When Trump went to Carrier’s Indiana plant in December as president-elect and claimed to have worked a deal to save jobs in America, he hailed it as a win for his “buy American, hire American” mission.
Bayard Winthrop, CEO and founder of the clothing brand American Giant, which makes all of its clothing in the US, wasn’t impressed.
“All the bluster around American-made, and all the s— around Carrier to me is just like taking a Tylenol when you have a headache,” he recently told Business Insider. “It will make the pain go away for an hour, but it’s not going to fix the problem.”
The problem, according to Winthrop, isn’t that it’s hard to manufacture in America. American Giant was founded in 2011, and it has remained committed to selling made-in-USA garments for a price that most would consider reasonable for their touted quality. It makes most of its garments in a factory in Middlesex, North America.
According to Winthrop, the brand has proven that selling American-made clothing can work as long as you make something people want to buy. American Giant found early success with a sweatshirt that was crowned “the greatest hoodie ever made” in 2013, and that success has moved into other categories like women’s pants.
Instead, “the problem” Winthrop is referring to is the same as every other business in the US.
“The more interesting things … as it relates to us and our competitiveness, have nothing to do with border taxes and trade in my mind, and much more to do with the ease that we have of running businesses in the US,” Winthrop said.
Winthrop admits that small tweaks to trade deals like NAFTA could help American Giant, but he says what would really help his business is fixing the other things that every business has to deal with: simplifying taxes and health care.
He isn’t optimistic that will happen, though.
“They’re not talking about that in a meaningful way,” Winthrop said. “If you took the time to go to North Carolina with me for six hours and meet some of these people and talk about the actual challenges, you’re going to find in a hurry that a lot of things like immigration are important to this business.”
Whether buoyed or buffeted by the Trump administration’s policies, Winthrop says he will keep sailing on with American Giant.
“I want to stick to building American Giant and doing it without the aid of all the other bulls— that’s going around,” Winthrop said. “Let the customers judge it. And at some point have someone in Washington say, ‘Huh. So what’s going on there?'”
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