Under new owner Gildan, the Canadian basics wholesaler, American Apparel is re-launching its retail e-commerce site Aug. 14, Gildan Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications Garry Bell told Retail Dive in an email. “We’re very pleased to be relaunching this important new website where American Apparel’s loyal consumers can once again buy their favorite fashion basic apparel,” he said.
When Gildan bought American Apparel in January at bankruptcy auction for $88 million, that included the brand and inventory of its best-selling styles, allowing Gildan to get wholesale sales and distribution up and running within four weeks of the acquisition, Bell said. Within six weeks, the Montreal-based company also started Southern California-based production of key styles for its Made-in-the-USA collection, he said, positioning it well for both wholesale and the retail site.
Meanwhile, several shoppers noted on Twitter this week that American Apparel “Supreme” all-cotton T-shirts and other items were available at Kmart for as low as $4 apiece. “These products are likely a by-product of their bankruptcy and related inventory liquidation,” Bell told Retail Dive. “I do believe they manufactured products under a private label agreement for Supreme which likely resulted in these goods being sold in liquidation to Kmart. At this time we have not made any sales of this brand to any U.S. retailers and while we are excited about launching the direct to consumer e-commerce site, we have yet to fully evaluate the options for the brand at retail.”
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, saying the company is grateful for fans' enduring loyalty.
"In the six months since the brand went silent, the outpouring of love for this brand has been great," he said in his email. "We are very thankful to this brand’s loyal fans for their patience and support as we bring this iconic brand back, better than ever and always Sweatshop Free."
The relatively quick resurgence of the brand at retail is thanks to Gildan’s scale and vertically-integrated manufacturing model, Bell said. The company decided to develop what Bell called "the most important fabrics and colors" within Gildan's manufacturing facilities. Because Gildan owns its factories, as did American Apparel, it's also been able to lower retail prices. Notably, the brand is faring much better than under its private equity and hedge fund owners, which filed for two bankruptcies in little over a year with little turnaround effort in the meantime.
"Both our companies were founded on the belief that owning the factories where the apparel is made is the only way to make apparel right," he said, in a nod to American Apparel founder Dov Charney's similar stance. "At Gildan we have built a much larger and more integrated model which includes yarn spinning as well as fabric and garment production. By owning the facilities we are better able to ensure that ethical and sustainable practices are in place, effectively assuring American Apparel will always be Sweatshop Free."
Charney has told Retail Dive that Los Angeles-based manufacturing, despite the higher wage costs and stricter rules about breaks and benefits, is ultimately cheaper, thanks to the ability to monitor quality and production. “Of course there’s the argument that [domestic manufacturing is] ethical, but that's a kind of social argument. I’m telling you that it’s cheaper too — that’s what retailers need to know,” he said earlier this year. “What local manufacturing allows you to do in the fashion context is accelerate or decelerate production.”
Charney has launched a new effort (and an American Apparel competitor) called Los Angeles Apparel, which like Gildan is also selling to wholesalers and plans to launch a retail site this fall.
Gildan has retained many of American Apparel's merchandising and marketing teams, and that helped with the company's smooth transition to retail. "This is an important step in bringing this brand back to loyal brand followers, with full collections of styles that they have come to love," Bell said.