American Apparel’s latest move has the Los Angeles T-shirt-maker appealing to small business in a bid to expand its product assortment.
The company today launches a platform that will be used to help it connect with vendors in the accessories and home goods space interested in partnering with American Apparel on its Made In campaign to find product made in the U.S. to sell in its stores and online. The company’s more specifically looking for proposals from vendors that make leather and canvas goods, footwear, jewelry, paper goods, fragrances and small items for the home. The items — of which vendors must be able to produce batches of 500 in 30 days — have to retail for $100 or under. American Apparel, in turn would buy the inventory and own it.
“We’re super proud of the fact that we are all made in the USA and we felt that this was an amazing opportunity to bring in new accessories to our retail stores and online,” said senior vice president of marketing Cynthia Erland.
Up to 15 artisans would be tapped in the first iteration of the program, which the company said is not a contest, and additional calls for solicitations could be in the cards if the program is successful, according to Erland. Product the company buys would initially be tested in its top 10 doors located in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta before rolling them out online and across the broader portfolio of more than 200 doors.
The program comes at a time when consumers have become much more discerning with what they purchase amid a crafting and D.I.Y. movement that has emphasized buying local and conscious consumerism.
“The DIY movement is very Millennial and it resonates in our offices and with our consumers,” Erland said.
The platform being used by American Apparel is from Los Angeles-based Create.It, which has helped brands such as Red Bull and Fox Television with their content marketing. American Apparel represents the company’s largest fashion brand to date, according to founder and chief executive Jordan Katz.
It’s an interesting move for the company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection earlier this year, and is in the midst of continuing a turnaround that includes working through a glut of slow-moving inventory, which has been one of the key challenges for the business, chief executive officer Paula Schneider has pointed out several times in interviews with WWD.
Although the company still makes in-house certain items it’s also soliciting vendors for, such as its canvas bag, the program is seen as a way of further expanding the offering “to provide the consumer a more rich assortment and shopping experience,” Erland said.
The campaign follows a decision announced to workers in April to restructure the production process to more closely align with current buying patterns among its wholesale accounts and customers shopping American Apparel stores. With that decision also came the possibility that the company would consider outsourcing product more complicated to make, which is also not moving as quickly among buyers compared to more basic items, such as T-shirts.
Time and consumers will be the judges as to how well this program fares for American Apparel. Erland, when asked if the company views the campaign as more a marketing move or real source of revenue moving forward seemed to suggest room for both: “I really believe this is a way to really connect with our consumer online and of course that does include the marketing piece of it, but we really are looking for accessories. We need great, made in the U.S.A. accessories so this is an amazing opportunity for us to reach millions of viewers and an audience through this creative platform.”
The company’s accepting proposals for the Made In campaign through June 17 during which time interested businesses are asked to upload a 60-second video covering their proposed product.