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In this article we will examine the amazing success and development of American Giant, makers of the American Giant hoodie, and other American-made apparel products for men and women.
American Giant, led by its founder and CEO, Bayard Winthrop, has been credited with “breathing new life” into American manufacturing, and the American Giant hoodie has been repeatedly called “the greatest hoodie ever made”. One question that may come to mind in the face of such unqualified praise is why should anyone get so excited about a really well-made hoodie? We will answer that question as well.
About American Giant Hoodie
In 2011, a new company came online to challenge competing American apparel retailers. That company was American Giant, a San Francisco-based e-retailer, and it has become a model for how an American company, with American-made goods, can compete and win in a highly competitive marketplace formerly dominated by products made in China and India.
Bayard Winthrop says he got the idea for the company when he asked himself whether it would even be possible for an American company to depend entirely on an American supply chain to profitably make and sell apparel products like hoodies and t-shirts. And more than this, Winthrop wondered to himself if an American company could profitably make and sell apparel products as good as the ones made in the USA back during his father’s day—half a century ago.
Winthrop identified certain key factors required to make such a venture a success:
- Eliminate middlemen
- Produce higher-quality products
- Sell the higher-quality products at a moderate price
- Allow all stakeholders (including employees and customers) an improved economic benefit
Prior to American Giant’s entrance into the marketplace, apparel manufacture and sale had developed into a brand-centric retail operation, heavy on marketing and lifestyle image, and offering products whose cost of manufacture was low (by using cheap labor in Chinese or Indian manufacturing facilities). These apparel products, often cheaply made as well as cheaply supplied, were then marked up to price points that were as much as ten times the cost of manufacture.
The consumer in that process was chiefly paying for:
- Cost of transportation and import from a foreign manufacturer
- Cost of marketing the brand
- Cost of operating real-world retail outlets
Remember, the actual production costs were kept very low to enable a profitable import of the apparel manufactured in China and India.
What Was Wrong with This Way of Doing Business?
Bayard Winthrop realized that by eliminating a lot of the middleman costs in the existing apparel manufacturing and retailing process, including bringing manufacturing home to the USA, and doing business entirely online, the emphasis on American Giant’s apparel line could be mainly on producing a much higher-quality product, including as it turned out a notably high-quality American Giant hoodie.
Even though American Giant was paying a higher cost of production, in part because of the higher-quality product it was producing, and in part because more stringent American manufacturing rules (designed to protect workers and consumers) made the process more expensive, the company was saving so much money by eliminating the middlemen, it was able to sell its American Giant hoodie online at a price not very much more than a much lower-quality product sold in competing brick-and-mortar retail outlets.
American Giant Hoodie—High Quality at the Right Price
Within a few months of beginning online operation, American Giant was receiving rave notices on media platforms like Slate, and in social-media mentions. A number of reviewers were calling the American Giant hoodie the best hoodie ever made!
What was so great about the American Giant hoodie?
- It was manufactured with 100% cotton (more durable than synthetics)
- Costly production methods produced a better looking and feeling product
- American Giant hoodie was engineered to fit better/last longer
- American Giant hoodie was moderately priced
In order to insure the American Giant hoodie met and exceeded the demands Bayard Winthrop had made for the product—that it be the best hoodie ever—Winthrop engaged the services of former Apple industrial engineer Philipe Manoux, who had worked on the first iPhone. Manoux approached making the American Giant hoodie the same way he did with a tech product. He produced dozens of prototypes, aiming to achieve the perfect fit, durability, and styling that would take the common hoodie away from being a lowly piece of casual wear into being smart, body-complimenting modern apparel.
Should You Believe the Hype?
A lot of the early writers about American Giant noted that they were initially skeptical, or even that they were deeply desirous of puncturing what they viewed as mere hype surrounding American Giant’s claims to be manufacturing and selling affordable, high-quality apparel in the USA.
What is interesting to note is how many of those articles nevertheless conclude with the superlative recommendations of the reviewers once they actually learned more about American Giant’s approach to manufacturing, and had actually tried out the company’s products, such as its famous American Giant hoodie.
The Greatest Hoodie Ever Made
The most famous of these early reviews came from Farhad Manjoo, now a columnist for the New York Times, but who was a technology writer for Slate back in 2012, when Manjoo agreed to interview Bayard Winthrop and to examine Winthrop’s claim “to have created the world’s best hooded sweatshirt.”
Manjoo said he was initially amused by such a bold assertion. For one thing, as Manjoo asked in his article—“Who sets out to make the world’s best hoodie?”
Well, it turned out that Bayard Winthrop had not only set out to do that, but Manjoo concluded he had succeeded, and, in his article entitled “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made”, Manjoo reported this achievement had far more importance than the success of one line of casual apparel:
“The upshot of [American Giant’s business] model is not only a revival of American manufacturing—you also get better garments at competitive prices.”
Plus, Manjoo concluded:
“Since there’s no retail middleman, everyone does better under the American Giant model—the clothing company, the factory workers, and you [the consumer]”
Not Hype—Just the Facts
Of course, if the early hype on American Giant and its American Giant hoodie and other product offerings had been exaggerated, the company would have been exposed as overrated by now. But that is not what has happened.
Instead, American Giant, initially built upon the enormous sales bump they got from Manjoo’s article, has had a phenomenal growth rate, with sales continuing to increase as much as 50-60% per year, according to Winthrop in 2018. The company has added new product lines to go along with its initially somewhat basic line of hoodies and t-shirts. These new products, a women’s line of clothing, and just recently a new line of denim jeans, are all produced using the American Giant commitment to high quality and American-made products.
As the product lines have expanded, the almost universal praise for the company as a real innovator and to some extent a savior of American manufacturing has continued.
The New Levi’s
For example, in a 2017 Forbes article entitled “5 Reasons Why American Giant Is The New Levi Strauss”, Charles Koppelman concluded that in terms of paving a new (but actually traditional) path of retail success:
“American Giant…[is] bringing back quality basics by bringing us back to a few of the original American gold standards: quality, utility, durability, and value.”
This suggests that “the hype” was real. American Giant, including its amazing American Giant hoodie, are real forces in USA apparel retailing, and they look to be here for the long haul.
American Giant Hoodie Headquarters Information
American Giant is a manufacturer of men’s and women’s apparel. The company was founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Bayard Winthrop, and is located in San Francisco, California. Almost all of American Giant’s retail business is conducted online at the company website.
American Giant also has a retail flagship store, located at 165 Natoma Street in San Francisco, California. You can contact American Giant online at their website, by phone at (415) 529-2429, and through email at [email protected].
What began with Bayard Winthrop nostalgically recalling his father giving him a seemingly indestructible sweatshirt made back in the 1950s (when clothing was built to last and made in the USA), has turned into an e-retailing phenomenon, and a remarkable success story based on US-manufactured apparel.
For a lot of people, that idea, that clothing could be once again “made in America” and made profitably, and more than this made once again with high quality and at a moderate price that was affordable to most customers, seemed impossible.
At least, that was the case before Bayard Winthrop’s American Giant and his American Giant hoodie came along. It may not be the case that American Giant can, by itself, save American manufacturing, but American Giant’s business model and its business principles of delivering quality and affordability to consumers has seldom had a more successful advocate. American Giant has shown us how to make American manufacturing viable again.