American Apparel is giving shoppers who want their goods “Made in the USA” a chance to put their money where their mouths are.
The company’s freshly relaunched website features a provocative capsule collection with an ethical test: Shoppers can choose between two nearly identical versions of eight of American Apparel’s signature basics, such as hoodies and t-shirts. Presented side-by-side, one version is made in the US, and the other is made outside the US.
Shoppers can pick which origin they prefer, but there’s a catch: The US-made products are anywhere from about 17% to 26% more expensive.
A fleece zip hoodie that’s made in the US will cost shoppers $48. The same product made outside the US is just $38.
A crewneck cotton t-shirt, meanwhile, is $22 for the US-made version. Its non-US-made twin is $18.
The site states that the clothes are “identical in quality” and ethically made without sweatshops, regardless of location. The only difference is the price. (The non-US items also offer more color options.) It’s up to shoppers to decide if they will pay extra for a product because it was made in America.
American manufacturing has been the subject of a lot of attention since the election of US president Donald Trump, who promised throughout his campaign to revive manufacturing in the US. The president has claimed that the country declined in prosperity because it sent manufacturing jobs overseas, where labor and other costs are lower.
But one unanswered question as Trump fights an uphill battle to bring manufacturing back to the US is whether Americans would be willing to pay more for US-made products. Evidence suggests they won’t. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found that 37% of respondents refused to pay more for US-made goods, even though 70% of respondents said it was “very important” or “somewhat important” to buy American. Those who would pay more didn’t seem to want to sacrifice too much: 26% said they would pay up to 5% more, and 21% would go up to 10% more.
American Apparel will be a real-life testing ground. The company rose to popularity in part on its promise that its products were made sweatshop-free in the US. But after Canada’s Gildan Activewear, a vertically integrated manufacturer with factories in the Caribbean and Central America, bought the company at a bankruptcy auction earlier this year, it announced it would start making some American Apparel products outside of America, where costs are cheaper.
“There are consumers that really want ‘made in USA,’ so we’re going to cater to those consumers,” Gildan CEO Glenn Chamandy said in May. “But there are consumers that didn’t want to pay the actual price but they love the brand, so now they can also buy the brand.”