American Apparel to let shoppers choose US-made clothing
American Apparel’s new owner, Canadian basics maker Gildan, says it will keep some of the brand’s manufacturing in the United States in order to meet the demands of customers who desire that differentiation, according to a report on Thursday from Bloomberg and an email from Gildan VP of corporate marketing and communications Garry Bell sent to Retail Dive last month.
“Gildan is committed to maintaining a Made in the USA collection of products for the core American Apparel customer who demands it,” Bell said. But American Apparel customers looking for better prices to compete with imported products will have access to more price-centric products, responsibly and sustainably manufactured within Gildan’s existing facilities overseas, he also said in his email.
The made-in-the-U.S.A. gear could be priced as much as 25% higher, according to Bloomberg’s report, which detailed a press conference last week with Gildan CEO Glenn Chamandy, who said that domestic U.S. manufacturing is important to some American consumers but not to overseas shoppers.
Gildan is well aware of American Apparel’s reputation for quality and its American manufacturing, and high quality is the Canadian garment maker’s biggest priority, Bell told Retail Dive.
“As much as they were known for the country of origin, they truly were innovators in fabrics, fashion styling and great colors,” he said. “It is our intent to bring that innovation and leading momentum back to this brand. As such we have decided to open a LA-based merchandising and marketing center, staffed with former American Apparel personnel, and focused on keeping this brand stylistically relevant and fashion forward… American Apparel will once again become a leader in fabric innovation, styling and creative marketing by remaining connected to the LA style/fashion scene.”
That’s why the company is maintaining an office in Los Angeles dedicated to marketing and advertising, which Chamandy last week said would not, however, include the sexualized marketing made infamous by founder and previous CEO Dov Charney.
While Gildan executives insist that it can maintain American Apparel’s quality and appeal through its overseas factories, Charney has told Retail Dive that, aside from the moral implications of domestic manufacturing, the approach also allows for swifter response to changing consumer tastes. American Apparel was able to speed up output of best-selling styles and cut production of lower-selling items thanks to the close proximity of its facilities, Charney said.
He remained adamant about producing “sweatshop free” garments throughout his time at the company, paying American Apparel’s workers superior wages and benefits. Many of those workers now work for Charney in his new venture, Los Angeles Apparel, which has a factory in operation in South Central L.A. Under CEO Paula Schneider, American Apparel laid off many workers and cut their overtime, and switched to an inventory model that produced apparel collections out of season, leaving the company to guess what might sell, rather than basing production on what actually was selling.
American Apparel filed for bankruptcy for the second time in a little over a year in November and attracted interest from Gildan almost immediately. The Canadian company bought the brand at its bankruptcy auction in January for $88 million, which included its intellectual property and other assets but none of its stores, which have all shuttered globally.
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