American Giant – Affordable Heavyweight American Made Basics

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No. 01 / 09
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There is no doubt that over the last five years the term “American-made” has played an strong role in pushing the direction of menswear and goods in general here in North American and elsewhere. In fact the movement itself helped refocus the buying habits of many to look locally – be in the USA, England, or beyond – for quality goods made right in their backyards.

For some time, buying American-made or locally-made came at a premium; with manufacturing costs domestically being higher than most lower cost imports (not to be confused with lower quality) consumers did their best to pick and choose where their monies were spent and which garments and goods to buy. At the end of the day, price does play an important role in buying habits;  high quality garment, when well priced, will certainly catch the eye of consumers.

Recently, we were introduced to new start-up, American Giant: a basics apparel company selling exclusively online and producing very heavyweight basics made locally in California at some of the most reasonable price points we have seen on the market today.

An American Giant crewneck sweatshirt with raglan sleeves and side ribbing, for example, produced from heavyweight 14.5oz cotton comes in at a $59 pricepoint where other American made equivalents run $100 or higher. We have worn and handled a sample ourselves and can confirm the quality and build of American Giant garments.

This week American Giant launched the latest addition to their basics collection: a $24.50 short sleeve t-shirt ($29.50 for the pocket version) made from 7.4oz cotton that is well and above the typical “paper thin” variants found on the market today. T-shirts of this build are not often seen and never at this price.

How can American Giant produce a quality garment at this price domestically while keeping the price point affordable? We sat down with American Giant CEO, Bayard Winthrop, former of Chrome Bags, for some insight into his new company, their wears, and how quality does not always equate to higher pricing.

Read and see more from American Giant on the following page.

Bayard, “made in USA” has been a descriptor used by many brands looking to capitalize on the rise of American awareness and quality. How important is this term to American Giant and you personally?

There are a number of brands that are selling clothing that’s made in America and that’s great to see because it points to a rising sense of pride around American Made. But much of the apparel industry, and this is particularly the case with garments made in America, is filled with over-priced stuff that is of poor quality.

For a long time customers wanting to buy American Made products have been asked to choose between absurdly high prices, poor quality, or both. We think that’s a false choice. We want to be known as a brand that delivers exceptional quality, exceptional value, and exceptional service. Period. We just happen to be able to do it here in the US.

Why basics in the varsity/ivy style? How is the fit on AG different than others on the market?

We were originally inspired by the iconic sweatshirts of the 1950s. Those sweatshirts were made well, they were durable, and fit you correctly. We designed our first American Giant line of sweatshirts with these characteristics in mind, and now we’re moving forward to bring this same level of quality to other lines, starting with well-designed heavy weight tees.

These days a lot of the clothing in the basics category tends to look sloppy and bulky. This just shouldn’t be the case. American Giant garments are designed to fit right, without being restrictive or adding unwanted, bulky fabric to your frame.

The prices on AG seems very reasonable for an American made hoodie. How do you keep the costs where they are?

By compressing the supply chain and selling direct to the consumer exclusively online we’ve freed up lots of the traditional costs of distributing clothes, and we’re redeploying those savings into great fabrics, great hardware and great construction, while keeping the prices reasonable.

When you take out all the layers of cost that are added in between production and the point of sale in traditional retail stores (trade shows, wholesalers, distributors, brick and mortar stores etc.), you have a lot of options. We don’t think that the customer should have to pay a premium for something that’s American-made. Our business model allows us to deliver value without sacrificing quality, and we can do it at a much higher scale.

Which States are your garments made in? How important is the local manufacturing to their economies?

Everything is made in California, in the Bay Area. Keeping production close is important to us for one critical reason: Having the entire line made around the corner from our offices in San Francisco gives us dramatically higher control over the quality of the product. If something in the production process isn’t meeting our exacting standards, we can react quickly and correct it so that poor manufacturing mistakes aren’t passed on to consumers.

Talk to us a bit about how you chose the styles and fits of your garments? Are they based on a common template?

We put an incredible level of attention to detail into every item that we make. Every stitch, trim, button, zip etc. is carefully thought out, and chosen based on a set of tenets that we think are important to the brand—things like authenticity and durability.

The fabrics we use are made especially for American Giant to ensure that each garment feels great the first time you put it on, and last for years and years without wearing out. We’ve added style elements that we think look really great, and we’ve gone through hundreds of options to get there. Fit is part of that as well. Believe it or not, getting the fit right is expensive. Making decisions about paneling and construction costs money. But it allows us to make garments that look better once you put them on. That’s important to us and to our customers. We don’t want to make another low quality, generic t-shirt or hoodie.

