February 24, 2017 5 min read

By Liva Spandega on February 8th, 2017 - Reading time: 4 minutes

Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room – the current state of American Apparel and what it means for us here at Printful and our customers. The company is undergoing serious changes that affect the entire industry. But there are a lot of rumors, chatter and hearsay, so let’s look at all the facts we know so far. 


First things first: what exactly happened to American Apparel?

American Apparel (AA) is an instantly recognizable brand, but it has struggled for some time. It hasn’t been profitable since 2009 and it filed for bankruptcy for the first time back in 2015. After some restructuring, American Apparel continued operations for a while, but it filed for a second bankruptcy a little over a year later in November 2016.

In early January 2017, the Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear acquired American Apparel in a bankruptcy auction with a bid worth around $88 million. Gildan bought American Apparel’s manufacturing equipment and intellectual property rights, but it chose not to assume the leases of AA’s factories and distribution center in California. The deal also didn’t  include American Apparel’s retail stores, which will be closed this year

Where will American Apparel’s goods be manufactured in the future?

In short, no one really knows right now. At the time of purchase, Gildan hadn’t decided what to do with the manufacturing part of the American Apparel business – they said they’ll lay out more concrete plans for AA’s future at the end of February. 

One of the main questions on everyone’s lips is: will Gildan keep manufacturing American Apparel products in the USA? The Canadian company mostly produces its goods in the Caribbean and Central America. It has some manufacturing plants in the USA, but the only article of finished clothing produced there is socks. Gildan hasn’t ruled out the possibility that it’ll keep American Apparel production in the USA, but no decisions have been announced publicly yet. We’ve heard through the grapevine that Gildan might keep manufacturing some of AA’s more popular products in the US, but the production would move away from California.

Gildan reportedly beat companies like Next Level Apparel, Amazon and Forever 21 in the bankruptcy auction with its $88-million bid. The high bid suggests that Gildan sees value in the American Apparel brand and has plans for it, but we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly the Canadian company decides to do. 

What does all of this mean for Printful and our customers?

When an industry leader like American Apparel experiences problems, they impact everyone. At the moment, there is some stock of American Apparel products still available, but it’s limited and will run out unless Gildan resumes production of AA items in the coming weeks.

From what we’ve heard, production of AA products should resume at some point, but it’s not clear where and when exactly it’ll happen. It might take a couple of weeks, but it could also be a question of months. 

We’re buying as much of the remaining AA stock as we can. However, it’s not a long-term solution – we estimate that the stock we’re buying should be enough for at least a month. But if you’re not prepared to wait for an indefinite amount of time for AA to resume manufacturing under Gildan and don’t want to risk delayed orders upsetting your customers, we strongly recommend switching to alternative products. 

By Liva Spandega on February 8th, 2017

You should be able to find comparable alternatives for American Apparel products among our other brands. For example, the American Apparel 2380 cropped t-shirt can be easily replaced by LA Apparel 2332 cropped tee with tear away label, which is also made in the USA.

Switch from American Apparel 2380 cropped tee to LA Apparel 2332 cropped t-shirt with tear away label

If you’re searching for an alternative to the classic American Apparel 2001 men’s t-shirt, we have several options: 

For all other models, you’ll have to do some digging around. Choose between US and non-US made apparel, look at the colors available for different products, and decide between other factors like price, fabric weight, etc. 

What’s Printful doing to prepare?

As mentioned before, we’re buying as much American Apparel stock as possible to fulfill all current orders. It should be enough for at least a month. But as long as Gildan’s plans for AA are unknown, it’s better to have other options. This is why we’re working hard to provide even more quality alternatives to American Apparel products for you to choose from, both US and non-US made. 

We’re closely collaborating with LA Apparel. It’s a new company, but has considerable experience behind it (it was created by the founder and former CEO of American Apparel). LA Apparel offers high-quality products made in the USA. Some of their products are already available on our site, and you can expect more to be added in the future. 

Printful is one of the few printing companies currently working with LA Apparel. So we’re better positioned to face potential troubles with AA’s stock and to continue investing in American-made products. 

We’re committed to helping our customers through this transition. If you have any questions or need some help choosing alternative products for your store, our support team is always available.

Prepare your ecommerce store now!

Until Gildan announces its intentions, we won’t know when and how American Apparel will return. If the situation at AA stabilizes and it resumes production, we’ll let you know and you’ll have the option to choose American Apparel products again. But if the delays in production extend into months, you can probably expect product discontinuations.

That’s why to avoid unpleasant surprises with out of stock items we strongly recommend choosing alternative products to replace AA ones. If it’s important for you that the garment is made in the US, look in the direction of LA Apparel. Or check out our other brands if the country of origin isn’t a priority. We’ll keep adding new products for you to choose from, as well as new color options for the products already available. 

We’ll keep you updated about any new developments concerning American Apparel and new products. Got any questions in the meantime? Contact support@printful.com for help.

UPDATE (02/15/2017):

Gildan has published a statement about the current situation with American Apparel. They say that while they work on the transition, there will be a temporary interruption in the AA service. But Gildan believes that the integration should be completed by late February. 

We’ll make sure to inform you if Gildan shares any more news!

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