retail

American Giant Plants a Flag for Made in America Menswear

Posted by Barry Silverstein on February 2, 2012 11:31 AM

Politicians and business people have been trumpeting the need to get U.S. factories working again. Consumers acknowledge the reality that much of what used to be made in America has gone to factories elsewhere, but there seems to be a growing interest in brands that pursue the effort to keep making goods in the USA.

Even luxury brands such as Joseph Abboud, Brooks Brothers and Tiffany have joined the chorus in light of the fact that a number of surveys suggest that a majority of wealthy American consumers prefer buying American-made brands. Now Bayard Winthrop, a consumer goods and retail merchandising veteran, wants to capitalize on patriotic fervor.

Winthrop is banking on the hope that American values will boost sales for his new web-based menswear retailer, American Giant, because they are "quality clothes made by American hands," as the men's clothing startup's website proclaims. Winthrop worked for such companies as Atlas Snowshoe, skateboard-maker Freebord Manaufacturing, and Chrome Bags before founding American Giant.

Winthrop's philosophy for the brand:

"We’re a small group of Americans that are tired of hearing all the talk about the death of American manufacturing and the decline of the United States.  We believe our ability to make great things in America is alive and well. The enduring American spirit, work ethic and commitment to ideals inspired us to do something that would make us proud.  For us that meant starting a company that made exceptional American Made clothing at prices that don’t break the bank."

Winthrop told Fast Company that, by eliminating storefronts and selling only online, he can save the money he would have paid for staff, rent and stocking the stores with products and spend it instead on production. By reducing costs, Winthrop said, "you have much more margin to reinvest in product and service and that enables you to deliver a much better product."

The company currently sells only sweatshirts ("We started with sweatshirts, because to us, they are the classic American silhouette that says at once hard work, versatility and willingness to get your hands dirty," says the website), but plans to offer t-shirts, shirts and jackets soon. To encourage consumers to shop online for clothes from a little-known brand, American Giant offers free shipping and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

Located in San Francisco, American Giant is producing its clothing in California and hopes to compete in middle-market menswear with the likes of the Gap, J. Crew and similar retailers, who still rely on retail outlets despite their online operations. “I’ve always been interested about the relative merits of manufacturing nearby in the U.S., where you have greater control over the elements of making goods versus the cost benefits of moving manufacturing over to Asia,” Winthrop told Portfolio.com.

He's also not trying to compete with another flag-waving, California-based "Made in America" brand — the embattled American Apparel, which was founded by a Canadian, Dov Charney, and recently saw an SEC investigation into its financial reporting practices dropped.

Another e-tailer, Made in USA Forever, that has been featured in newspapers, magazines, on television, and on over 250 radio shows, represents primarily small American-based companies. The website is a kind of clearinghouse for over 3,000 products, all manufactured in the United States, that include clothing, furniture, electronics, sports equipment, and other goods.

MadeInUSAForever.com was founded by Todd Lipscomb, who worked in Asia for seven years and got to see first-hand how goods were manufactured there. He is also author of the book, "Achieving Prosperity: An Ethical Guide to Building Wealth" — a goal he no doubt shares with other patriotic e-tailers, including those outside the U.S.

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