so we developed our monthly Customer Spotlight in 2023, where we interview them to feature on the TS Designs Blog.
- Hanks Creamery: Tony Losasso
- Saxapahaw General Store: Jeff Barney
- Ran-Lew Dairy: Randy Lewis
- Oliver Russell: Russ Stoddard
- Beth Kennett for Mayor of Burlington, NC
- Biscuitville: CEO Kathie Niven
- Yonderlust: Kit Linton
Other Eventful Happenings of 2023
Video Where Your Clothing: More than a supply chain: Emily Stasiak who works at TS Designs was compelled to make this video of how the TS Designs supply chain works. You might be surprised how short our supply chain is.
Photographer, John Trice: We were approached by a local videographer / photographer John Trice because our story resonates with him and he wants to help us tell it to the world by donating his professional services. He has been on-site taking photos of our employees and off-site getting video of the cotton harvest for a future release video that will continue to help us tell our story. In fact, he took the group photo at the top of this article and most of these photos of our team.
As we look toward 2024, our commitment to sustainability remains unwavering. We will persist in promoting domestic manufacturing, transparency, and sustainable practices. No matter the political climate, our resolve remains strong as we continue to address and rectify the challenges within the broken supply chain of the apparel industry.
Shop Sustainably Made T-Shirts for Your Company, Organization, or Events
TS Designs manufactures the highest quality printed t-shirts in a domestic, transparent, and trackable supply chain. We work with brands who want to provide their customers with responsibly made clothing that positively impacts people and the planet.
The Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast – How (& Why) to Build a Local Dirt-to-Shirt Supply Chain
In a post-pandemic world, what’s the value of a dirt-to-shirt supply chain? Eric Henry, President of TS Designs, believes that now, more than ever, businesses need to take an increasingly holistic view of their responsibility to the planet and society as a whole.
Episode 10 of the Poole Podcast features Jessica Thomas and Eric Henry sharing inside information on B-Corps & the Triple Bottom
Lady Farmer mother and daughter Mary and Emma Kingsley sit down with Eric who has been navigating sustainability through the fashion industry for the past 40 years. Henry discusses the effects of NAFTA on TS Designs and the process of rebuilding his business with the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – in the forefront of operations. Eric pushes you to think about the impact of the goods you consume and the places you spend your money while considering that sustainability is a journey not a destination.
This week’s guest is Eric Henry, President & CEO of TS Designs, a sustainable T-shirt manufacturing company in Burlington, NC. TS Designs is dedicated to creating locally made and environmentally responsible products that have a positive social impact! We discuss sustainable business practices, telling creative and interactive stories of products, and how to make a positive impact (personally and professionally).
Eric Henry is the co-founder of TS Designs a T-shirt company out of Burlington, NC. We talk about his business, the impact of a little trade agreement called NAFTA, the commitment to Burlington and the Carolina’s, and his dirt to shirt philosophy.