The world could use a few more brands like Appalatch. Founded in 2012 by do-gooders Grace Gouin and Mariano deGuzman, the North Carolina based company is defined as much by its ethos as its products. Striving to produce the best garments they can with the least amount of environmental impact possible, the company has developed an entirely domestic supply chain; not only are the clothes manufactured here, but everything from the fabrics to the threads to the trimmings are made in the US as well. Additionally, the brand utilizes a number of production methods that help them to dramatically reduce waist while still maintaining quality. And, best of all, they sell everything consumer-direct, so all of Appalatch’s socially and environmentally responsible goodness comes without a middleman mark-up.
Appalatch co-founder Mariano deGuzman recently took some time out to answer a few questions through email. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: Give us the Appalatch origin story.
Mariano deGuzman: Appalatch was founded in 2012 with the vision of revolutionizing the apparel industry (for the better). We were determined to make high quality clothing in the USA with the least amount of impact to the environment. In order to do that, we had to rethink how clothing was made, sold and used, and find a model that would help us reach our goal. That led us to a direct to consumer approach, where we could invest in higher quality materials and fair-wage American manufacturing, while delivering products that cost less than those from our competitors.
Now that we’ve established that, our next step is to become a vertically-integrated manufacturer. We recently found some automated knitting machines that will allow us to knit clothing on demand. By doing so, we can reduce overhead and waste by only producing as much as is needed, as well as make completely customized products. This is the next stage for Appalatch: fully customizable knitwear. Customers can choose the color, material, knit and fit to give them the perfect sweater – and we can produce it in less than 30 minutes.
In addition to manufacturing your entire collection in the USA, you also exclusively use American materials. Has it been difficult setting up an all-domestic supply chain?
It took us a solid year from when we started the company in 2012, to when we were finally able to make and sell products – all of that time was spent building our supply chain. It was absolutely more challenging, but as we’ve found, there are a lot of great factories and mills left in the USA.
Persistence paid off, and so did being in the Carolinas, where there remains a lot of great people to work with. Being local helped us get our foot in the door with many suppliers who don’t usually work with small companies like ours. I think the industry is changing though, and we are finding that more big companies are willing to help smaller companies get off the ground. They are starting to see value in what we are doing.
On your website, you say you make clothing for “the modern-day Mr. & Ms. Indiana Jones.” What do you mean by that?
We grew up idolizing Indiana Jones (although not his grave robbing tendencies – those pieces belong in a museum Dr. Jones!). He had such an awesome, classic style that was adaptable to whatever environment he was in, be it teaching a class or running from a boulder. That’s the way we like to think of our clothing: dependable, hard-working, classic, and fashionable, like his signature hat or his Alden Boots. We also love the the sense of adventure that Indiana Jones evokes. We think that every person has a little Indiana Jones in them — fortune and glory!
You have a number of products that are made using a 3D printer. Can you tell us a little about that process, and how it differs from more traditional forms of manufacturing?
The automated knitting machines are really, really cool. We bought one through a kickstarter campaign that knits all of the pattern pieces, so no fabric cutting is needed. All you have to do is take the pre-formed pieces and sew them together. This dramatically reduces textile waste – with traditional pattern cutting, around 30% of your fabric winds up as scrap. Because we have virtually no waste, we can invest in more luxurious yarns, but still sell our sweaters at a reasonable price.
There’s another automated knitting machine that we have our eye on that will actually take yarn into it and make an entire garment from beginning to end. That is really amazing; just program the machine to do what you want, and once the finished product comes out, you can literally throw it on and go for a coffee.
You guys are big on sustainability. What specific steps have you taken to make Appalatch a sustainable company?
Appalatch is a mission driven company that strives to achieve sustainability on all fronts. It’s the reason we choose the materials we do, the people we work with, and why we decided to take the leap and become one of the first companies in the world to make customizable, on-demand knitwear. We are also in the process of becoming a B Corporation, which means we will be held accountable to a set of accepted sustainable practices that ensure transparency, social responsibility, and that we are doing our best to minimize our impact on the environment.
Why do you guys love wool so much?
Timeless, classic, trustworthy, durable, luxurious, and technical. There really is nothing like wool. In fact, synthetics like polyester and nylon are trying to mimic the inherent qualities of wool, but to no avail. Wool’s breathability, climate control, and odor resistance cannot be beat. Unfortunately, it’s significantly more expensive than synthetics. But, we’ve been noticing an uptick in wool’s popularity lately, and we’re excited that it’s once again being seen as the miracle fiber it is.
What would you say to someone who’s still on the fence about buying from Appalatch?
You no longer have to compromise on the clothing you buy. Appalatch is giving you the freedom to choose perfect knitwear made especially for you.
For price and purchase info, visit Appalatch.