Five Reasons Why American Giant is the New Levi Strauss
This explosive growth, which has allowed a niche start up company who sold sweatshirts off their website to grow to the point where they are taking on giants like the Gap and American Apparel within 4 years, has left the fast fashion industry scratching its head.
So what is this crazy, upside down new business model that American Giant has leveraged to such meteoric success? It’s actually a story that dates back to the dawn of casual wear in America, and the father of another iconic American basic, Levi Strauss, and his classic Levis 501 jeans.
This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made
But there is really no comparison between American Giant’s hoodie and the competition. It looks better and feels substantially more durable—Winthrop says it will last a lifetime. When you wear this hoodie, you’ll wonder why all other clothes aren’t made this well. And when you hear about how American Giant produced it, it’s hard not to conclude that one day, they all may be.
(Bayard) Winthrop had figured out a way to do what most people in the apparel industry consider impossible: He’s making clothes entirely in the United States, and he’s doing so at costs that aren’t prohibitive
Made in USA: Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the homeland
Six years ago, the apparel manufacturer Eagle Sportswear, in rural Middlesex, North Carolina, was ready to close, until Bayard Winthrop helped buy the knitwear plant. "We've spent, nationally, much of the last 40 years moving manufacturing overseas to chase cheap labor and lower environment standards and lower regulations," Winthrop said. In 1980 almost 80% of clothing bought in the U.S. was made in America. Today, it's around 3%. Winthrop says while globalization and trade deals made goods cheaper, they also brought decades of lay-offs and plant closures.
How the Internet Is Bankrolling the World’s Best Hoodies
But the internet hasn’t just served up a conventional marketing bump for American Giant. As (Bayard) Winthrop explains, the internet makes possible the kind of business he wants American Giant to be. If he’s right, it’s also the kind of business that could reboot U.S. manufacturing.
“When you pull the money out of the supply chain and the distribution chain and put it into the product, you actually end up with a better product that can please the customer at a comparable price,” (Randy) Komisar says. “The jobs that we’re reassembling in the United States are better paying jobs making stuff and being able to do that with a quality and satisfaction that garners respect.”
This Hoodie Is So Insanely Popular
So what’s so great about this hoodie, anyway?
For starters, it appears to weigh more than two pounds. The fabric, which is 100% cotton, feels about three times thicker than most sweatshirts. And ribbed paneling along the shoulders and sides help create a tailored look, eliminating the boxy silhouette of most hoodies.
“This sweatshirt is seriously worth the wait, and awesome for the price, too. I’m considering ordering more to stock up for the rest of my life, but I’m not sure this one is ever going to wear out,” one reviewer wrote.
Bringing flannel's manufacture back to America could be deeply symbolic.
Bringing [flannel’s] manufacture back to America, Mr. Winthrop thought, could be deeply symbolic. Both of the capability of U.S. manufacturing and of the need for big fashion brands to invest here again. It was a quixotic artisanal project, perhaps, but one with potentially high business stakes.
“Forty years ago, we were able to make great shirts here, great jeans here, sold at a price that made sense to mainstream consumers,” Mr. Winthrop said at the outset of his project. “We’ve lost that capability in 40 years? We can’t make a flannel shirt in America? I’m not going to accept that answer.”