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.