locally (LA) made.
text. jerry dang
interview. adrian reyes
photos. [sic] apparel
Turn your shirt inside-out, look at the label, and odds are one will find that the garment was made in China, India, Mexico -- anywhere but the US. Over the past few decades, the increasingly common practice of companies outsourcing or offshoring manufacturing has not only led to a dearth of products "Made in the USA", but also a decreasing number of local jobs, the exploitation of workers in developing countries, and an influx of cheaply-produced goods.
The incentives to seek the lowest cost and maximize profit have also led to the neglect of environmental and societal concerns and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources in the relentless pursuit of economic growth. These short-sighted business practices leave behind pollution, contamination, and environmental damage for future generations and the global community.
The success of socially responsible companies such as TOMS -- who donates a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair purchased and also has an eco-friendly vegan line -- is part of a trend that strongly suggests consumers are becoming more conscious of where they spend their money. Along with price, consumers are now also taking into consideration a company's corporate practices when making a purchase, creating demand for products from companies that are environmentally, socially, and ethically responsible.
[SIC] Apparel is part of the growing movement of environmentally and socially responsible businesses. Surpassing their goal of $18,000 on Kickstarter, a website where people can help fund projects, reflects the overwhelming support for what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a non-profit trade group, aims to promote: "an apparel and footwear industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities." [SIC] Apparel produces all its t-shirts in Los Angeles and supports artists by providing studio space for the artists to make their art and also a platform for global exposure and promotion of their work.
We had a chance to talk to Francis Pollara, Managing Partner, about [SIC] Apparel:
Vaffanculo Mag (VM): You have a background as an industrial designer and film producer. You have also gotten the opportunity to work on a series of campaigns for Canon, BWM and Samsung, to name a few. What made you decide to start [SIC] Apparel? What inspired you? Please describe the process from inception to forming your team.
Francis Pollara (FP): Late last year I received a buyout offer for the production company I started called Ladeson Productions. I took the offer and soon after the company was fully dissolved. Suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands and realized I needed to make something of the money I had walked away with. I took some time playing with ideas to invest in small software projects or maybe build a brand of my own. I was inspired by the many projects I had been noticing come to life and show dramatic success. This kind of thing happens every day on Kickstarter and there I've had the opportunity to watch these proposals become real. While all this was happening a good friend from my childhood, Anya Rosen had returned from receiving her BFA in Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She found herself in the common artist's situation of trying to figure out how to make her passion profitable. While she was trying to figure out how she could earn a living off of her art I was trying to build a brand centered on creative communities. We had a short discussion to figure out how this might work and that was it. A few weeks later we were tearing down walls in her garage and reconnecting electrical boxes for our [SIC] studio space.
VM: Who/what inspires [SIC] Apparel as a brand?
FP: We are inspired by the daily successes, the moments of truth and the culmination of communities acting together to achieve one goal.
VM: It's refreshing to see you use artists' work as designs on your apparel. How are artists with whom you collaborate chosen?
FP: The team works tirelessly to find truly underground artists whose work embodies the [SIC] identity. There are many artworks out there that are fantastic but not all are suitable to be printed on apparel. We take into consideration whether including it on our apparel increases the value of the artwork or not. We do not want to take away from the overall experience of the art but we are happy to add to it.
VM: It's very commendable to see you use your apparel to promote artists; especially for them to have a chance to dedicate a particular a design in order to raise funds and awareness to a non-profit of their choice. Your slogan "We're not just an apparel company" resonates pretty well with this mission. How did the idea come about?
FP: This idea was a very important part of the [SIC] mantra from the beginning. We wanted to make sure that our company and brand not only stood for sustainability but also our interest in benefiting the communities around us. We are working on a line called "Shop to Save the World!"
VM: As [SIC] Apparel stated on your Kickstarter, to be eco-responsible ([SIC] strives to conserve energy by running their facility under LEED standards) is costly and produce your shirts locally. You achieved your goal. Do you foresee such technology to be more readily available at a lower cost?
FP: Honestly, costs per unit of producing apparel in LA only go down when the order bulk gets bigger. Our costs now are about the best you can get in LA without operating our own manufacturing facility. It's not so much about the technology as it is about the labor. Most of the cost in the shirt is the labor and the only way to reduce that is to create even more automation in the construction of the apparel. In certain cases this can be achieved but then you run into other problems. For example the time and cost to set-up and program the machines as new products are added to the line.
VM: What has been the response of your backers now they received their packages?
FP: The backers all have great things to say and it is such a great feeling. It was already extremely validating to have been successful in reaching our funding goal and now seeing that they are more than happy just makes it even better.