WASHINGTON — The American Apparel & Footwear Association celebrated its move from across the river in Arlington, Va., to the center of power in Washington with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and rooftop party Wednesday night.
The move to a new headquarters was part of a strategy by the trade and lobbying group to increase its own brand awareness by being closer to the action in Washington.
Now located at the corner of 6th and H Streets downtown, the sleek, modern offices, housed in 7,400 square feet of space, offer a showcase for the industry’s innovations and a new hub for meeting and greeting the power brokers that make policies affecting the industry.
Among some of the interior features are a product display contributed by VF Corp. highlighting its Timberland, The North Face, Lee, Vans and Wrangler brands; a display of clocks featuring the time from New York to Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and from London and Dhaka, Bangladesh, depicting AAFA’s trade and supply chain work around the globe, and rotating photos of signature AAFA events.
Several key officials and lawmakers were on hand for the occasion, including Meredith Broadbent, commissioner of the U.S. International Trade Commission; Bill Jackson, assistant U.S. trade representative for textiles and Susan Coppedge, ambassador-at-large in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer at the AAFA, said, “All we want in dealing with the government is to have a good interaction. We bring up issues. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but having that dialogue is just so important.”
“This will be the new corner where fashion and policy meet government,” he declared.
Rob DeMartini, president and ceo of New Balance and AAFA’s chairman, stressed that AAFA, comprised of 350 members and 1,000 brands, is a strong advocate for the industry issues.
One of the most pressing issues confronting importers has been the bankruptcy of South Korean cargo carrier Hanjin Shipping Co. that has left millions of dollars worth of merchandise on boats stranded on the water, although indications are that some of that has started to be off-loaded.
“Some of us have a few goods sitting in boats that we would like to get into the country,” DeMartini said. “It is a great example of what a good trade association can do for its members.”
“It’s a place where we can quickly absorb and interact with Congress and the administration on the key issues of the day,” Helfenbein said of the new location. “In the last few weeks, we had the opportunity to take a lead role in supplying information to the industry regarding the unprecedented Hanjin bankruptcy and its subsequent potential effect on our members.”
Helfenbein said AAFA’s other priorities include advocating for the the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, broadening duty-free benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences for travel goods, and promoting Made in USA.