Launched in 2012 by the founders of the Boston-based menswear label Ball and Buck, American Field is a gathering of “the best American made brands and the people behind them.” Originally conceived as a local, once-a-year event, the show’s quick rise in popularity led to the addition of more dates, and more states, and this year is the traveling market’s most ambitious to date. Popping up in four cities – Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Brooklyn – American Field is poised to bring it’s all-USA-everything ethos to its largest audience yet. We recently sat down with American Field’s founder, Mark Bollman, to talk about how the event has evolved, and what visitors to this year’s shows can expect. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: With ecomm becoming the new norm, why have an event like yours? How does American Field fit into the modern retail landscape?
As easy as ecommerce makes it to set up shop and reach customers on a global scale, it doesn’t replace the experience of holding a product in your hands. We see this a lot at Ball and Buck. In order to really gauge the quality of a product, it’s critical to hold it and inspect it. It can be very difficult to see the difference between a high quality button down shirt and a low quality one through a computer screen.
Many of the brands we work with at American Field don’t have storefronts, or at least not in the cities they visit with us, so this offers them a way to show their products, in person, to new customers. It also gives the consumer a chance to meet and connect with the makers and designers of certain brands and products, and we’ve found that to be an invaluable experience as well.
Walk us through a day at AF. What can the attendees (brands and customers) expect to see, hear, and do?
They can expect to meet a lot of people committed to producing American-made goods, and to have lots of great conversations about those goods. They’ll have the opportunity to feel the the socks, shirts, jackets, hats, etc., that they’ve only seen online in person, and buy them if they choose. And, on top of the amazing products, they’ll also get to enjoy a beer, eat some food, and soak in the festive atmosphere.
For vendors, we work hard to bring lots and lots of people. Somewhere in the area of 3000 – 5000 customers per event. People who come to shop at AF are early-adopters, entrepreneurs, and appreciators of quality. They attend the shows because they love what our vendors do, and want to support them. It’s our goal for every vendor that sets up at American Field to meet new customers, build their brand awareness, educate consumers, and sell enough to put a smile on their face.
How do you choose your brands? Beyond manufacturing the US, is there anything else they have in common?
Above all they’re brands we really like and respect. Yes they manufacture in the US, but they produce quality goods that will appeal to a broad audience of attendees as well. You don’t have to be a sportsman, or even a man, to find something you’ll like at American Field. We’ve got brands that make everything from high-end beef jerky to performance electric vehicles (Tesla) and everything in between.
Throwing an event like this is a huge undertaking. What keeps you motivated?
It is indeed! But the opportunity to meet so many entrepreneurs and people really committed to building their own companies and producing quality products is inspiring. Also seeing American Field grow so quickly since its founding has been extremely motivating and keeps me going.
The next American Field is popping up in Atlanta, GA on October 31st. For more information about that event and others, check out the American Field website.