Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why American Apparel Rules, OK!!!!

Having traveled the planet far and wide I feel I can finally push the obvious. I've tasted cotton from the stem to the rag and although it is a complex industry, simplicity rules the final product. American Apparel has expanded beyond the galaxy of simple t-shirt manufacturing, which is where Dov (the mastermind behind the brand) began, to eyeglasses, bags and in your face advertising which has a life of its own. Those things don't really matter though from where I come from, which is finding value in the basic t-shirt for embellishment and retail marketing through the internet. In fact, those novelty items by American Apparel are simply a distraction that keep consumers and others busy while the basic t-shirt digs deeper into the mainstream market. Replacing Hanes and other brands that have controlled the wholesale t-shirt screen printing market for the last two decades is no easy feat. Many companies are now crowding the market in an attempt to gain a footing, but this is a commodity business and I think American Apparel has finally gotten past the point where it can be easily duplicated.

T-shirts are like hamburgers and even though there are much larger, stronger and better-run companies than American Apparel, they just can't make a t-shirt in the same way that McDonalds can't make a hamburger. My prior post about the excessive marketing attempts that are pushing newer product lines as if they are different proves that trying to identify with a market niche' as a specialization in the t-shirt business is an exotic sport that doesn't easily translate into consumer-level appeal. There are too many variables in this business between the manufacturer and the consumer. American Apparel, through over-extending itself on the retail front, has created a consumer-level demand that other brands can't imitate with smoke and mirrors.

I can find an equivalent t-shirt and potentially at a better price, but not by enough to make it worthwhile. The real test is in the inventory and availability. As long as American Apparel can maintain the type of inventory support that has existed in the past year on the wholesale level then I don't see how the displaced competitors who have failed at this task can gain ground in the market. There is still room in the market for these other brands since distribution is the key and American Apparel has a hybrid, non-traditional, distribution system that doesn't compete in a head-to-head fashion with the other competitive brands which are Alternative Apparel, Alstyle, Canvas, Pima, Tultex, Anvil and many newcomers. Nonetheless, I am placing my first priority on providing American Apparel to our mid-market internet and retail store customers whenever possible because they are there when I need them.

By focusing on American Apparel as our main brand for printing and wholesale I can reduce the variables required for my main shopping cart and provide more payment alternatives and shipping options. This sort of reminds me of the day when the internet became a viable marketing vehicle and every company on earth started slapping a dot-com after their name. As users we had to choose between Netscape and Explorer as we watched AOL go down the drain with great hoopla. Finally Google came in an cleaned up the mess left after the crash and combined this is where things are heading again. By combining the right products and marketing vehicles at the right time we expect to expand our distribution of our printed and blank products. For 2009 I am focusing my efforts by combining American Apparel t-shirts with Google Checkout in a seamless way. Check out the new cart as it is developed at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not so long ago on a planet far, far away...

Once there was a time when fashionable, politically correct t-shirts were a rare commodity. Such was the history of planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy during the 3rd Millenium and although cotton is an inherently natural product and eventhough putting images on things is a craft that dates back to before there were dates, the idea of a concientious garment and printing process was an impossible beast to find. The times have now changes and now that Obama is President it is very easy to find "politically correct", evironmentally sensitive concientious garments, inks and cleaning chemicals. There is so much available now that the very idea is about to collapse under the nomenclature required to identify the problems that are being solved by the products that are now available. This leads me back to square one and trying to identify the correct words so that I can categorize the products that should be used to manufacture the clothing for masses that will be as organic as the people themselves are.

Corporate Responsibility, Certified Organic, Climate Neutral, Recycled fabric, Organic Cotton, Sustainable Products, ReUsable, Eco-Friendly, Green, Earth Friendly, Eco Conscious, Eco-Vertigrain, PVC Free, Phalate Free, Green Company, Solar Powered, Mixed Sources, Natural Fibers, 100% Organic, Organic Pigments, Social Accountability, Organic Exchange, Organic Trade, Fair Trade, Organic Exchange, Sustained Environmental, Organic Fiber, Avoid Contamination, Conduct Standards, Environmentally Unfriendly, 3rd Party Certification, Beneficial Insects, Physical Weed Removal, Corporate Signatory SAI, SA8000 standard, ILO Conventions, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, WRAP certified, CERES Principles, Code of Corporate Conduct, Reduced Impact, Healthy Soil, Grey Goods, Green Goods, and on and on....

WTF!!!! I had thought that I over-thought things, but I am going to have to carry around an organic dictionary to even begin to understand what is going on in this industry. All of these phrases are in contrast and opposition to the obviously death-ridden, socially inept, destructive evil, racist, meat-eating, machine-made, imported, improperly washed, stolen, soil killing, unstandardized, un-categorized, non-convention, unapproved, cotton-killers, not recognized by the United Nations, Kyoto rejected, Basic, unfashionable, Terrorist funded, politically-incorrect, dirty, unsexy, improperly sized, wasteful, high-impact, irresponsible, Stupid T-shirts that existed before this revolution.

The problem now is choosing, for a price, the right garment and ink for the job. I tend to think that things are made similar to the way they have always been made, but for the sake of marketing companies have put a larger emphasis on writing press releases and using green ink in the printing of their catalogs. Sadly all of this Smoke and Mirrors may be irrelevant to the survival of their companies if price becomes a larger issue to the consumer since there is this thing called a Recession. I didn't see a focus on Recession-Friendly, which is going to determine which of the above-mentioned style/products survive. Once I determine the correct garments to look at we'll review the big picture issue, price and see who is left standing.