Will you be exporting American Giant to retailers outside the United States?

We don’t have any plans to sell through brick and mortar retailers, here or abroad, but we do plan to eventually begin shipping outside of the United States. We’re already getting requests to ship to other countries, and we intend to meet that demand.

In what ways does American Giant give back to the community at large?

This answer may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but we feel we are delivering high quality American Made products to the average consumer out there. We think it’s fine to see boutiques carrying $180 jeans that are made in America, but only a rare few can afford products at that price. For the rest of us who want to support American Made products, there’s now a option that meets high standards of quality and value. We view delivering on that promise as our primary task.

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  • Ashartipu

    … Norton’s has made it super easy to buy American Made, check them out! … Their superior quality, basic styling, and their Made-in-USA commitment.

  • Ralfie

    Great that this company is making their products locally. But … $59 for a sweatshirt is a deal? People usually pay $100 for a sweatshirt?

    Are you serious?

    No wonder everyone is bankrupt.

  • Benjamin Dover

    Is David Fischer a former Seinfeld writer? This article was about “nothing”, nothing but retarded silliness.

  • JB

    I hardly find any of this “affordable”. T-shirts for $25? You have to be kidding me. What are we doing, paying $20 of the workers union fees for each shirt? And out of that, 75% will go to support a politician that supports unions and their ideals.
    MADE IN THE USA is only worth something when the worker actually gets his actual value….and I would never pay that kind of extortion for a tee shirt or sweat shirt. I’ll wait until they donate them to Goodwill and buy them from there….

    • geritol

      In right to work states, the union gluttony should not be a factor. IF quality is the deciding factor, then the price will reflect that. My requirements are a quality that will last through wear and washings. So many foreigh products do not pass that test and prove a poor investment. BUT I also feel that once American factories get past start up costs and earn a market, prices should reflect more affordable costs. BOTTOM LINE: For many, the market is there. I, for one, am so sick of going into pricey shops with foreign made products.

  • Geritol

    On an extensive Western State tour this summer, I located pricey sweat shirts, tee shirts, et al at various tourist gift shops that were made in VietNam, Hondorus, China, Mexico, etc. These items were NOT the quality that one would expect for the money. Travelers have a tendency to spend money on ‘take home’ gifts. My thoughts: Get American made products in these numerous shops. There is a ready market there. I traveled AMERICA to find poor quality foreign made items. Wouldn’t buy them. Suggested to managers to offer quality AMERICAN-MADE items. Their replies…not available.I think there may be higher profits, (or NO profits if there is a no sale.) for them but it is all about choices. Consumers that are desiring AMERICAN-MADE items must realize that there are start-up costs, labor wages are going to be higher. Manufacturers must deal with competitive prices and profits.

  • Firozali A.Mulla

    There is nothing made in America All goods are made in Taiwan, China, India, Indonesia , Thailand but relabeled made in USA

  • Lance Cole

    The best T-shirt I’ve ever worn is made by the Soffe company, which made the top-end reinforced neck, double-stitched T-shirts we used in the military (not the junk issued stuff, but the exchange-top-end stuff). Funny, but they still make them…OVERSEAS…and you can get them for $10-$14, with shipping included. Sorry…but if the price of ‘buy American’ means being robbed by Americans versus getting decent quality at a lower price by Vietnamese who don’t care about me…well, that says a LOT about my ‘American brothers’, doesn’t it? You can say ‘thanks’ to all those laws, regulations, and mitigating taxes that most liberals love (to use to kill businesses with).

    Un-American? Call me what you want…I was 3rd Marines with two combat tours…and clearly, all I fought for was a bunch of liberals’ rights to crush our nation and destroy what once was the most-affordable manufacturing with the highest-quality products in the world. I’ll keep buying top end products…but they are NOT made in the U.S. anymore.

    • JK

      I believe that jobs should stay in this country (recalled a very unpleasant experience dealing with customer service at Dell whose call centers are outsourced overseas). Products made here are made well and are built to last. Unfortunately the only affordable places where you can find Made in the USA are thrift shops, online auctions which the products are from another era.

  • jim

    having a good product model is important

  • Kevin Sweeney

    sorry, i won’t buy anything made in california either!

  • bag

    Anything made in Saipan can legally be labeled as made in America and Saipan has Slave shops with workers from Asia working for peanuts!