Trends come and go, but American Apparel has been a constant presence in the wholesale printwear industry for the past 26 years. The company’s president of global wholesale, BRAD GEBHARD, answered some questions on the past, present and future.
Q. Can you provide our readers with a background on American Apparel? How the company was formed, why it was formed and what the company is known for?
American Apparel was founded in 1989 in Montreal, Quebec. It started as a small T shirt printing company and focused on making American-made products in an ethical working environment.
Q. Tell our readers what American Apparel has been up to over the past 12 months.
A. American Apparel has been working vigorously to continue to be the most sought after basics company in the industry. We are striving to improve our operational excellence and customer experience.
Q. American Apparel has been in the wholesale market for around 25 years. How do you think this market has changed during this time?
A. The wholesale industry has changed tremendously. In the past you could only get one unisex T shirt and one women’s T shirt that would fit most people. Now there are unlimited styles for all shapes and sizes. The cuts are practical, yet still stylish.
Q. How do you think the wholesale market differs from the retail market in terms of trends/styles/colours?
A. American Apparel, having over 200 stores worldwide, utilises the retail business to help choose styles and colours for our wholesale division.
Q. Have there been any changes in terms of trends/styles/colours in the wholesale sector during the past 25 years?
A. Definitely. For example, we had tons of ribbed styles that sold very well in the beginning, but lost momentum in recent years. Now with looks from the 90s becoming popular, we are finding that baby rib is once again in demand.
Q. Are there any garments which have remained constant big sellers for you throughout the past 25 years or others that were popular for a period of time, but are no more? Can you explain the reasons for these trends?
A. American Apparel provides designs that many view as classics. Our fine jersey collection features two of our consistently top-selling styles: the Unisex Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt (2001) and the Fine Jersey Short Sleeve Women’s T (2102). These basic T shirts offer an iconic American Apparel look that makes them the most sought-after T shirts on the market. We frequently revive these classic designs by introducing new colours.
Q. T shirts are your staple product, particularly the HEAVY label, which you started selling back in 1990 to screen printers. How has this label changed during the past 25 years and what plans do you have for it in the near future?
A. Our company has certainly changed since we were called American Heavy. We now have a huge retail brand that offers denim, shoes, and even products for pets. The new leadership is excited for the future and committed to our wholesale business and its heritage in classic product.
q. Are there some products which translate better from the retail market to the wholesale market? If so, what are the reasons for this?
A. Anything that feels new and classic tends to do very well in the wholesale market. The recent trend with neon is a great example of an old, classic look that, with the help of retail trends, became a hot seller for wholesale as well.
Q. What reason do you give for the fact that there are more and more fashion-inspired garments now available in the printwear market?
A. American Apparel is the originator in fashionable basics, and we’ve always strived to bring newness and fun to the printwear market. Demand and competition has only escalated this trend.
Q. What new products does American Apparel have in the pipeline for coming year?
A. The most exciting piece we are introducing for autumn 2015 is the Fine Jersey Classic Women’s T-Shirt (23215). This piece features a true classic women’s fit, a crew neckline and quality reinforced stitching for durability through repeated wear.
Q. What makes your garments ideal for garment decoration?
A. Our wholesale garments are created specifically for the decorating process. For example, our signature T shirts are constructed from fine jersey, a 146gsm, 100% ring spun, combed cotton fabric. It’s smooth, tight-knit surface takes the screen printing process very well and provides a finished look superior to many other suppliers.
Q. What type of decorator are your garments more suited for?
A. Our wholesale product line features products that work for various decorating techniques. From ultra-lightweight garments ideal for dyeing to heavyweight knits that are great for embroidery, there is no decoration technique we can’t match to a style in our catalogue.
Q. What advice can you give for garment decorators when it comes to printing/embroidering your garments?
A. Sampling is always essential prior to doing a full job. Our website offers tips on printing, and clients can also contact one of our wholesale customer service reps with any inquiries.
Q. Explain more about your sublimation T shirts.
A. Our sublimation line now includes T shirts for adults, kids and youth, as well as a unisex tank. They’re all ultra-soft, lightweight and designed specifically for sublimation printing.
Q. Your T shirts are often used for band merchandise. Do you know why this is? Was it an end user decision or a market you actively pursued?
A. Clients know a great product when they put it on—our T shirts fit well, feel amazing and last for years. Our end users tend to be our retail customers, and many of the top-touring performers are often seen wearing American Apparel products.
Q. Why should a garment decorator choose your products over competitors? What makes you different and what makes you stand out?
A. End users ask for our products by name. An American Apparel product instantly adds value to any decoration. Clients know what they are getting from American Apparel—they know who’s making our clothes and where they’re made.
Q. Explain the concept of vertical integration to our readers.
A. All of our manufacturing, marketing and creative happens under the company umbrella. We create and dye all of our own fabrics, we design and sew all of our own styles, etc. This allows us to turn around jobs quicker than any other vendor in the industry.
Q. You manufacture all of your products in Los Angeles and promote the Made in USA label. How does this benefit you as a company, your employees and the customer?
A. We are extremely proud to have brought apparel manufacturing back to the USA. It helps our local economy, creates fair jobs for garment workers and sets a good example for the apparel industry.
Q. In terms of American Apparel’s corporate and social responsibilities what do you do?
A. American Apparel has an exciting recycling program. One initiative is that we collect all scraps from our sewing floors and reuse or recycle them. We recently released a few retail pieces made from scraps and are currently experimenting with this concept for our wholesale division. We have also been the pioneer in sweatshop free manufacturing from the beginning and our clothing is made by the highest paid garment workers in the world. We take pride in supporting global social causes and responsibilities including immigration reform and LGBT rights and equality.