Hanes Sets its Sights on Women’s Fashion

Last year American consumers purchased 3.2 billion T-shirts, a stat that went up 4% from the year prior and is to only keep growing. Which is why Hanesbrands Inc. the 4.3 billion dollar under garment manufacturer based out of Winston-Salem N.C. announced earlier this month the launch of its first fashion label, Hanes Ink, which will offer graphic and decorated tees through a number of Hanes’ retail partners such as Macy’s, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart and Target. With this announcement Hanesbrands Inc. has signaled that it believes the size and scale of its manufacturing and distribution network will allow it to make graphic tees fast and cheaper then its competitors and that this speed will allow it to keep on top of trends in women’s fashion.

Obviously there is a big difference between making underwear and design women’s fashion, but thus far Hanes Ink is signaling that it is a challenge they are ready for. They have already opened three creative centers in New York, L.A. and Miami as well as tapping Carole Bolger, who designed graphic tees for Gap back in its prime, to head up their creative division. While this shift may come as a surprise to some it is clear that Hanesbrands Inc. has been thinking about it for some time. Starting in 2006 the company restructured their supply chain switching from dozens of smaller production facilities to three central hubs located in the Dominican Republic, China and El Salvador. Since then they have branched out and begun designing shirts under contract for some of their larger retail partners such as Wal-Mart and Kohl’s.

However long before there restructuring Hanesbrands has been selling its blank tees to graphic designers who decorate them and sell them to retailers for a substantial mark-up, so this new business venture is little more then a large corporation trying to cut out the middle man. Hanes Ink has indicated that it will offer exclusivity to some of its larger retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Meaning that the Hanes Ink tees you find in Wal-Mart will not be the same as those in Target, or Macy’s or Kohl’s.

While this bold multi-million dollar stroke may have a lot of graphic designers worrying about their bottom line, many in the fashion world wonder if Hanes knows what they have gotten themselves into. “That’s the challenge here,” admits Jim Phelan, VP of Hanes Ink. “One’s a replenishment business. The other is very much being on trend.” Only time will tell if money can buy trend savvy in the world of designer tees.

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